By N. C. Bipindra
New Delhi: In a strong message to rival China amidst a face-off along Ladakh border, India today decided to buy a 1,000-km range land attack cruise missile, a more potent technology than the locally-made ‘Nirbhay‘ cruise missile, to arm the Indian armed forces.
The panel also decided to buy additional MiG-29 and Su-30MKI combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF), apart from an upgrade project for the existing fleet of MiG-29s, at a cumulative cost of Rs 18,148 crore ($2.4 billion).
These weapons and platforms will not get delivered immediately and hence may not be of direct use in the current conflict with China in Ladakh, but the signalling to the Asian dragon is truly clear.
The long-range land-attack cruise missiles and the fighter jets were among a slew of weaponry and defence systems that the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved today. These deals, when signed, could cumulatively be worth $5.2 billion, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defence spokesperson A. Bharat Bhushan Babu said.
“In the current situation and the need to strengthen the armed forces for the defence of our borders,” the statement said, procurement proposals worth Rs 38,900 crore ($5.2 billion) were approved.
The defence ministry did not directly name China, though the two nations’ militaries are at present on a face-off in Ladakh for two months now, with soldiers on either side dying in a violent clash on June 15 at Galwan Valley.
The decision was “in line with the Prime Minister’s (Narendra Modi) clarion call for ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat‘ (self-reliant India),” the statement said.
The DAC meeting was chaired by India’s Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh. The DAC accords approvals for all capital acquisitions of various platforms and equipment required by the Indian armed forces. This was the first DAC meeting since India got into a lock down in March and thus, the meeting today gained significance in the context of the Ladakh face-off with China.
“Focused on indigenous design and development, these approvals include acquisitions from Indian industry for Rs 31,130 crore ($4.1 billion).”
The equipment are to be manufactured in India involving Indian defence industry with participation of several Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) as prime and tier vendors. The indigenous content in some of these projects is up to 80 per cent of the project cost.
A large number of these projects have been made possible due to transfer of technology by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to the local industry.
The procurement includes Pinaka ammunitions, BMP (Russian-origin armoured personnel carriers) armament upgrades and software defined radios for the Indian Army; 300 of the Long Range Land Attack Cruise Missile Systems (a better technology than even Nirbhay cruise missile and to cost Rs 10,000 crore or $1.4 billion, according to DRDO sources); and 250 of the Astra missiles for the Indian Navy and the IAF.
The cost of these design and development proposals is in the range of Rs 20,400 crore ($2.7 billion), the official statement said.
Acquisition of new and additional missile systems will add to the fire power of three armed forces. While acquisition of Pinaka missile systems will enable raising additional regiments over and above the ones already inducted, addition of cruise missiles to the existing arsenal will bolster the attack capabilities of the navy and the air force.
Similarly, induction of Astra air-to-air missiles, having Beyond Visual Range capability, will serve as a force multiplier and immensely add to the strike capability of the navy and the air force. The IAF has already integrated the Astra missile on the Russian-origin Sukhoi Su-30MKIs that are licence-produced at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) facility in Nasik.
Further, addressing the long felt need of the IAF to increase its fighter squadrons, the DAC also approved the proposal for procurement of 21 MiG-29 along with upgradation of existing 59 MiG-29 aircraft. The combat aircraft procurement approved at the meeting include 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft.
While the MiG-29 procurement and upgradation from Russia is estimated to cost Rs 7,418 crore (close to $1 billion), the Su-30 MKI will be procured from HAL at an estimated cost of Rs 10,730 crore ($1.4 billion).
“The Indian armed forces and the local industry will be immensely benefitted with the manufacturing of these indigenous systems,” said DRDO Chairman and India’s Defence Research and Development Secretary Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, referring to the land attack cruise missile, Astra air-to-air missile, and the software defined radios that are DRDO-developed state-of-the-art systems.
DRDO Products Primer
Astra: A Beyond Visual Range (BVR) class of Air-to-Air Missile (AAM) system designed to be mounted on fighter aircraft, the missile can engage and destroy highly manoeuvring supersonic aircraft. The missile has all weather day and night capability. The missile is being developed in multiple variants to meet specific requirements. The Astra Mk-I weapon system integrated with Su-30MKI aircraft is being inducted into the IAF.
It can be launched in autonomous and buddy mode of operation with features for Lock-On-Before Launch (LOBL) and Lock-On After Launch (LOAL).
Software Defined Radio: SDR is a secure indigenous system with legacy communication support and secure digital voice/data communication for naval application with 3 channel (2V/UHF band and 1HF band), 4-channel (2V/UHF band and 2L-band) for Tactical Communication and single channel operation in V/UHF (Manpack role) and UHF band (Handheld role).
Pinaka: An all-weather, indirect fire, free flight artillery rocket system, it provides a unique capability to accurately deliver a devastatingly lethal and responsive fire against a variety of area targets such as exposed enemy troops, armored and soft skin vehicles, communication centers, air terminal complexes, fuel and ammunition dumps. The Pinaka weapon system consists of Rocket, Multi Barrel Rocket launcher, Battery Command Post, Loader cum Replenishment Vehicle, Replenishment Vehicle and Digicora MET Radar.
Long Range Land Attack Cruise Missile: At present, lead in projects have developed, demonstrated and matured critical cruise missile technologies such as aerodynamic configuration, vertical launch using solid booster, thrust vector control system, booster separation, in-flight wing deployment, in-flight engine start and long range way-point navigation system. Seeker development and testing by DRDO laboratories are demonstrated and is at a high level of readiness. Thus, it is important to take up the proposed development of fully indigenous long-range land attack cruise missile that greatly enhances the operational capability of services.