Indigenously-developed LaserGuided Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) was successfully testfired from Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Army at KK Ranges with support of Armoured Corps Centre & School (ACC&S) Ahmednagar on June 28, 2022.
In the test, the ATGM hit the bull’s eye with textbook precision and successfully defeated the target at minimum ranges. Telemetry systems recorded the satisfactory flight performance of the missile. The all-indigenous ATGM employs a tandem High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) warhead to defeat Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) protected armoured vehicles. The ATGM has been developed with multi-platform launch capability and is currently undergoing technical evaluation trials from the 120 mm rifled gun of MBT Arjun.
Engaging the targets at lower ranges is a challenge due to the dimensional constraints of tank launched ATGMs, which has been successfully accomplished by the ATGM for MBT Arjun. With the trial, the ATGM’s capability to engage targets from minimum to maximum range has been established. Earlier, the trials have been successful for maximum range.
While the tested ATGM has not been named as such, what is important is to know that the Modi Government has realised the importance of the ATGMs in winning wars. ATGMs undergo modifications and changes all over the world from time to time to augment their power. The present day ATGMs are said to be belonging to the third-generation ATGMs.
In April this year, India had successfully test-fired the indigenously – developed Army and Air Force versions of anti-tank guided missile systems ‘Helina’ and ‘Dhruvastra’, in the Pokhran range of Thar desert in Rajasthan. Helina was test-fired from a rotary wing platform – Dhruv , advanced light helicopter (ALH) at high-altitude ranges.
The third-generation Nag and the Helina are two of the anti-tank missile systems designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The Nag missile is fired from a modified infantry combat vehicle, or Namica.
The successful flight-testing of the ATGM at high altitudes now paves the way for the Helina to be integrated on the Dhruv.
Incidentally, helicopter-launched ATGMs figure in the “second positive indigenisation” list of weapons and systems that the Government has put on the import ban list.
The challenge facing developers of ATGMS, besides the need to improve armour penetration, are in improving guidance systems to facilitate more accurate engagement, simplify operator training and to allow for a fire-andforget capability in order that the missile can be launched and the launcher and operator vacate the area. Two different options – Lock on Before Launch and Lock on After Launch are under active development and missiles using these concepts are entering service.
The Indian Nag is based on the LOBL concept. However, using a LOBL capability restricts the maximum range of the missile to 4 or 5 km. This restriction is due to the limit imposed by the maximum achievable range of the thermal sight and missile seeker due to operational constraints of size, weight, power and, from ground launchers, practical problems of target acquisition.
To increase the maximum range capability, it is necessary to adopt a lock-on-after-launch (LOAL) capability. India has been attempting to develop a millimetric-wave guidance system for the Nag/Helina.
India’s armed forces have a sanctioned inventory of over 80,000 ATGMs, but at the moment they do not have this number. Besides, most of India’s ATGMs are secondgeneration missiles – the Konkurs and Milan-2 forming the overwhelming bulk of the inventory with some limited numbers of AT-6 and AT-14 missiles as well as Invar cannonlaunched missiles (from the T-90 tank) augmenting these numbers.
India has successfully replaced its SS-11B1 and its AT-3 missiles mounted on BMP-1 ICVs with more modern systems with the latter being replaced by the Konkurs and the former by the Milan-2. Viewed thus, Nag, the indigenously developed third-generation anti-tank guided missile developed by the DRDO, is a matter of great comfort for the Indian Army.
However, to expect a one-forone replacement of the country’s second generation ATGMs with thirdgeneration fire-and-forget ATGMs is going to be a major challenge. While the Indian Air Force may be able to replace its AT-6 missiles with Hellfire and HELINA missiles without undue difficulty, it is hard to see the Indian army finding the funding to do a complete replacement of its Konkurs and Milan systems. But then it is a challenge as well as an opportunity. The Modi Government is on the right course to take the challenge and convert it as an opportunity for being self-reliant.