By Debajit Sarkar
At the macro level, each conflict is about the attrition of the adversary’s field forces, their ability to wage war, and/or their will to fight. In order to achieve a position of advantage created by way of attrition; one must be able to impact the enemy without suffering greater casualties, often using longer-range weapons to protect friendly forces.
The conventional infantry forces of the Indian army will have to fight the enemy forces in a linear fashion. Therefore, they are subject to topography and the consequences that weather conditions, geographical and man-made obstacles and channeling have on the landscape. Due to their inherent proximity to hostile forces, infantry forces are also exposed to attrition through relentless indirect fire from guns, rockets, mortars, and missiles designed to use standoff distances to their advantage. For these reasons, infantry forces care more about these dangers of indirect fire than about an adversary’s war capability.
This is where rocket artillery comes in. Rocket artillery does not directly aid combat. Rocket artillery are army/corps/divisional assets that are deployed away from the front lines for counter-battery duties. that is, when an enemy artillery fires, the blue force artillery radar will track the trajectory of the artillery shell and determine the approximate location of the enemy artillery. Friendly rocket artillery will then be delivered to the scene and they will fire their rockets to overwhelm the area. In contemporary warfare, troops and materiel have never congregated in one place near the front line. Artillery, armored vehicles and infantry, air defense, are positioned at a distance from each other.
The Indian Army has a long history of using rocket artillery. The Indian Army had 62xBM-30 Smerch systems and BM-21 Grad launchers. These two MLRS systems are of Russian origin. Although the Grad lacks the range in terms of armor-piercing guided weapons, it has the ability to deliver significantly more high-level attack ammo per charge than Smerch, but launches it at a shorter range.
To replace the BM-21 Grad, the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has been working hard to develop the indigenous Pinaka Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) based on an 8×8 vehicle. Pinaka is a complete system which integrates a high-energy propulsion, sub-munition warheads, a servo-launcher structure as well as a fire control computer. Pinaka incorporates advanced technologies to deliver superior combat performance. Pinaka proved his fighting skills during the Kargil conflict in June 1999.
Each Pinaka battery is made up of six launcher vehicles, six loader-supply vehicles and two command post vehicles. Each launch vehicle carries two modules that can accommodate a total of 12 rockets. Each Pinaka rocket can carry a payload of 100 kg over a range of 40 km. A solitary Pinaka battery can neutralize an area of 700m x 500m. The next rockets of the Pinaka system will have a much greater range.
A salient aspect of the Pinaka MBRL is that it continues to evolve and can therefore be upgraded to fire a variety of new rockets. Some of the new rockets that DRDO should consider developing are:
(1) A new rocket with a range of 200 km for the Pinaka that can hit a group of targets at a great distance from each other in one burst, since they simultaneously launch separate projectiles in flight, each corresponding to its data GPS based targets. The improved Pinaka system should be able to automatically obtain and process information from drones or reconnaissance vehicles; it does not need to be keyed in by the operator. With a range of 200 km, this rocket can effectively perform suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) operations as several ground radars are within this range.
(2) Inspired by the SA-6 SAM complex which uses a rocket booster as a combustion chamber for a ramjet, the DRDO can develop a ramjet rocket. A ramjet can be 3D printed quite quickly. This ramjet-powered rocket could fly for a few minutes at low power settings that simply remove drag and let it cruise great distances, or it could run for a shorter phase with a higher thrust setting, allowing it to climb and move relatively quickly at higher altitudes.
(3) Drone launched by rocket tube. Having a rocket-tube launched drone means the Indian Army will not have to depend on a separate reconnaissance unit to locate targets or support their operations. Most of the time the Indian army artillery force will work with the reconnaissance and intelligence forces which will probably have their own drones which will search and find suitable targets for the rocket artillery battery and then after a first rocket attack, the drone will be able to observe the results and calculate whether another attack is necessary or not.
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Pinaka MBRL will be extremely effective in any border conflict against China or Pakistan by targeting armored formations. Opponent armored vehicles can button up and pass through rocket artillery fire, but as soon as they button up, their ability to see diminishes to a great extent. And as they cut through the artillery fire, there’s a good chance they’ll take firepower and mobility damage or the formation will change its direction of attack. The results are the interruption and removal of the armor. By far, perhaps the most important factor is the production of these rockets. Over the years, the production of Pinaka rockets has increased. With two active defense corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and increasing Indian private sector participation in the defense industry, there is every reason to believe that the production volume will increase in the future. .
The author is an expert in competitive intelligence and market research in the field of defense and industry; aerospace industry.
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