Pralay SRBM is based on the Prithvi Defence Vehicle used for Exo-Atmospheric interception

India is all set to conduct the maiden test of its brand new surface-to-surface tactical Short Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM) developed under a classified project, code-named Pralay

Elaborate preparation is underway as the missile will be flight tested from a canister mobile launcher any time between from a defence test facility off Odisha coast.

As the missile has to follow a manoeuvrable trajectory, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has planned to evacuate people residing in three km area of the launching complex. This is for the first time that people are being evacuated from a large area.

The home-grown missile Pralay can be comparable with China’s DongFeng 12 and Russia’s 9K720 Iskander, both short-range tactical ballistic missiles.

Except perhaps for some Prithvi short range ballistic missile (SRBM) units, India’s pool of ballistic missiles (BMs) are essentially meant for strategic strike purposes. With China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) fielding a sizeable inventory of conventionally armed BMs in Tibet, the Indian Army (IA) wants to deploy symmetric counters to the same. At the moment, the only means for the IA to strike targets at distances of close to 500 km is the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile (CM), which though deadly accurate, can carry a payload of only about 200 kg or so, besides being somewhat expensive. As such, the IA in recent times has felt the need for a SRBM with a range of around 500 km that can also carry a sizeable payload. It is to address this requirement that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is currently developing a new conventional strike surface to surface missile (SSM) called the Pralay, writes defence journalist Saurav Jha in this report.

The Design

A rough rendering of Pralay tactical SRBM

Indigenously designed and developed by DRDO, the missile is a derivative of Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) Exo-atmospheric interceptor missile, capable of destroying enemy weapons at high altitudes. Pralay, which is much faster and accurate, has a strike range of 350 km to 500 km and weighs around five tons. With a payload of 1,000 kg, it can travel a distance of 350 km. If the payload is halved, the missile will be able to hit a target as far as 500 km.

Fuelled by composite propellant and developed by Pune-based High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL), it uses inertial navigation system for mid-course guidance.Since India’s most of the SRBMs are for strategic strike purposes, development of tactical Pralay was necessitated after the army sought for a 500-km range SRBM that can carry a sizeable payload.

Like the PDV, Pralay’s propulsion system too uses solid fuels that can function in a wide range of temperatures and allow the missile to have a long shelf-life. As such, Pralay is a canisterised system that will be able to strike targets out to 500 km with a payload of around 800 kg. The canister itself is designed by DRDO’s Advanced Systems Laboratory.

While Pralay’s on-board inertial navigation system (INS) is capable of receiving multi-constellation satellite updates, the missile is believed to have an accuracy of sub-10 metre CEP even without updates to remove accumulated errors. With its PDV heritage, Pralay will be rather manoeuvrable and capable of quasi-ballistic flight profiles.

Interestingly, if both the PDV and Pralay could be produced in tandem, one could potentially experience greater economies of scale thereby bringing down costs associated with both sets of systems. In a manner of speaking, a part of the total R&D costs of Pralay have in any case been amortised by those expended on developing the PDV interceptor.

The Role

A conventional strike BM, Pralay is supposed to level the playing field for the Indian military in any engagement with the Chinese. While the Indian Air Force (IAF) has the edge in the skies over the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in various sectors along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) due to the proximity of its bases to the frontier and the fact that they are in the plains, it is also true that Indian airbases are vulnerable to missile attacks by the PLARF. Waves of such attacks could put Indian airbases out of commission for some hours at a stretch and it is important that the IA is not left completely devoid of the means to attack enemy centres of gravity during those periods. Moreover, massed Pralay attacks on Chinese airbases can also serve to curtail the PLAAF’s sortie rate in certain sectors thereby levelling the playing field for the IAF.

Nearly three years after the project was sanctioned in March, 2015 at a cost of nearly Re. 333 crore, the DRDO had unveiled some information on the missile at the Defence Expo 2018 held at Chennai in April this year. (IDN thanks Mr. Saurav Jha renowned defence journo for this report)

From IDN Editor's Desk: China could expect retaliatory strikes with BrahMos land-attack cruise missiles and Prithvi, Shaurya and Prahaar ballistic missiles. Beijing, however, has a much larger inventory of these types of missiles; many comparable Indian systems are reserved for strategic nuclear strikes. With that imbalance in mind, the Indian military is working to develop the Pralay ballistic missile, which it would field in the conventional role to go head-to-head against China's rocket force