A MILAN-2T version of anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM)

The purchase of 5,000 French-made anti-tank guided missiles was approved by the Acquisition Council on January 31

by Franz-Stefan Gady

The Indian Defence Acquisition Council, the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) principal procurement body chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, approved the procurement of 5,000 French-made second-generation MILAN anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) on January 31.

The total value of the defence deal is estimated at over $167 million. The MoD did not announce when the new ATGM systems are expected to be introduced into service.

India’s Bharat Dynamics has license-built tens of thousands of MILAN ATGMs of different variants since the 1970s, and will manufacture the latest batch of missiles. The man portable MILAN-2T is capable of firing a 115 millimetre tandem high-explosive anti-tank warhead at armoured targets at a distance of up to 2,000 meters. The 2T version, first introduced into service in the early 1990s, is reportedly able to penetrate reactive armour defences.

As I reported previously, the Indian Army claims that it lacks 68,000 ATGMs of various types and around 850 launchers. The service is reportedly pushing for a fast-track procurement of 2,500 third-generation shoulder-fired ATGMs and 96 launchers through a government-government contract. Following extensive user trials, the Army selected the third-generation Israeli Spike ATGM over the FGM-148 Javelin ATGM in October.

The Spike ATGM is a third-generation fire-and-forget weapon system with a tandem-charge HEAT warhead, with the long-range variant of the missile capable of hitting targets at a distance of up to 4 kilometres. The Spike ATGM can be fired in ‘top attack’ mode in lofted trajectory hitting its target from above.

Notably, the Indian government scrapped a $500 million deal with Israeli defence contractor Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd. for 321 Spike ATGM systems and 8,356 missiles in favour of an indigenously designed and developed man portable anti-tank guided missile (MPATGM) currently under development by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in December 2017.

A final decision over the procurement of the Spike, however, is still pending. The Indian Army is expected to conduct validation trials of the Spike ATGM this summer in India’s western Rajasthan desert region. Meanwhile, DRDO has successfully test fired the MPATGM at the Ahmadnagar test range in the western Indian state of Maharashtra in September 2018.

The MPATGM is a third-generation ATGM which has been under development by DRDO in partnership with Indian defence contractor VEM Technologies Ltd. since 2015. It reportedly has an engagement range of about 2.5 kilometres. DRDO has promised the Indian Army to hand over the first MPATGM prototype by the end of 2018 for user trials, but no announcement has been made to date. Mass production of the missile is expected to begin in 2021, but may be delayed.

The Indian Army remains deeply sceptical of MPATGM capabilities and does not believe that it will be meet its operational requirements.