by Dinakar Peri

The state-of-the-art indigenous Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) Nag is in advanced stages of development, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has said in a sharp response to statements that raised questions on the program. A new Man Portable ATGM (MPATGM) was also in advanced stages of trials, it noted.

Early this week, the Army fired two newly inducted Spike-LR (Long Range) ATGM at the Infantry School at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh. It recently procured a small lot of 12 launchers and around 250 missiles from Israel under the new financial powers for emergency procurement sanctioned by the Defence Ministry a few months back.

A statement on the test-firing, issued by a public relations firm on behalf of Spike manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, said that with the confidence in the missile established, the Indian Army may need to “revisit” their plans for third generation missiles.

“Both the DRDO ATGM program, as well as the invitation to Indian industry to develop a 3rd Gen missile will need a rethink, as having a 4th Gen missile will put the plan for the development of a 3rd Gen missile questionable,” the statement said.

It further stated that Rafael had established a joint venture with the Kalyani Group, which was “capable of manufacturing Spike missiles in India, and will also look at export opportunities from India.”

A DRDO statement on Twitter said the statement was circulating “incorrect facts.”

‘Best In Its Class’

Nag, the 3rd gen ATGM, was in the process of being inducted after extensive tests. The MPATGM, in an advanced stage of development, defence sources said, was a fourth generation ATGM. Six tests had been conducted so far and all developmental trials were over, a defence source said. “In a year it will be ready for production.” The Nag missile, the best in its class, was built for Indian conditions, officials said.

During summers, in desert conditions the temperature of a battle tank and the sand were the same, the source said and added that “identifying that and firing is a challenge.”

Another official termed the statement on Spike test-firing “unacceptable”. He said it questioned the entire Indian capability. “We now have the capability to build complex systems as per specifications. Our private industry has also come a long way and can support the development,” he added.

Earlier, the Army tried to procure a large number of ATGMs and for this, trials were held and the Spike was short-listed. However, the tender was cancelled during the cost negotiation phase and attempts to procure some systems through an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) did not fructify either. The government then decided to fill the requirement through the indigenous MPATGM.

The Spike-LR being procured is a different variant from the one tested and short-listed as part of the earlier procurement for over 8,000 missiles and 300 launchers along with technology transfer.

Earlier, before the IGA was concluded, Army sources stated that some validatory trials of the Infrared Seeker (IR) of the missile would be held during Indian summers, as the missile “did not perform as desired in the previous trials during peak summer temperatures in the desert.” The validatory trials were not conducted as the IGA fell through.