Indian long range artillery and missiles have progressed effectively in the past few decades. To meet the challenges of the future which involves excellent accuracy of attacks at greater ranges, Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) was developing the enhanced version of its Pinaka Multi-Barrel Rocket launcher (MBRL). On 9th April, DRDO successfully tested the extended Pinaka MBRL at the Pokhran ranges. Along with this, the much discussed and long awaited Helicopter launched Nag Anti Tank Guided Missile (HELINA) was also tested at higher altitude environment from the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) on 11th April. The addition of both these arms in sufficient numbers will significantly boost the infantry operations along the northern frontier where Indian Armed forces face a disadvantage due to the better equipped Chinese military.

The extended range Pinaka MBRL is set to start replacing the shorter range Mk-1 variant of the Indian Army soon. The extended variant has a range from 65-90 kms which doubles the range of the artillery that uses the DRDO-made Pinaka and Russian Grad MBRLs. In addition, the extended range Pinaka rockets can be armed with the Pinaka Area Denial Munitions which were also tested on 9th April. In a statement, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, “a total of 24 EPRS rockets were fired [from] different ranges during the last fortnight. Required accuracy and consistency was achieved by the rockets meeting all trial objectives satisfactorily.” DRDO is also working on a guided variant of the Pinaka MBRLs which will have ranges in excess of a hundred kilometers apart from pin point accuracy.

The HELINA or the Heli launched NAG Guided Missile is a gamechanger when it comes to the Himalayan frontier with China. HELINA has a range of 7kms which will put the enemy tank commanders in a curved terrain at severe disadvantages. The missile weighs only 43 kgs which will not cause any burden in limiting conditions of the rarefied atmosphere over Ladakh. In terms of firepower, HELINA can penetrate armour as thick as 800mm which is much more than anything that the light and medium weight tanks operated in the frontier. Even heavier tanks use armour plating that is approx. 800mm thick. HELINA was validated in the hot desert conditions of Pokhran in 2021. With the completion of successful trials in the mountainous region, the missile should enter production soon. The Press Information Bureau reported that “in continuation to validation trials conducted at Pokhran in Rajasthan, proof of efficacy at high altitudes paves the way for its integration on the DHRUV helicopter. The trials were witnessed by senior Army commanders and senior scientists of the DRDO.” The successful integration of the HELINA on the DHRUV paves the way for an easy integration with the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) that just received its first order for 15 units from the MoD.

With the operationalization of the HELINA and Extended Pinaka, the DRDO will switch to more advanced weapon developments in the pipeline. The indigenous man portable anti-tank guided missile system or MPATGM has also been tested successfully in January and it will be inducted in the coming months.

Focus on advanced infantry/artillery weapons increased after the Galwan clashes. The MoD has ramped up purchases to close loopholes in firepower, signed Ak-203 manufacture deal with Russia, and intensified development of missiles and other military equipment with a dedicated focus on indigenisation. The MoD has come up with negative lists to restrict the Armed forces from purchasing foreign weapons and equipment in sectors where the indigenous manufacturing industry has come of age. The focus will slowly shift to exporting Indian made weapons to boost the military sales revenue.