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#2480, 31 January 2008
DRDO's Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme
Neha Kumar
Research Officer, IPCS
e-mail: neha@ipcs.org

India decided to scrap its Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) on 8 January 2008, and the government will not invest further in research and development of missiles under this program. One of its chief scientists, Dr. S Prahlada, said that this decision was taken because the missiles had either been developed or inducted into the armed forces. But, an evaluation of this program would make it clear that India has not been able to develop missiles adequate to strengthen its deterrence.

India started the IGMDP in 1983 to develop five missiles: Prithvi, Agni, Akash, Trishul and Nag for which the deadline was 1995. Government sanctioned Rs.389 crore for the project. Till 2007, only Prithvi and Agni are ready, despite a time overrun of 12 years. Apart from the Rs.389 crores spent, the completion of Agni and Prithvi projects required an additional Rs.1,770 crore. On the other hand, Pakistan is developing missiles with the help of China at a much faster pace. China is also modernizing its missiles for the last several years.

Prithvi was the first missile inducted into the Indian army. But it is a liquid fueled missile requiring special fuel tanks and complex fuel-injection systems involving high pressures, high speed pumps, high pressure valves, regulators, joints and pipes, combustion chambers, cooling and ignition systems which reduce the reliability of the system. Prithvi uses xylidine which is highly toxic, corrosive and non-storable. The CEP of Prithvi missile is 0.26 nm which is insufficient to target military installations. The CEP should be less than 0.1 nm to attack military installations.

DRDO has taken 26 years to develop three variants of the Agni missile. The successful testing of Agni-III was conducted on 12 April 2007 The Agni program has many shortcomings, apart from being very expensive. Agni-I is a two-staged missile with a combination of liquid-solid propulsion and a closed-loop inertial guidance system. The combination of solid and liquid propellants has made its deployment procedures difficult and clumsy, and it takes up to half a day to deploy the Agni-I missile. It is also difficult to deploy Agni-I in north and north-western India because of the presence of many bridges in Punjab and Rajasthan, which cannot bear its weight. DRDO faced a number of unsuccessful tests of the Agni-III before carrying out a successful test in 2006. Agni-III is the only missile capable of targeting Chinese cities. It has a range of 3500 km and CEP of 0.053 nm, which means it could be used to carry out counter value attacks on Chinese cities. But it has not yet been inducted into the Indian defense forces.

Akash is a medium-range, theatre defense, surface-to-air missile having a range of 27-30km. Akash was to have four missile batteries, costed at Rs. 9 billion in 1985, which has now escalated to Rs. 20 billion. The missile's radar, meant to detect enemy targets, covers only a 90-degree swathe. Therefore, it cannot track enemy aircraft approaching from different directions at the same time. Another problem is the limited speed of the missile, which is about Mach 3, useful to target enemy aircraft, but not enough for missiles, which travel at more than three times that speed.

Trishul has a range of 9km, and is designed to counter low level attacks with a very quick reaction time. The Trishul project was reviewed by the DRDO with the three services in October 2001. The missile system was found deficient for many reasons: One, the tracking radar beam was getting intermittent breaks, resulting in the missile missing the target by wide margins. Two, the BMP-II chassis did not meet the General Staff Qualitative Requirements for mobility, since it was too heavy.

There have been efforts by DRDO to build NAG, which is a third-generation anti-tank guided missile (AGTM), hardened against electronic counter measures, which employs an advanced seeker head to identify and lock onto targets up to 4km. But it is difficult to maintain the "lock in" technology in the presence of opposing mechanized forces due to factors like dust and smoke that disturb vision within the electromagnetic spectrum. There have also been problems with its night identification technology.

India's indigenous missile capability has failed to produce missiles to deter an enemy or to carry out an attack in conflict. India needs to look for foreign collaborators or involve the private sector in research and production of missiles. India has adopted a credible minimum deterrent policy; the key elements of a robust nuclear deterrent posture is that the country should have sufficient nuclear warheads, diversified nuclear delivery vehicles and a secure command and control structure to ride out a first nuclear attack and launch a second strike in retaliation. In the absence of reliable nuclear delivery vehicles, deterrence by India is in danger.

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