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India Has An Excellent Multi-Purpose Missile

September 27, 2021

The world isn’t paying close enough attention to the military technology coming out of India; if these come out at all. For two decades now the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has assembled a vast arsenal that resists widespread use with their intended customer–the armed forces. But the DRDO remains hard at work anyway and since 2020 a schedule of tests proves its efforts are on par or even surpass Western technology. In February this year the DRDO arranged for multiple launches of the HELINA and the Dhruvastra, each are variants derived from the NAG missile, a medium-range fire-and-forget munition comparable to the Anglo-French Brimstone or the Russian 9M123 used on the Khrizantema-S tank destroyer.

In February the DRDO announced it conducted tests for the HELINA and the Dhruvastra missiles. They were launched from a Rudra light attack helicopter across five missions for establishing their minimum and maximum ranges against armored vehicles. The DRDO withheld circumstantial details (such as the penetration of a HELINA warhead) surrounding the tests but confirmed these were successful. Establishing the differences between the HELINA and the Dhruvastra is tricky although it’s understood the latter, which began undergoing test launches in 2020, is an improvement over the former.

India’s DRDO isn’t alone in developing a non-line-of-sight missile family. China’s state-owned manufacturers have introduced entire generations of similar missiles and exported them. One example is the Norinco Hong Jiang 10 or HJ-10 whose air-to-ground variant the AR-1 is tailored for attack helicopters and drones. The AR-1 has since been supplanted by the superior AR-2. Pakistan’s military-industrial sector boasts a licensed AR-1 called “Barq” that’s carried by locally made drones. The missile hasn’t been adapted for surface-to-surface launches, however.

Iran and Turkey both have similar multi-purpose missiles adaptable to any platform. In Iran’s case it’s the “Qaem” that’s patterned after the US-made AGM-114 Hellfire albeit with varied guidance systems. As for Turkey the state-owned manufacturer Roketsan has the UMTAS that’s tailored for arming aircraft, vehicles, and watercraft. The UMTAS is complemented by the portable OMTAS anti-tank missile. The advantage of mass-producing these missiles is they’re modular to a remarkable degree, which means their performance can be improved over time, and they have broad applications versus many different targets.

The problem with the DRDO’s NAG and its variants the HELINA and Dhruvastra is how their production still lags behind the competition from abroad. For example, the Chinese AR-1/AR-2 are exported in whatever quantities their end users require. Of course, the PLA’s drone fleet have these missiles in ample supply too. The same goes with Iran’s Qaems and their variants being delivered to all branches of the military in significant batches. The DRDO’s NAG, on the other hand, just completed its last trials in 2020 and is about to enter service.

Still, the missile technology at the DRDO’s fingertips is impressive by any metric. Aside from the NAG/HELINA there’s the MPATGM, a portable top attack munition on par with the FGM-148 Javelin, and another anti-tank missile the SAMHO was designed for being launched from the 120mm main armament of the Arjun/Arjun Mk I tank. Should these missiles be accepted into service the quantities India’s state-owned manufacturers are able to produce will be tremendous.

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