Thursday, July 25, 2024

Post Indian Army’s AT4 Procurement, Saab Silent On Offset Status

By Vaibhav Agrawal

On 20 January, Saab announced that it had signed a contract to provide the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) with the AT4, while the contract was awarded after a competitive procurement process.

The AT4CS AST (anti-structure tandem warhead) is an urban warfare variant. However, Saab has not mentioned the quantum of the order or the value of the contract. The AT4CS AST can be fired from inside confined places like bunkers and buildings for providing destructive firepower to counter-terrorist forces or the Infantry. 

All About The AT-4

The FFV Ordnance AB, responsible for Saab’s Ground Combat offer in India, signed the contract. India has been using the Carl-Gustaf shoulder-fired weapon system designed by Saab and produced by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) in India since the 1970s. The AT4 has features of the Carl-Gustaf and stands as one of the most popular support weapons amongst ground forces. 

The AT4 is an 84 mm unguided anti-armour weapon designed to be effective against armoured vehicles, tanks and combat vehicles, aircraft, helicopters and landing crafts. Saab claims that the weapon can be fired from confined spaces; a report by Janes says that it could be fired from areas as small as 22.5 mᶟ, this turns out possible for the weapon as it eliminates backblast to enable it to be fired from indoors, which the report explains happens due to the use of the counter-mass principle, which involves liquid that cools the gases ejected from the rear.  

A rocket ejects like a bullet upon firing and hits the target; however, no system guides the sphere. Its launcher can be fired only once post which, it becomes useless. 

This recoilless weapon is operated by a single soldier, while variants of these man-portable weapons weigh around 9 kg. However, Janes highlights that there is no confirmation on what fire-control system (FCS) or sight system will be supplied along with the AT4CS AST. 

Projectiles & Other Specifications

The AT4 is capable of firing different projectiles, including ER (anti-armour extended range); AST (anti-structure and breaching tandem-warheads); HP (high performance, higher penetration of more than 500 mm of rolled homogeneous armour [RHA]); HEAT (high-explosive anti-tank); HE (high explosive); and RS (reduced sensitivity, anti-tank warhead for urban or jungle combat). Other reports suggest that it can be used against targets up to around 270 metres. 

Along with being equipped with an optical night sight, the weapon aims through range-adjustable plastic sights, which can be covered under the sliding covers. The AT4 warhead can penetrate armour around 17.5 inches while it has a minimum arming distance of 10m which makes it favourable for targets at short distances.

Characterised by the ease of use and handling, the system does not require expert gunners to operate the weapon effectively and can also be employed to protect supply points, fixed installations and other vital assets. The speed of the shell fired through it is 220 metres per second, and the effective range is around 200 to 300 metres.

What Is The Offset Status On The AT4 Procurement?

IA&D made multiple requests for comment via email, text, WhatsApp and call between 4 February and 3 March; however, it received no response from Robert Hewson, Head of Communications, Saab Asia Pacific, about inquiry into the deal’s offset status.  

A draft on the Saab AT4 deal by IA&D was also shared with Hewson via WhatsApp, seeking the firm’s observations and comments; however, the publication did not receive a response until this issue went to print. Any comments received from Saab will be incorporated as a rejoinder in the publication’s online edition. 

The recent past has witnessed several media reports on global arms companies failing to meet their offset obligations, for which defaulters have been penalised.  

In the previous year, a report by the Economic Times said that the Ministry of Defence had imposed a fine of fewer than 1 million euros on the European missile maker MBDA for the delay in fulfilling its offset obligations under the Rafale aircraft deal; this was covered by IA&D as well in its January 2022 issue. 

Despite instances of offset violations in the past coupled with the Government of India’s crackdown on defaulters, many defence and aerospace companies remain opaque about the offset status of India’s ongoing defence deals. 


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