Thursday, February 9, 2023

DAC Greenlights HELINA ATGM, VSHORADS, BrahMos Launcher & FCS Procurement

By Aritra Banerjee

Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh chaired a Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting on 10 January 2023. The Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for three capital acquisition proposals, amounting to Rs 4,276 crore, was accorded during the meeting. Two proposals were for the Indian Army, while the other was for the Indian Navy, all of which were under the Buy (Indian-IDDM) category.

One of the AoNs accorded was for the procurement of the HELINA Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM), launchers and associated support equipment meant to be integrated into the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). “This missile is an essential part of the weaponisation of ALH for countering enemy threats. Its induction will strengthen the offensive capability of the Indian Army,” the Defence Ministry claimed in its press release on this development. 

The indigenous HELINA ATGM underwent its maiden launch on 11 April 2022 at high-altitude ranges as part of user validation trials. The flight test was jointly conducted by teams of scientists from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The flight trials were conducted from an ALH, and the missile was fired successfully, engaging a simulated tank target. The missile is guided by an Imaging Infrared Seeker (IIR) operating in the Lock on Before Launch mode. The HELINA ATGM is touted as one of the most sophisticated anti-tank weapons in the world. The successful test of the missile in arduous conditions was lauded by the Defence Minister.

Another AoN accorded was for the procurement of the Very Short-Range Air Defence System (VSHORADS) Infrared (IR) Homing missile system, which is under the design and development (D&D) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The VSHORADS is an indigenous Man Portable Air Defence System (MANPAD). This development is meant to bolster the Indian Army’s air defence capabilities along the sensitive northern borders. 

The Defence Ministry highlighted, “In view of the recent developments along the Northern borders, there is a need to focus on effective Air Defence (AD) weapon systems which are man-portable and can be deployed quickly in rugged terrain and maritime domain. Procurement of VSHORADS, as a robust and quickly deployable system, will strengthen the Air Defence capabilities.”

The DRDO successfully carried out two successful test flights of the VSHORADS missile on 27 September 2022 from a ground-based portable launcher at the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, off the coast of Odisha. VSHORADS is a MANPAD indigenously designed and developed by DRDO’s Research Centre Imarat (RCI), Hyderabad, in collaboration with other DRDO laboratories and Indian industry partners.

VSHORADS missile incorporates many novel technologies, including a miniaturised Reaction Control System (RCS) and integrated avionics, successfully proven during the tests. The missile, meant for neutralising low-altitude aerial threats at short ranges, is propelled by a dual-thrust solid motor. The design of the missile, including the launcher, has been reported to be highly optimised to ensure easy portability. Both the flight tests have entirely met the mission objectives.

Lastly, an AoN for the Indian Navy was to procure the Brahmos Launcher and Fire Control System (FCS) for the Shivalik class of ships and Next Generation Missile Vessels (NGMVs). This induction is touted to enhance the capability of carrying out maritime strike operations, interdicting and destroying enemy warships and merchant vessels. 

BrahMos ship-based launch; File Photo

The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile has been seen by analysts as having repeatedly proven its capabilities in various tests. The BrahMos missile has precisely hit sea-and land-based targets beyond radar horizons. In its naval configuration, the weapon has been designed for launch in either vertical or inclined mode from moving or static maritime platforms from stand-off range against sea or land targets.

The supersonic cruise missile has been deployed on Indian Navy’s frontline surface combat platforms, including Destroyers and Frigates, as its prime strike weapon. The BrahMos missile system is slated to be equipped by future Indian naval platforms, and the procurement of the BrahMos launcher and FCS following this AoN is likely to build into India’s future maritime power. 

Earlier last month, the DAC had cleared ₹84,000 crore worth of capital acquisition proposals. Of the two dozen proposals, six were for the Indian Army, six for the IAF and 10 for Indian Navy and two for Indian Coast Guard (ICG). The defence ministry believes that these initiatives by the DAC will significantly serve to modernise the tri-services and provide a substantial boost to the defence industry to achieve the goal of Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

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