Friday, May 24, 2024

India’s Path To Missile Autonomy: Strengthening Defence Capability

By Staff Correspondent

Indian Armed Forces now have an impressive array of locally developed missile systems at their disposal, marking a significant step towards self-reliance. The result of years of domestic innovation, this crucial advantage is reshaping India’s defence landscape and carries implications for the broader geopolitical dynamics of the region.

DRDO: The Catalyst Behind India’s Progress

The Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) is widely recognised as the catalyst for these advancements. The premier organisation has been instrumental in creating a robust array of missile systems that have elevated India’s indigenous defence capabilities, especially regarding land-based systems.

The 2022 Ministry of Defence (MoD) year-end review indicates that India tested 11 missile systems, with nine being land-based. This activity has amplified India’s defence profile, positioning the nation as a significant participant in global defence, well-equipped to safeguard its interests and maintain regional stability.

The Impact Of The Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme

Of particular note is the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). Initiated in 1983, the IGMDP was an ambitious project that ran for 29 years, intending to establish India as a leader in missile technology. The programme was fundamental in developing the Prithvi, Trishul, Akash, Nag, and Agni Missile Technology Demonstrator. Four of these missile systems—Prithvi, Trishul, Akash, and Nag—are in active service, marking the programme’s success.

DRDO’s Future Plans: Emphasising Smart Munitions

Recognising the need for ongoing innovation in this rapidly evolving field, DRDO is looking to replicate the IGMDP’s success. The organisation’s Agni-V Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), with an impressive range of over 5,000 km, arguably represents the pinnacle of India’s missile prowess. Capable of carrying a 1.5-tonne warhead, the Agni-V merges power with precision.

Managed by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), the Agni-V is a core component of India’s strategic defence policy, which pledges a ‘No First Use’ approach to nuclear weapons. Complementing India’s missile capabilities are the other Agni series variants: Agni 1, Agni 2, Agni 3, and Agni 4, offering a range between 700 and 4,000 km. The upcoming Agni P, a next-generation IRBM, is expected to enhance India’s deterrent capabilities.

The DRDO’s focus now is on creating a generation of smart munitions designed to counter modern air defence systems (ADS). The aim is to expedite the development of these advanced weapons while enhancing the production capacity of India’s private-sector defence industry. Collaboration with the private sector could streamline manufacturing processes and reduce sustainment costs, further augmenting India’s defence capabilities.

Recent Developments & Future Directions

Noteworthy additions to India’s missile capabilities include the new tactical missile, Pralay, developed by DRDO and set to be inducted into the Indian armed forces. The DRDO has also been developing the Nirbhay, a subsonic cruise missile with a range of 1,000 km, which could deliver precise, deep penetration strikes on high-value targets (HVT). Incorporating such missiles into India’s defence framework signifies a commitment to technological innovation and enhancing military prowess.

International Collaboration & Export Opportunities

As India’s missile technology matures, the country’s potential for international collaboration and export opportunities also expands. BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between the DRDO and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya (NPOM), exemplifies this trend. Now in its 25th year of operation, BrahMos Aerospace has developed Mach 3 capable cruise missiles and has begun exporting, with the Philippines being its first overseas customer.

Finally, as the Indian Army seeks to domestically extend the life of its BM-30 SMERCH Multi Launcher Rocket System (MLRS), the emphasis on indigenous innovation and self-sufficiency in the defence sector becomes more evident. By reducing reliance on foreign suppliers and fostering domestic talent and capabilities, India is positioning itself as a significant player in global defence, shaping its destiny and influencing the ever-evolving geopolitics of the region.

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