Military


Pinaka Multibarrel Rocket Launcher

The Pinaka Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher System, is a state of the art weapon for destroying/neutralising enemy troop concentration areas, communication centres air terminal complexes, gun/rocket locations and for laying mines by firing rockets with several warheads from launcher vehicle. High operational mobility, flexibility and accuracy are the major characteristics, which give Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher System an edge in modern artillery warfare.

The indigenously built Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher Weapon Area System can fire rockets with a range of 39-40 km, in a salvo of 12 rockets with 1.2 tons of high explosives within 40 seconds. The complete system comprises a launch vehicle, a loader / replenishment vehicle, and a command post vehicle with a battery of six launchers. Pinaka can neutralise a target area of 350 square kilometres, and is meant as a supplement to the existing artillery system at a range beyond 30 km. It can be fitted with a variety of warheads ranging from blast-cum-pre-fragmented high explosives to anti-tank mines. This indigenously designed MLRS is far cheaper than the international competition, costing just Rs 23 million per system. By comparison the American M270 MLRS costs Rs 195 million, and the 9P140 URAGAN of Russia and the ASTROS-II of Brazil each cost Rs 38 million.

The Indian Army felt the need for a weapon system which could soften or defeat targets between a certain range. The Ministry sanctioned two competence build up projects in 1981 for Rs 1.94 crore. Army formulated their General Staff Qualitative Requirement for the system in July 1983. They planned to induct certain number of regiments into service at the rate of one regiment per annum, equipped with the system, from 1994 onwards so that the existing system which had range limitation of 20 km could be replaced with the latest state of the art system. The Ministry issued sanction in December 1986 to develop the system at Rs 26.47 crore excluding cost of manpower. The development was to be completed in December 1992.

The General Staff Qualitative Requirement prescribed that the system should attain a certain maximum range and the circular error probability should not exceed 1 to 2 per cent of range. The system was to incorporate a twelve tube cluster configuration capable of firing a salvo in five to six seconds and neutralise the specified area by a salvo from six launchers. The entire operation of loading of one salvo from the replenishment vehicle to the launcher was required to be completed within four to five minutes. Eight types of warhead for different target effects were to be developed. The fabrication and delivery of different components of the system were to match User Trials to be conducted in two phases to be concluded by December 1993.

The Pune-based Armament Research and Development Establishment has successfully produced the 'Pinaka' Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher System for the Indian armed forces, to give it concentrated high volume firepower to destroy enemy targets as demanded by the top brass of the Indian army. The Pinaka system was tested at the interim test range (ITR) Chandipur-on-sea, and had undergone several tests since 1995. It has been subjected to user's trials by the Army, which was not entirely satisfied with the system, and additional tests were conducted in response to suggestions to improve its capability further. In March 1999 the system was tested in the run-up to the country's largest ever air force exercise over the site of India's 1998 underground nuclear blasts, at the eastern Indian missile launch site of Balasore. Pinaka was finally put into field testing for assessing its capability during the Kargil conflict. Pinaka reportedly proved very successful during field testing in the high altitude conflict in Kargil.

While development of launcher with the help of three firms with a view to adopt the most suitable technology was considered desirable by ARDE, they were yet to decide on the prototype and technology to be adopted as of June 1998, i.e., eleven years after the appropriate chassis was selected. Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri constituted a committee in 1997 for deciding the launcher for Phase II user trials. The committee had not taken decision as of June 1998.

The Army in its General Staff Qualitative Requirement had specified the requirement of eight types of warheads for the rockets to be supplied in batches for the Phase I and Phase II trials. Armament Research and Development Establishment in association with High Energy Material Research Laboratory developed and tested three types of warheads. Of these, incendiary warhead developed at a cost of Rs 19.50 lakh was unacceptable to users due to its composition, leaving only conventional blast cum fragmentation warhead and dummy warhead for use. Even out of the two warheads successfully tried, one is only a dummy. The development of warheads was, therefore, way behind the schedule. Armament Research and Development Establishment stated in July 1998 that the remaining warheads were planned for Phase II of the project.

In mid-1998 it was reported that production is on at various ordnance factories, and four public sector undertakings would meet the December 1998 delivery deadline. But in May 1999 the Comptroller and Auditor General criticized the Defence Research and development Organisation (DRDO) for its failure to develop critical components of Pinaka, which led to a six-year delay in the induction of the system. Far from reaching the production stage, the DRDO has yet to develop various critical components of the system despite an expenditure of Rs 42.45 crore. The Defence Ministry in 1981 had planned to induct "Pinaka" into Indian Army regiments by 1994, and the project was originally given a Rs 26.47 crore budget. The expected date of completion of development is late 2000 at a cost of around Rs 80 crore.

The scope of the project included development and fabrication of loader-cum-replenishment vehicle to enable the transportation of four pods of six rockets each and replenish the stock in the launcher within four to five minutes. Vehicle Research and Development Establishment designed the Loader-cum-Replenishment Vehicle and fabricated it through a private firm in August 1993 on a Tatra chassis supplied to the firm. The total cost of the Loader-cum-Replenishment Vehicle including cost of chassis and subsequent modifications were Rs 34.15 lakh.

In the trials conducted in June 1996 the users found that it did not meet the baseline requirements, such as ability to replenish two salvos within 4 to 5 minutes. Loader-cum-Replenishment Vehicle could carry only one salvo and the loading time extended up to 40 minutes due to the low lifting capacity of the crane, which was attributable to change in the weight of the rocket pod from 2.5 tonne to 2.8 tonne. The Army agreed to a proposal made by Armament Research and Development Establishment in September 1996 to develop a loader vehicle with 3.5 tonne crane capable of carrying two pods and another replenishment vehicle with four pods as against a single loader-cum-replenishment vehicle which can carry four pods.

Vehicle Research Development Establishment designed the new vehicle and fabricated two loader vehicles in September 1997 at a cost of Rs 61.59 lakh on Tatra chassis procured in December 1996 at a cost of Rs 41 lakh. The suitability of the newly fabricated loader vehicle was yet to be proved. Thus, one of the most important components of the system remained to be developed even as of June 1998.

The General Staff Qualitative Requirement stipulated requirement of a command post vehicle of equal mobility as the launcher with good crosscountry performance including sandy terrain for providing logistic support. The Project Management Committee selected Tata 4 ton chassis in August 1989. The Tata chassis was procured in October 1994 at a cost of Rs 5.77 lakh by the Vehicle Research and Development Establishment and superstructure fabricated on it at a cost of Rs 3.59 lakh in April 1996. It, however, failed to achieve equal mobility with the launcher vehicle configured on Tatra chassis and it was therefore decided in September 1996 to develop another command post vehicle on a Tatra chassis.

The rocket developed by Armament Research and Development Establishment could achieve only 82 per cent in terms of range. For achieving the desired range the configuration of rocket will have to be changed from 214 mm calibre to 240 mm. The Army had stipulated that the calibre of rocket could be anywhere between 210 and 250 mm. Armament Research and Development Establishment erred in the decision to design the system around 214 mm calibre. The Army agreed to accept the system by reducing the range to ensure early availability of the system. Armament Research and Development Establishment, however, could not deliver the system even with the reduced range as of December 1998. With a lower range, the survivability of the system would be lowered and targets in depth would be beyond reach.

The Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) has also developed a high performance artillery rocket system which can fire within a range between 70 km to 100 km. This is a highly sophisticated "shoot-and-scoot" high mobility system capable of firing a salvo of 12 rockets, each with a payload of 100 kg within a time span of 30 seconds. This new artillery rocket system comprises of an advanced family of warheads including terminally guided submunitions with autonomous target search and engagement capability besides remotely delivered intelligent bomblets and minelets with self-neutralising capability.

In late April 2005, India test-fired multiple rounds of the Pinaka multi-barrel rocket system at Chandipur. The tests were reported to be aimed at improving the entire system and sub-system of rockets.




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