The indigenously developed Pinaka multi-barrel rockets launcher has been deployed to the China front, significantly boosting offensive capability but the army will have to wait for an extended range system that can take on targets more than 75 km away, with technicalities over testing and validation remaining unresolved.
The Pinaka rocket system, designed to replace the Russian origin BM 21 Grads, has been deployed in the Tawang sector in Arunachal, where Chinese reserve forces brought forward last year are yet to retreat.
Designed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Pinaka currently has a range of about 38 km, which is slightly increased when it is deployed at high altitude areas. The defence ministry has recently cleared a case for enhanced Pinaka rockets that would go up to 47 km as well.
However, the game changer would be guided, extended range rockets for the system that can effectively engage targets at over 75 km, with an inbuilt precision strike capability. These rockets would give more standoff range and are likely to be at least twice as accurate as the current system.
Officials said that the guided version of the rockets has been successfully developed and demonstrated by the DRDO that conducted a range of tests in 2017-2020, showing that the system can be fired at over 75 km with precision. The final tests, officials said, were completed in February last year.
However, the case for procuring the guided version has not moved ahead, due to technicalities related to testing and validation. The issue, sources said, relates to an upgrade that would be required in the launcher systems for the extended range rockets. Without the upgrade, the rockets will not be able to demonstrate accurate hits at over 75 km.
As launchers are not available for validation tests, the procurement for the rockets is yet to commence. Sources said that efforts are being made to upgrade the launchers in the newer systems which have been ordered but no progress has been made on the upgrade yet.
As reported, the defence ministry had, in August 2020, inked a ‘2,580 crore deal to manufacture the indigenous Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers for the Army. The contract has been placed with private sector companies L&T and Tata Aerospace and Defence, with a significant portion of work also falling with public sector unit
, which supplies the trucks for the rocket launchers.
The Pinaka programme has been a home-grown success story, with technology transfer successfully executed by DRDO to the private sector for manufacturing the systems as well as ammunition. Of the six new regiments, L&T has been awarded the contract to manufacture four while the balance two will be made by Tata Aerospace and Defence.