|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
On September 20, India successfully test-fired ‘Prahar’ short-range ballistic missile from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) from Chandipur, Odisha. Prahar is a solid fuel road-mobile short-range missile fitted with inertial navigation system. Equipped with state of the art navigation, guidance and electromechanical actuation systems with the latest onboard computer, the missile achieved the terminal accuracy of fewer than 10 meters. It went up vertically and then manoeuvred as coordinated. According to an official, “The missile was launched from a road-mobile launcher, which can carry six missiles at a time and can be fired in salvo mode in all directions covering the entire azimuth plane. There was not a single degree deviation during the entire flight path.
Prahar, a quick reaction, all-weather, all-terrain, highly accurate battlefield support tactical weapon system, is expected to replace the Prithvi-1 short-range ballistic missile in Indian service. Various tracking radars as well as electro-optic equipment are engaged to track and monitor the missiles trajectory. Once inducted, Prahar, with a strike range of 150 km, will fill the vital gap between multi-barrel Pinaka and medium-range ballistic missile Prithvi. Unlike Prithvi, it can engage multiple targets in different directions. The missile is reportedly capable of carrying different types of warheads and will operate as a battlefield support system to the Indian Army. It has a greater manoeuvring capability and acceleration, and can be deployed in different kinds of terrain, making it more effective against strategic targets. Prahar is 7.32m long, has diameter of 420mm, and can carry a payload of 200 kg. Prahar’s launcher can carry six missiles having different kind of warheads meant for different targets, which can be fired in salvo mode in all directions covering the entire azimuth plane. It can be deployed in both stand-alone and canisterised mode.
Prahar was first tested on July 21, 2011, and will be induced into service after few more tests. It will fill the gap between multi-barrel rocket Pinaka and medium-range ballistic missile Prithvi. Unlike Prithvi, Prahar can engage multiple targets in different directions. The export variant of Prahar is Pragati surface to surface missile. It was unveiled for the first time by DRDO at ADEX 2013 in Seoul, South Korea. Pragati has a higher range of 170 km and shares 95per cent of Prahar's hardware components. India has also developed the ‘Pralay’ missile, a derivative of Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) exo-atmospheric interceptor missile, capable of destroying enemy weapons at high altitudes. Pralay, which is much faster and accurate, has a strike range of 350 km to 500 km and weighs around five tons. With a payload of 1000 kg, it can travel a distance of 350 km. If the payload is halved, the missile will be able to hit a target as far as 500 km. Since India’s most of the SRBMs are for strategic strike purposes, development of tactical Pralay was necessitated after the Army sought for a 500 km range SRBM that can carry a sizable payload. At the moment, the only means for Army to strike targets at distances of close to 500 km is the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile (CM), which can carry a payload of only about 200 kg or so. The project for the design and development of Pralay was sanctioned in March 2015 for a sum of Rs 332.88 crores.
DRDO had unveiled some information on the missile at the Defence Expo 2018 held at Chennai in April this year. The maiden test of Pralay was expected to be on September 22-23 but apparently was postponed. Pralay was developed to counter deployment of China’s Dongfeng 12 (DF-12) short-range tactical ballistic missile bordering the Line of Actual Control. DF-12 is said to be having a range of 100-250 with possible extended range of 400 km. Concurrent to Pralay, DRDO has also been developing the Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) mission for engaging targets in the exo-atmosphere at an altitude above 50 km above the earth’s atmosphere. On September 23, India successfully tested interceptor missile by night achieving a major milestone in developing a two-layer Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system. Both the PDV interceptor and target missile were successfully engaged. The interceptor was last successfully test fired on 11 February 2017. On November 30, the upgraded version of the third generation anti-tank Helina missile – SANT missile (Spike anti-tank guided missile), the air to ground version, was successfully tested, at the Pokhran field firing range in Jaisalmer district. The SANT missile has been developed by DRDO in association with Indian Air force (IAF), and is an upgrade of Helina’s missile, which had a range of 7-8 km. In comparison, SANT has a range of 15-20 km and is equipped with a new nose-mounted active radar seeker, to help keep the launch platform at safe distance, to evade defensive fire from the target area. The missile is guided by an Infra-red Imaging Seeker (IIR) operating in the Lock on Before Launch mode. The missile was tested for its IIR Seeker with a far greater resolution than what has been tested earlier. It is one of the most advanced anti-tank weapons in the world. DRDO’s missile program is progressing very well.