The Indian army’s plan to equip its infantry and mechanized infantry battalions with latest generation man-portable ‘Fire and Forget’ Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) has been ‘spiked’, leaving the force high and dry.
The Defence Ministry had on October 25, 2014 decided to go in for 8,356 Spike anti-tank guided missile and 321 launchers from Israel for Rs 3,200 crore, rejecting US offer of Javelin missiles that Washington was lobbying hard for.
However, the Defense Ministry has now decided to retract the Request for Proposal (RFP), which is a severe setback to the army which has been eyeing the same since 2009.
Army still relies on decades old French Milan 2T and the Russian Konkurs ATGMs, which not only have a lesser range compared to the one used by India’s main adversary Pakistan but also does not have night firing capabilities.
The Pakistani Army uses Chinese made ‘Green Arrow’ ATGMs that have a range of about 3.5 kms, Army sources told Republic TV. This means that a Pakistani soldier can take out an Indian tank from a range of about 3.5 kms.
On the opposite, both Milan and Konkurs have a range of only about 2 kms, sources said underlining that the Army was keenly looking forward to the next generation ATGMs.
They said that the particular version of Spike that the Army was interested in had a range of about 4.5 kms.
The Indian Army would need about 40,000 ATGMS to equip all its Infantry and Mechanized Infantry Battalions.
The decision to retract the RFP was done courtesy a renewed bid to design and manufacture it domestically through DRDO.
In letters to the MoD, the Army had highlighted “the operational urgency of the equipment”, arguing that the Spike “gives a major capability impetus to troops deployed on the Line of Control, especially in the current operational scenario”, sources said.
However, the DRDO, which has made Nag and Anamika ATGMs, has stepped in claiming that they can deliver a man portable ATGM in the next four years. However, the claims by the DRDO does not instill much confidence in the Army given several delays in its programmes.
The decision to withdraw the RFP is a big surprise given that Israel’s Rafael, manufacturers of Spike, has already tied up with India’s Kalyani group. Both have entered into a joint venture and have also set up a missile sub-systems manufacturing facility in Hyderabad which was inaugurated in August this year.
The Kalyani Group had already invested about USD 12 million into the project. Industry sources questioned the rationale of withdrawing the RFP after months of negotiations, a setback to not only Army’s plans but also industry expectations and investment.