Five Indian Weapon Systems That Came Online In 2022
The Indian armed forces concluded the year with the test firing of the BrahMos missile, a fairly routine occurrence over the last two years as efforts to increase the missile's range and incorporate more domestic components have progressed.
To give an idea of how frequent the BrahMos missile tests have become, India conducted at least ten tests in the first five months of the year alone.
It is fair to say that the military had a busy year. These tests only took up a small fraction of the military's time – the research establishment conducted many of these test firings. What kept the military busy was the induction of a series of major weapon systems.
The Navy, for instance, received multiple major platforms, including aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, destroyer INS Mormugao, INS Vagir, the fifth of the six Scorpène-class submarines, and US-built MH-60R helos.
1. INS Vikrant
INS Vikrant, the first aircraft carrier to be designed and built in India, was inducted into the Navy earlier this year after several years of construction and sea trials.
It is equipped with a range of modern weapons and sensors, and can carry a variety of fighters and helicopters.
The INS Vikrant is intended to serve as a symbol of India's growing naval capabilities, and is a key element of the country's efforts to defend its interests in the Indian Ocean region.
The Indian Navy evaluated French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation's Rafale-M and US-based Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet earlier this year as it is looking to augment its dwindling fleet of fighters currently made up of the troubled Russian-origin MiG-29Ks.
The two fighters participated in trials at the shore-based test facility at INS Hansa in Goa to showcase their capabilities to take off from a ski-jump platform of the kind that Indian aircraft carriers have.
Rafale-M, the naval variant of the Rafale fighter in service with the Indian Air Force, has emerged as the frontrunner in the battle.
2. INS Mormugao
The Indian Navy commissioned the stealth guided missile destroyer INS Mormugao into service in December.
The Mormugao is the second of four Visakhapatnam-class destroyers, with the first ship of the class, INS Visakhapatnam, having been commissioned in 2021.
The Mormugao is named after the port city of Goa and coincidentally undertook its first sea trial on 19 December 2021, which was the sixtieth anniversary of Goa's liberation from Portuguese rule.
The warship is 163 meters long and 17 meters wide, with a displacement of 7,400 tons and a maximum speed of 30 knots (55 km/h). The destroyer was designed by the Warship Design Bureau and built by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders, and has an indigenous content of around 75 per cent.
It is equipped with a range of indigenous weapons, including medium range surface-to-air missiles, BrahMos surface-to-surface missiles, indigenous torpedo tube launchers, anti-submarine indigenous rocket launchers, and a 76mm Super Rapid Gun Mount.
3. LCH Prachand
The Indian Air Force and Army inducted their first squadrons of India's first indigenously-built dedicated attack helicopter.
While the IAF inducted its first the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) at Jodhpur in October, the Indian Army quitely raised its first squadron of the attack helicopter in Bengaluru in June and moved it to a base near the Line of Actual Control in the eastern sector in October.
Over the next few years, the Army plans to induct 95 LCHs. Out of these, seven units of LCH, each with ten helicopters, will be deployed in the mountainous areas, including the LAC with China.
Equipped with HAL's new-generation Shakti engine, co-developed with French engine-maker Safran, the 5.8-tonne helo has been designed to operate at an altitude of up to 20,000 feet.
The LCH comes armed with a cannon, which is mounted below its nose. It is capable of piercing light armour with a thousand 20-millimetre (mm) bullets each minute. It also carries 70-mm rockets on pods on either side.
The helicopter can also be armed with air-to-air missiles to target slow-moving aircraft and anti-armour missiles to destroy tanks. However, it currently lacks these weapons. While the anti-tank guided missiles will be available by mid-2023, air-to-air missiles are yet to be ordered.
The government has approved the purchase of 120 Pralay missiles, paving the way for their induction into the military.
This is a significant development as it marks a potential first step towards building a cost-effective rocket force for the future.
A tactical missile, Pralay, has a stated range of 150-500 kilometres and carries warheads ranging from 350 to 700 kilograms.
In one of the two tests conducted last December, the missile was launched on a quasi-ballistic trajectory. In a quasi-ballistic trajectory, the missile follows a relatively lower (though largely ballistic) path than a ballistic missile would, and has the ability to perform manoeuvres in flight.
Compared to China, India has very limited conventional ground-launched missile options of tactical utility. BrahMos, which now has a relatively longer range than before, costs upwards of Rs 34 crore a piece. It will be reserved for a limited number of high-value targets.
Pralay, a much cheaper ballistic missile, would provide mass to the rocket force and allow it to target Chinese force concentrations along the Line of Actual Control and dual-use infrastructure in Tibet.
5. Swarm Drones
The Indian Army has made a significant technological advancement this year with the induction of indigenous swarm drones into service.
Swarm drones are a group of small, unmanned aerial vehicles that can work together to accomplish a specific task.
The drones, manufactured by Bengaluru-based NewSpace Research and Technology and Noida-based Raphe mPhibr Private Limited, have been inducted by the Armoured Corps and the Mechanized Infantry.
The use of swarm drones allows for greater flexibility and efficiency in military operations, as they can be deployed in large numbers to perform a variety of tasks, such as surveillance, reconnaissance, and target identification.
The induction of these drones is a response to the increasing use of drones in conflicts around the world, particularly in Armenia and Azerbaijan and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, where drones have been used to great effect against Russia.
Both the Armoured Corps and the Mechanized Infantry are looking at purchasing more drones and counter-drone measures, and have already issued Requests for Information.
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