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Missile manoeuvres

Published : Jun 08, 2002 00:00 IST



THE test-firing of three missiles - Ghauri, Ghaznavi and Abdali - by Pakistan on May 25, 26 and 28 - may not have received such widespread media attention but for the heightened tension on the India-Pakistan border. The Indian establishment has dismissed these launches as of no consequence. For, according to it, these missiles were not home-made but imported lock, stock and barrel from North Korea.

While Defence Minister George Fernandes said India was not perturbed by the tests, an External Affairs Ministry spokesperson dismissed them as "missile antics" aimed at Pakistan's domestic audience. An Indian missile scientist sarcastically commented that Pakistan had invented "the technology of label change" in these launches. Instead of their North Korean names, the missiles were given "emotional Arabic names", the scientist said.

A defence analyst, however, was more circumspect. He said: "We cannot afford to ignore these launches because they constitute a threat. We can keep talking of how superior we are to them in missile technology. It does not matter whether their range is 290 km or more or less. Even if they have one missile that can be nuclear-tipped, it changes the scenario." (Ghauri has a range of about 1,500 km and can carry nuclear warheads.) He said the important question was whether Pakistan had the capability to operate these missiles. If it did have, he said, these missiles would constitute a threat because they could reach parts of India. It was immaterial whether they were indigenous or not.

After the launch of Ghauri on May 25, an official statement from Islamabad said: "Pakistan today carried out a successful test-fire of its indigenously developed medium-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile Hatf V (Ghauri). This was the third test of the Ghauri missile system. According to the data collected from the test, all the design parameters have been successfully validated. Ghauri can carry warheads with great accuracy." Pakistan's last missile tests were conducted in April 1999, it said.

A foreign news agency quoted a Pakistani security officer as saying, "Hatf V (Ghauri) can be tipped with any warhead. Any ballistic missile can carry a nuclear warhead." According to him, the missile has a range of 1,500 km to 2,000 km.

Ghaznavi is a short-range version of the surface-to-surface Hatf series. Hatf III, which has a range of 290 km, was test-fired for the first time on May 26. Abdali is also a short-range missile.

According to missile experts, Ghauri is actually the No Dong missile of North Korea. It is a single-stage missile fuelled by liquid propellants. Ghaznavi was also imported from North Korea. It has two-stages fuelled by solid propellants.

Indian missile scientists say they are "not perturbed" by the tests because "we have what we need" and "this depends on our threat perception." According to them, India has a variety of missiles and has developed these missiles sufficiently "to handle Pakistan". They assert that the missile programme of India, which comes under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), is indigenous. The IGMDP, which began in 1983 under the leadership of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, has developed Agni, Agni-II, Agni-1 and Prithvi, all surface-to-surface missiles. Trishul, Akash and Nag also fall under the IGMDP. Trishul and Akash are surface-to-air missiles. Nag is an anti-tank missile. All these are indigenously developed. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed Dhanush, Prithvi's naval version. The DRDO has started a project to build an air-to-air missile, Astra, which can be fired from the Light Combat Aircraft.

India also has BrahMos, a supersonic cruise missile. It uses liquid ram jet technology. Its first launch took place from Chandipur-on-Sea in Orissa on June 12, 2001 and the second launch on April 28, 2002. (The product of an Indo-Russian joint venture, BrahMos gets its name from the Brahmaputra and Moscow rivers). The two institutions that form the backbone of the BrahMos company are the DRDO and the Scientific Research Institute of Machine Building, Moscow (NPO-M). Dr. A. Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Controller, Research and Development, DRDO, is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the BrahMos company.

Pakistan does not have such a large variety of missiles in its inventory. It has Hatf-1 and Hatf-2, the Ghauri series, Shaheen, Ghaznavi and Abdali. In addition, it has M-11 missiles obtained from China. While Hatf-1 has a range of about 60 km, Hatf-2 has 300 km, Shaheen, of Chinese origin, reportedly has 600 km, M-11 300 km and Ghauri about 1,500 km.

Missile developers in India said Pakistan's missiles fell under two categories. The first comprised those procured from China, such as M-11, and those bought from North Korea, such as No Dong. The second type of missiles are those developed in Pakistan with China's help. Shaheen is of this type.

According to DRDO scientists, Pakistan's interest, as far as India is concerned, is to keep Mumbai and New Delhi within its target range. It is not interested in going deep into India and thus has no need for long-range missiles, they claim.

Ghauri, Ghaznavi and Shaheen are all strategic missiles - surface to surface. "Pakistan is not interested in surface-to-air missiles, they say.

India's strength is that it has a variety of missiles, especially the Agni series and BrahMos. The Agni series, constituting the centrepiece of the IGMDP, consists of Agni, Agni-II and Agni-I, in that order. They are all surface-to-surface missiles. Agni has been launched three times - on May 22, 1989; May 29, 1992; and February 19, 1994. Its range is 1,200 km- plus.

Agni-II was launched twice - on April 11, 1999 and January 17, 2001. It is an intermediate range ballistic missile, which has a range of 2,000 km-plus. It is a two-stage vehicle, both stages powered by solid propellants and capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads of 1,000 kg. With the second, successful launch in January 2001, the development of Agni-II was completed and it is fully operational now.

Agni-I, launched on January 25, 2002, can carry a payload of one tonne. It is called Agni-I because it has a shorter range of about 700 km. It was developed in a remarkably short time of about 15 months because the DRDO discovered that there was a big gap between the range of Agni-II, which is 2,000 km-plus, and that of Prithvi-II. A missile engineer said, "Prithvi-II is not able to cover the entire western region (that is, Pakistan) with its range of 250 km. We should have something in-between so that there is no gap. So with some modifications to Agni-II, Agni-I was made. The modification was the removal of the second stage of Agni-II." Agni-I is Pakistan-specific.

The Army has begun the induction of Agni-I. The missile is operational and ready for deployment.

Prithvi-I has been productionised and inducted. The trials of Prithvi-II have been completed and they are ready for induction.

Dhanush, Prithvi's naval version, has been tested successfully from ships. It has a range of 250 km.

Trishul has gone through successes and failures, indicating the complexity of its technology. This surface-to-air missile has been developed for the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.

It is also a sea skimmer, one that can counter low-flying anti-ship missiles.

Akash, another surface-to-air missile, is undergoing fine-tuning of its technology.

Nag is a third-generation anti-tank missile. It can change its course according to the movement of the target and smash it.

BrahMos can travel at Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound). An anti-ship missile, it can be launched from any platform - from ships, submarines, aircraft, land and silos. Informed sources said BrahMos is a powerful tool with a range of 280 km. It was launched for the second time on April 28, 2002 from the Interim Test Range at Balasore, Orissa. It is under further development. It has multi-target capability.

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Jun 08, 2002.)



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