The guided Pinaka, with a range of 75-80 km and accuracy of 25 metres, will enhance Indian firepower
By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th Jan 17
Business Standard, 25th Jan 17
At the peak of the 1999 Kargil conflict, when the army was using all the firepower it could muster to pulverise Pakistani positions as Indian soldiers clawed their way up the steep, exposed mountainsides towards them, a new, secret weapon entered action for the very first time.
The Pinaka multi-barrelled rocket launcher (MBRL) became the first Indian prototype weapon, then still being developed by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), to be used in actual combat. While the television crews covered the GRAD BM-21 rocket launcher hurling its fiery bolts towards Tiger Hill, the Pinaka --- more accurate, lethal and with a far longer range --- was proving its mettle away from the cameras.
This has never been revealed until now. Nor, the fact that Pakistani mortar fire wounded a young DRDO scientist who was operating the Pinaka. Like a soldier, he continued firing until that operation was over.
On Tuesday, at Chandipur, on the Odisha coast, the DRDO successfully test-fired a lethal guided Pinaka rocket than will multiply the system’s capability manifold. While the Pinaka Mark I rockets that currently equip two regiments of the Indian artillery (with two more regiments under production) can destroy targets up to 37.5 kilometres (km) away, the guided Pinaka rocket will accurately strike targets at over twice that distance.
Furthermore, while the existing, unguided, free flight Pinaka rockets can be used only against area targets (typically, an infantry position spread out across 500 metres), the guided Pinaka strikes targets with pinpoint accuracy.
In the two tests conducted so far --- the first on January 12 and a second today --- the guided Pinaka has struck targets over 60 km away with an accuracy of 25 metres.
“The mission met all the objectives. The radars, electro optical and telemetry systems at ITR Chandipur tracked and monitored the vehicle all through the flight path”, said a DRDO release today.
That provides the Indian military with an ideal weapon for striking terrorist camps across the Line of Control (LoC) with pinpoint accuracy, eliminating the need to risk soldiers crossing the border on “surgical strikes”.
The Pinaka would be equally effective in supporting attacks under the army’s “Cold Start” plan, which involves capturing enemy positions in lightning strikes before they can be reinforced. The volume and precision of firepower that a Pinaka regiment brings down would stun defenders and leave attacking forces with an easy task.
The Pinaka rocket delivers 100 kilograms of high explosive onto the target. Each Pinaka launcher has 12 rockets in its tubes, which can all be fired within 44 seconds. That means a Pinaka battery, which has six launchers, can pummel a target with 7.2 tonnes of high explosive in just 44 seconds.
The Pinaka rocket’s “pre-formed fragmented” (PF) warhead is a masterpiece in lethality. The blast of high explosive when it strikes the target breaks the warhead’s casing into 21,000 high-density, tungsten alloy spears that hurtle across the target area, tearing through anything in their paths.
For a briefing on the technology in the new, guided Pinaka, Business Standard visited the Armament R&D Establishment (ARDE) in Pune, the DRDO laboratory that has masterminded its development.
While the Pinaka Mark I, and the longer-range Mark II that followed it, are free-flight rockets that follow a ballistic path, much like a stone lobbed towards a target. In contrast, each guided Pinaka rocket has an on-board computer calculating its flight trajectory and location, using the US Global Positioning System (GPS), the Russian GLONASS or the Indian GAGAN --- whichever is most convenient. When the rocket deviates from its desired trajectory, aerodynamic canards on the rocket body are manipulated to bring it back on track.
The Pinaka programme is an exercise in collaboration, says Dr KM Rajan, who heads ARDE. Setting a precedent, the DRDO cooperated with two private sector firms, Larsen & Toubro; and Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division) to build the launcher and the command posts that control its operations. Ordnance Factory Chanda, near Nagpur, builds the Pinaka rockets and warheads. Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) builds the Tatra high mobility vehicles on which the system is mounted, as well as its mobile logistics systems.
The Pinaka constitutes an unalloyed DRDO triumph, with the Mark I costing just Rs 55 crore to develop. That economical effort will result in the induction of 22 Pinaka Mark I regiments into the army, at a cost of Rs 61,000 crore. Of these, two are already in service, two more contracted, and another 10 cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security.