In the midst of a two-year military standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, the Army and IAF have begun to induct modern Israeli anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) with longer ranges and stronger armour-penetration capabilities.
Last year, the Israeli ‘tank killers’ were ordered as part of emergency procurements in response to the ongoing troop standoff with China, which has yet to de-escalate. During the ongoing confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, such weapons have shown to be extremely useful.
Since the conflict began on February 24, Ukrainian troops armed with US-made Javelin ATGMs and western next-generation light anti-tank light missiles (NLAWs) have destroyed hundreds of Russian tanks and other armoured vehicles.
The Israeli Spike ATGM series is just as dangerous and adaptable. The Army will receive the Spike LR-2 launchers and missiles, which have a ground attack range of 5.5 kilometres, while the IAF will equip its Russian-made Mi-17 V5 armed helicopters with Spike NLOS (non-line of sight) missiles, which can destroy ground targets up to 30 kilometres away.
“Under emergency procurements, both fifth-generation ATGMs are being inducted in small numbers to fill operational deficiencies. “Make in India’ projects will meet the significantly higher requirement for ATGMs,” a top defence source stated on Sunday.
“The pilot-controlled NLOS missiles, which can be loaded with a variety of warheads,” he explained, “are particularly intended for specialist ‘behind the hill’ missions by IAF helicopters.”
In September 2015, the IAF received 22 Apache attack helicopters armed with Stinger air-to-air missiles, Hellfire Longbow air-to-ground missiles, guns, and rockets as part of a Rs 13,952 crore contract with the US. In February 2020, the Army will receive six Apache helicopters as part of a Rs 5,691 crore agreement.
The Spike LR-2 missiles can be equipped with either a tandem HEAT (high explosive anti-tank) warhead or a smart multi-purpose warhead, which has a 30% higher armour-penetration capacity.
The Army had previously integrated a small number of older-generation Spike tank-killers, with a strike range of four kilometres, to address immediate operational needs until the indigenous man-portable ATGMs developed by the DRDO were ready.
The Army has been requesting third and fourth-generation ATGMs for well over a decade due to a severe shortage of various types of shoulder, vehicle, and helicopter-launched ATGMs.
The force’s current inventory includes primarily of second-generation Milan-2T (2-km range) and Konkurs (4-km range) ATGMs, which are manufactured by defence PSU Bharat Dynamics under licence from French and Russian firms.
With a maximum strike range of 8 kilometres, the indigenous helicopter-launched third-generation ATGMS, Helina for the Army and Dhruvastra for the IAF, have been successfully tested from Dhruv advanced light helicopters but are yet to be incorporated.
In January of this year, DRDO tested the man-portable ATGM in its “final deliverable version,” which has a strike range of 2.5 kilometres. However, induction is still a long way off.