Panjrath Writes: This is with reference to a relatively inconspicuous news brief in the Defence Aviation Post of 12 May 17[i], titled “Home-made Rocket Launchers To Replace Indian Army’s Russian Origin Grad, Smerch: Report” and a much hyped news on the induction of US manufactured Light Howitzers covered by multiple media channels on 18 May 17[ii]. Both these news items are significant on various counts.
First and foremost, they represent a very positive development as far as the much desirable modernization of Indian Army is concerned. While the army has continued to deliver in whatever role it has been assigned viz. protracted counter insurgency operations in J&K or North East, defeating an incursion in the high altitude terrain of Kargil, guarding our frontiers in Siachen, LoC or the LAC and responding effectively in aid to civil authorities, there are genuine concerns regarding its effectiveness in performance of its primary task – predominantly on account of its growing obsolescence. Induction of state of the art – world class equipment would definitely provide the much needed punch to this ever reliable force.
Secondly, induction of homemade rockets, especially the Pinaka MBRL – version 2 of which was successfully test fired in Jan earlier this year, marks the coming of age of our indigenous defence manufacturing capability. Two issues particularly stand out – one that these are developed with a private player L&T and two that we have been able to put in place an indigenous guidance system. Induction of this system and its successful operation with field units should act as a precursor to many such achievements to follow and consequently, provide the much needed shot in the arm to the much desirable, ‘Make in India’ initiative.
Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, both these systems aim to enhance our ability to strike deep – the rockets in the plains and motor-able hills while the light howitzers in the not so accessible high altitude areas. These signify an approach adopted by most modern armies – that of deep penetration strikes, perhaps best demonstrated during the Gulf War by the US led coalition forces that long-range precision strike could help disrupt enemy operations, and even seriously attrite fielded enemy forces. A similar methodology has been adopted by the PLA and can be seen to have almost fructified with the maturing of its Rocket Force. An interesting article on this can be found in The National Interest website[iii]
The euphoria associated with these inductions notwithstanding, there is also a word of caution. Our defence modernization is greatly lagging and needs more than a nudge. While the artillery may be on the much sought road to progress, gaping holes in our battlefield air defence, lack of effective anti-tank capability, ageing helicopter fleet and even the availability of a basic infantry assault rifle continue to constrain our competencies. Implementation of the much hyped ‘improved defence procurement procedures’ coupled with a push to indigenous defence industry are definitely the crying needs of the day!