On Monday, the Indian Defence Ministry put pen to paper sealing a deal with two leading private defence majors for the development and procurement of Pinaka rocket launchers for six Army regiments at a total cost estimated to be Rs 2,580 crore.
Officials from the Defence Ministry stated that the Pinaka regiments are to be deployed along India’s border with China and Pakistan to improve operational preparedness of the nation’s armed foces. The two companies which have won the contract to develop the launchers are Tata Power Company Ltd (TPCL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T). Bharat Earth Movers Ltd (BEML) will reportedly, also provide the vehicles upon which the rocket launchers will be mounted.
The deal comes just over a week after the first ever Pinaka rocket launchers exclusively manufactured by the private sector were successfully test fired at a firing range in Pokhran. Against the backdrop of the government’s push to increase involvement of private enterprises in the defence sector so as to reduce the armed forces’ reliance on PSUs like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the Ordnance Factory Board, the latest agreement will look to see 114 Pinaka Launchers operationalised by 2024.
The government’s drive to bring in private sector players into defence production comes on the back of several complaints lodged by the Indian Air Force, the Army and the Navy regarding sub-standard equipment produced by India’s PSUs. As far as the Pinaka rockets themselves go, India has an extremely high annual requirement of them at over 1,000 units.
Features of the highly successful Pinaka rocket launcher
Indigenously developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, the Pinaka rocket launcher got its first glimpse of action during the 1999 Kargil War. Since then, the multi-barrel rocket launch system has undergone a series of upgrades, consistently proving its worth while sitting on India’s peaks and neutralising enemy assets with devastating precision.
The complete Pinaka MBRL system is comprised of six launcher vehicles, each of which are equipped with 12 rockets, with six loader-replenishment vehicles, two command post vehicles integrated with a fire control computer and a DIGICORA MET radar.
However, each launcher can also operate independently and can be controlled by individual computers. The launcher is made up of two pods that sit alongside each other, mounted on a Tatra launch vehicle. Rockets can be fired individually or at one go in different directions. The launcher can operate in four modes – manual, remote, standalone, and autonomous.
The earlier version of the Pinaka rocket had a range of approximately 40km. However, the upgraded Pinaka Mark II is said to have an extended range between 70 and 80 km. The launch system is capable of firing up to 12 rockets within 40 seconds, with an arsenal of six launchers capable of levelling an area of around 1,000m by 800m. The Pinaka rockets can also use a variety of warheads from pre-fragmented high explosives, anti-tank bomblets, anti-personnel mines, incendiary practice warheads, anti-tank minarets or pilot shots.