Alpha Defense Exclusive
The Indian Army demands a new type of Multi Barrel Rocket System a.k.a Multi barrel Precision Kill System.
Ever Since the skirmish between the Indian Army and PLA Ground Force and a continuing stand-off to date, the Indian Army has realized that there remains a lot of areas where the army was unprepared for the challenge, be it infrastructure, light tanks, armed drones, armored troops carrier, etc. As a result of this friction, we have seen quite a significant development in these segments like the development of new alternative highways to improve connectivity, up-gradation of bases, creation of emergency airstrips somewhere along NH44 highway of J&K/Ladakh, leasing of armed drone from Israel, issuing RFI for light tanks and procuring Kalyani M-4, Mahindra ASLV, etc. Out of so many sectors, precision-guided compact & lightweight multi barrel rocket launching system were sectors, where the Indian Army found bottlenecks.
Challenges faced by current multi barrel systems
Current Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher systems in Indian inventory are BM-21 Grad, Pinaka, and BM-30 Smerch. These systems are based on 6X6, 8X8,10X10 trucks respectively. Pinaka and Smerch for the incident are quite long and find it difficult to traverse the mountainous terrain of Ladakh due to the lack of sufficient road infrastructure in the region.
Quite an impetus towards the infra development has been given, but it’s still not sufficient to make inroads to all sectors, especially which involve curved roads, where trcuk carrying such system finds restriction in terms of turning radius. Another issue that arises with respect to such a system is the elevation of the launchers. In mountainous terrains, important installations and fortifications are generally made around the foot of the hill on the opposite side of the enemy position.
This is done specifically to make the targeting of these sites difficult by enemy mortar, artilleries, and rockets as these follow a ballistic trajectory, lower the angle of fire, flatter the curve. In order to make the attack possible, you have to close the distance as well as increase the angle of firing to be effectively able to engage enemy positions, as a rocket has to ascend over the mountain than attack steeply onto enemy positions.
Our current rocket systems have a maximum elevation of 55 degrees, this degrades the performance of such a system in mountains and the army has to rely more on howitzers which offer far better elevation of around 70 degree+ but much lesser area coverage as well far lesser destructive power.
One more issue that is very relevant is the accuracy of current MBRLs. All 3 systems currently in service have the accuracy, which is defined in CEP, at around a hundred to a few hundred meters, Guided Pinaka which has an accuracy of <30 mtrs is not in service yet. Such rockets work well in the desert and plain region, where barrage over large areas makes it effective but in mountains, positions are generally concentrated and require precision firing to be effective.
Indian Army is currently looking less of an MBRL and more of an MBPKS i.e. Multi barrel Precision Kill System designated as Medium Range Precision Kill System (MRPKS). This system is going to be very different from traditional Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers.
Traditional systems depend on cheap, rapidly fired unguided rocket over a certain area to neutralize the enemy, while this system is more about accuracy and concentrated fire. Indian Army has demanded system which should be based on 4*4 vehicle with payload capacity of around 2.5 tons, to allow for easy mobility in mountainous terrain. The system is required to have a maximum range of 25km with an accuracy of >2mtrs CEP and 90-degree launch capability, so as to allow high ballistic angles as well as concentrated fire on enemy positions. The system should have 1 or 2 pods of 24 rockets each, which means the launch vehicle must be able to carry 24 to 48 rockets each. Contrary to popular belief that this is meant for replacement of BM-21 Grad. Army documents have mentioned no such information, and rightly so, as most of the grads are being upgraded by L&T and will feature a longer range 122mm ER rocket developed by DRDO capable of reaching 40km. As per the documents available, the plan is to equip them with Light Artillery Regiments of the Indian Army, which generally are equipped with 120mm mortars and 105mm field guns.
Interested about Howitzers? Check out this article.