By Makhdoom Babar
(Additional reporting by Ajay Mehta in New Delhi & Hina Kayani in Rawalpindi)
While the Indians celebrate 62nd Army Day, country’s Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor, just after a couple of weeks of announcing a new war doctrine of Indian army to eliminate Pakistan and China in matter of hours even if it has to fight on simultaneous fronts, outrageously admitted Indian Army’s Armoured debacle and expressed concern about the force’s ‘night blindness’ in the area of Armoured Corps and mechanised infantry. ‘My major concern is that night blindness of the army is removed so we are able to fight in the night as in the day,’ Kapoor said at New Delhi Yesterday, an admission that stunned the world in the back drop of his two weeks old remarks. The situation also forced Indian Defence Minister Antony to chew his own buts as he had been endorsing and projecting General Kapoor’s announcement regarding the new war doctrine for Pakistan and China Earlier, when his attention was brought to the fact that the Indian Army’s tanks have a night vision capability of 20 percent, Pakistan’s have 80 percent while China has 100 percent, General Deepak Kapoor admitted this outrageous military debacle by saying: ‘You are right.’
‘Projects are already in the pipeline to ensure that we have the night vision capability that our adversaries have. It may take three-four years,’ Kapoor added. The lack of night vision capability of the Indian Army has affected its fighting capability during the night. The deficiency has been persistent since the Kargil conflict.
On a query about the obsolete artillery of the Indian Army, the army chief said that successive bans have delayed acquisition of new guns for long. ‘Artillery is a cause for concern. We need to have better guns. Trials for towed guns are underway. Because of bans the process got delayed. We are now acquiring (ultra light) guns through FMS (Foreign Military Sales) route (from the US),’ Kapoor added.
The Daily mail’s investigations into the matter reveal that despite a numerical strength of tanks over Pakistan, Indian army otherwise armoured and infantry capabilities are even below average if compared with Pakistan Army. According to these findings, Indian armoured corps comprises around 4, 059 tanks with a backup of 1, 133 as reserve while Pakistan Army’s Tank strength is 2,401 with a backup of 270 as reserves. However this numerical supremacy of Indian army is outraged with the fact that Indian armoured corps relies mainly on its Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun which emerged as a big failure while Pakistan Army’s armoured corps’ main strength has become Al-Khalid MBT which is a great success story, endorsed across the world. But the latest admission of Indian Army Chief about failure of its armoured corps to fight a battle in the night time is an additional and a rather huge disadvantage to the Indian Army and crystal clearly negates the claims of Indian Army Chief regarding smooth victory in case Indian army has to fight a war with Pakistan or China or even both at the same time.
The Daily Mail’s findings further disclose that India’s MBT Arjun is more flab than brawn. More a heavyweight than a performer. A potpourri really, with a French engine, and German seals fitted into an Indian hull and turret. And transporting this heavyweight is going to be another problem, which could limit its operational performance.
These findings further indicate that Arjun has indeed suffered throughout its development, from confusion and inexplicable delays and by imbalances between the Army, the DRDO and the bureaucracy. Pakistan by contrast, has drawn a lesson from the Indian experience and avoided the trap of over lasting her R&D’s indigenous know-how in the development of its MBT Al-Khalid.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that Arjun mounts a 120mm rifled gun deadly in lethal power but wanting in accuracy. Its performance in various trails was reported to be anything but up to the mark. It is believed that during in March 1990, General V. N. Sharma, the then Army Chief of Staff and an armoured expert, was “quite wild” when only three of the five rounds hit the 5X5 meter target and no hit was scored against a moving target.
According to Major General M. L. Popli (retd.) of the Indian Army, Arjun’s production was basically planned as an ambitious project with complete indigenous components and assemblies but it was later revealed that the Arjun’s sub-systems were all imported except for the hull and the turret. The imported assemblies include all major sub-systems such as engine, transmission, track-suspension, gin and fire control. Our experts are of the view that their integration, “leaves much to be desired”. The auxiliary power unit from France did not perfectly fit in the tank, with the German seals not meeting the General Staff qualitative requirements of withstanding temperatures up to 150 degree Centigrade. The barely measured up to 120 degrees. Arjun is therefore quite a “fuss” with the French engine, with German seals fitted into the Indian hull and turret mounting a not very accurate 120mm gun.
Armoured experts say that another problem thrown up by the heavyweight is its transportation. Arjun could present a lot of problem for transportation by railways particularly through certain portions of the system. This imposes very serious limitations on the Arjun’s operational performance. In most of the field armies, the tank transporters and assault bridges are not usually designed to take such heavy weights. These aspects mostly highlight the engineering and operational problems.
According to The Daily Mail’s findings, global military analysts say that Pakistan adopted a step-by-step approach towards the manufacture of its MBT-2000 Khalid, and this is the single most important reason for having stolen a march over India. They are of the opinion that the Indian project was too ambitious, whereas Pakistan’s approach was more systematic comprising the following phases and that was why Pakistan Army got a well prepared MBT while the Indian Armoured Corps was equipped with huffing, overweight and inaccurate Tank system.
The Daily Mail findings indicate that clear technical and professional edges of Pakistan Army’s Armoured Corps over Indian Army’s Armoured Corp are valid reasons to make General kapoor a really apprehensive Chief of Indian Army. These findings indicate that Pakistan’s MBT-2000 Khalid mounts a 125mm gun with thermal image converter. Maximum efforts were devoted to getting the machine souped up as possible mainly to cut down weight. Just compare the 60 tons Arjun with the maximum 44 tons Al- khalid.
It is essential to mention that Al-Khalid is equipped with 105mm gun with a more powerful engine, special armour for increased protection in the indigenously built laser range finder and thermal image sighting system to maximize the gun range even in the hours of acute darkness, enabling Pakistan Army’s armoured Corps to enjoy a complete technical and professional Supremacy of over Indian Armoured Corps; a fact that now worries Indian Army Chief the most. Further more, Al-Khalid MBT has an integrated fire control system for reducing engagement time and increasing accuracy, along with the automatic fire support system. This tank’s most lethal component, the penetrater ammunition called Armour Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APFSDS), is also being indigenously produced. This project has been designated P-87. Currently, a series of such closely related projects to manufacture hull, turret, gun barrels and engines are in various stages of planning-execution. All these will finally merged into a tank manufacturing factory that will produce MBT-2000 Khalid.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that despite the disgraceful admission of the Indian Army Chief regarding Indian Armoured Corps’ inability to combat a battle in the night, the Indian Army is already going through a very depressed and dejected phase and many of the missile systems, given to the Indian army have also emerged as seriously faulty and rather super-flops battle tools. These investigations indicate that many of the tests of Missile systems, carried out by Indian DRDO and declared officially as successful, have actually got a highly dubious result history.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that the failure in rapid succession of Astra missile system, a satellite launcher and a new ballistic missile have shown up the technological and budgetary difficulties faced by India’s space establishment, both civilian and military.
These investigations indicate that India’s intermediate-range ballistic missile “Agni III” that was launched by the secretive Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) failed soon after liftoff and crashed into the Bay of Bengal, less than 1,000 kilometers away from the launch site.
The failure of the Agni III was a very serious matter because it exposed the political limitations of India’s attempts, despite its ambitions, to pursue a military capability.
The surface-to-surface ballistic missile, designed to have a range of 3,500 kilometers, took off in a “fairly smooth” manner at the designated hour. But “a series of mishaps” occurred in its later flight path.
Earlier, India decided to postpone the missile test out of fear that a test could hamper US Congressional ratification of the India-US nuclear cooperation deal. Publicly, the then Indian Defense Minister cited “self-imposed restraint” to justify the postponement.
However, General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US military, visited India and declared that “I do not see it [a test] as destabilizing” or upsetting the regional “military balance” since “other countries in this region” (read, Pakistan) have also tested missiles.Following this “facilitation” or clearance, and after indications of favorable votes in US Congressional committees on the nuclear deal, India’s stand changed. A week later, the DRDO announced it was ready to launch Agni-III.
This was the ninth missile in the Agni series (named after the Sanskrit word for “fire”) to have been tested. The first was tested in May 1989. The last test (Agni-II) took place in August 2004.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that unlike major powers including the US, Russia or China, which test the same missile 10 to 20 times before announcing that it is fully developed, India considers only three or four test flights to be enough for both producing and inducting new missiles and thus ended up with inaccurate results and the success story was announced in a hasty manner.
These investigations disclose that this was not the first time that the test of an Agni series missile failed. As earlier, some tests of the shorter range Agni-II (range 2,000 kilometers-plus) also proved unsuccessful. However what made the Agni-III’s failure significant was that unlike its shorter-range predecessors, it was a wholly new design, developed with the specific purpose of delivering a nuclear warhead.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that Agni-I (range 700 to 800 kilometers) and Agni-II were both products of India’s space program and connected to its Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP), itself launched in 1983. Originally, their design used a satellite space-launching rocket (SLV-3) as the first stage, on top of which was mounted the very short-range (150 to 250 kilometers) liquid fuel-propelled Prithvi missile.
The Agni-III’s brand new design, in which both stages use solid propellants, was to enable it to carry a payload weighing up to 1.5 tons and deliver it to targets as far away as Beijing and Shanghai. At present, India lacks an effective nuclear deterrent vis-a-vis China, based on a delivery vehicle carrying a nuclear warhead. Agni-III was meant to fill the void.
The causes of the failure of the test flight are not clear. Scientists at the DRDO, which designed and built the missile, have been quoted as saying that many new technologies were tried in the Agni-III, including rocket motors, “fault-tolerant” avionics and launch control and guidance systems. Some of these could have failed. Other reports attribute the mishap to problems with the propellant.”The DRDO isn’t the world’s most reliable weapons R&D agency,” Admiral L Ramdas, a former Chief of Staff of the Indian Navy, told The Daily Mail. “The Indian armed services’ experience with DRDO-made armaments has not been a happy one. Their reliability is often extremely poor. We often used to joke that one had to pray they would somehow work in the battlefield,” he added “The figure of the budget of DRDO is extremely high for a poor country like India, with a low rank of 127 among 175 countries of the world in the United Nations Human Development Index,” said Anil Chowdhary of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace. “Yet the DRDO has delivered very little.”
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that none of the three major projects assigned to the DRDO were completed on time or without huge cost-overruns. These include the development of a Main Battle Tank (MBT), a nuclear power plant for a submarine, and an advanced Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), all involving expenditures of hundreds of millions of dollars.
“The primary reason for these shocking instances of underperformance and inability is lack of public accountability and oversight of the DRDO,” says M V Ramana, an independent technical expert attached to the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Environment and Development, Bangalore.
“The DRDO, like all of India’s defense and nuclear service establishments, is not subject to normal processes of audit. It has used ‘security’ as a smokescreen or shield and refused to be held to account,” he adds.
The Daily Mail’s investigations disclose that Pakistan, in sharp contrast, has always accorded high priority to its air defence management, with its multi-tier surveillance cover, air defence fighters, quick-reaction, short-range missiles and an integrated control and reporting system.
The Indian Armed Forces, however, continues to make do with its obsolete air defence systems, The IAF, for instance, has aging Pechora, Igla-1M and OSA-AK missile systems, and that, too, in woefully inadequate numbers. While Trishul was to replace its OSA-AK weapons system, Akash was meant as a substitute for Pechora.
The Daily Mail’s findings reveal further that But both the Trishul and Akash air defence missile systems, which are part of the original Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme launched as far back as 1983, have been dogged by development snags in their “command guidance and integrated Ramjet rocket propulsion” systems.
Trishul, for instance, has been tested over 80 times so far without coming anywhere near becoming operational. It was, in fact, virtually given up for dead in 2003 after around Rs 300 crore was spent on it, before being revived yet again.
Trishul’s repeated failure, in fact, forced the Indian Navy to go in for nine Israeli Barak anti-missile defence systems for its frontline warships, along with 200 Barak missiles, at a cost of Rs 1,510 crore during the 1999 Kargil conflict.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that India’s missile scientists are on record to have said that the country’s indigenous missile programme is flagging and needs foreign assistance to revive it.
The embarrassing admission came amid claims by Indian analysts that Pakistan’s missile programme had proved to be more robust and surefooted than India’s. The Mail Today, an Indian newspaper is on record to have quoted the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as announcing that it would scrap its 25-year Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) very soon.Talking about the Trishul surface-to-air missile that has now been termed a technology demonstrator, former Indian Naval Chief Sushil Kumar said:”It was a national embarrassment. DRDO made fake claims for 25 years. In the 1999 Kargil conflict, the Navy was vulnerable to attacks from Pakistan’s Harpoon.
“Finally the project was scrapped when the Navy went in for the Israeli Barak missiles. The Prithvi’s naval variant, Dhanush, is also flawed and ill-conceived, which is being inflicted on the Indian Navy. Former Air Chief S. P. Tyagi said:”Akash was to be ready at a certain time, but it wasn’t. I had to change everything to make up for the delay.” Both missiles were part of a programme to develop indigenous weapons, which began in July 1983, with plans for Agni, Prithvi, Trishul, Akash and Nag missiles.
The IGMDP, which was aimed at achieving self-sufficiency in missile development and production, comprises five core missile programmes; the strategic Agni ballistic missile; the tactical Prithvi ballistic missile; the Akash and Trishul surface-to-air missiles and the Nag anti-tank guided missile.
Indian newspaper, The Mail Today quotes S. Prahlada, Chief of the Control Research and Development, DRDO, as saying that development and production of most of the futuristic weapon systems would henceforth be undertaken with foreign collaboration.
With regard to the nuclear-capable Agni series, comprising I and II, the newspaper quoted army sources as saying while they had been tested five times each “a handful of tests are not enough to prove a missile’s worth”. There were different problems with other systems too.
“Pakistan has always been one step ahead of India in its missile programme,” the newspaper said, adding that Islamabad has “a much more robust missile force than India, one capable of launching nuclear weapons to any part in this country.” Unlike Indian missiles, which were declared “inducted” after a few tests, the Pakistani projectiles have always been thoroughly tested.
With this state of affairs in the direction of the missile systems, coupled the Armoured Corps’s inability to combat a night vision battle, one should must salute the Indian Military leadership to have come up with the announcement of evolving an innovative war doctrine to crush Pakistan as well as China and that too in hours’ time.