The Indian Army claims that it lacks 68,000 anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) of various types and around 850 launchers, according to local media reports. In total, the service is around 60 percent short of its “authorized holding” of ATGMs and has no reserve stockpile in the event of a military conflict. Furthermore, the Indian Army’s existing ATGM arsenal — consisting of the second-generation Milan-2T and Konkurs — is obsolete and lacks night fighting capabilities.
The Indian Army is looking for stopgap measures to quickly address this capability gap by inducting new ATGM systems as quickly as possible. The service is reportedly pushing for a fast-track procurement of 2,500 third-generation shoulder-fired ATGMs and 96 launchers through a government-government contract. Weapon systems under consideration include the Israeli Spike ATGM and the FGM-148 Javelin ATGM.
Recent decisions by the Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi have added an additional sense of urgency to the Army’s requests.
In December 2017, the Indian government scrapped a $500 million deal with Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. for 321 Spike ATGM systems and 8,356 missiles in favor of an indigenous ATGM system currently under development by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a recent state visit to India, announced that the deal was “back on track.”
Nevertheless, the Indian government has up until now not publicly confirmed that it intends to press ahead with the procurement and Israel can expect opposition to any government-to-government purchase from the DRDO, according to an Indian Army source: “There is stiff resistance from the DRDO. If the government places an order for ATGMs from abroad, it can be accused of promoting foreign suppliers at the cost of the DRDO.” India originally had selected the Spike ATGM over the U.S.-made FGM-148 Javelin ATGM system in October 2014.
Next to a shoulder-fired ATGM, DRDO is also working on the third-generation ATGM Nag, fired from the Nag Missile Carrier (NAMICA), an Indian license-produced variant of the Soviet-era BMP-II armored infantry fighting vehicle. (The Army has not been impressed with the new weapon system so far.) The ultimate aim is to equip all of the Indian Army’s infantry and mechanized units with a third-generation ATGM by the early 2020s.
As I wrote in The Diplomat Magazine this month, the capability gap, likely to exist for a number of years (probably until at least 2022) is of grave concern to senior Indian military strategists:
Indian military planners are especially worried that its mechanized infantry, supporting offensive operations spearheaded by the Indian Army’s main battle tank (MBT) force, will be outgunned by Pakistan’s infantry and consequently unable to protect the flanks of Indian armored units. This is particularly problematic as Indian military plans against Pakistan under the military’s alleged Pro-Active Doctrine, otherwise known as Cold Start Doctrine (CSD), call for deep armored thrusts into Pakistani territory in the event of conflict.
CSD calls for the occupation of Pakistani territory as a bargaining chip in negotiations over Pakistan’s support for militant operations on Indian soil without, however, provoking a nuclear retaliation by Islamabad.