India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) successfully tested its indigenously designed and developed third-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) Nag in desert conditions against two tank targets on February 28, according to an Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) press release.
The tests “have once again proved its capability,” the statement reads. “With this, the developmental trials of the missile have been completed and it is now ready for induction.” The Indian Army has so far not publicly commented on the successful Nag ATGM test. Notably, DRDO had announced the completion of development trials already in September 2017.
Indian Army officials have repeatedly stated that they expect development trials to be concluded by the end of 2018. The Army has delayed the induction of the Nag, a fire-and-forget ATGM with an estimated range of 4 kilometers, due to numerous technical shortcomings including inadequate thermal sensors. The missile’s high price tag has also been a point of controversy.
The Nag ATGM, manufactured by India’s sole missile producer, state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited, until the recent test had only been fired from an armored combat vehicle specifically designed for that purpose. As I reported in 2017:
The Nag Missile Carrier (NAMICA) is an Indian license-produced variant of the Soviet-era BMP-II armored infantry fighting vehicle. NAMICA can launch Nag missiles from a retractable armored launcher that contains four launch tubes (the armored vehicle can carry up to 12 missiles in total) and the guidance package including a thermal imager for target acquisition. The missile’s targeting system is based on visual identification prior to its launch (‘lock-on-before-launch system’).
DRDO has been working on the Nag ATGM for over a decade. The Indian Army intends to procure up to 8,000 Nags, although it most likely will place an initial order for only 500 ATGM systems. As I reported in January, the Indian Army has a requirement for around 68,000 anti-ATGMs of various types and over 850 launchers.
“The service is reportedly pushing for a fast-track procurement of 2,500 third-generation shoulder-fired ATGMs and 96 launchers through a government-to-government contract,” I noted. “Weapon systems under consideration include the Israeli Spike ATGM and the FGM-148 Javelin ATGM.”
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 DRDO.
The cancellation of the deal was allegedly the result of intense lobbying by DRDO, which has vowed to expedite delivery of the Nag ATGM system. The Indian Army originally selected the Spike ATGM over the U.S.-made FGM-148 Javelin ATGM system in October 2014, expecting the Nag ATGM not to be ready for operational deployment for some time.