India adds its first tactical ballistic missile to its military arsenal
The newly developed missile, fired from a canister, can make precise manoeuvres before impacting a target.
India's armed forces are adding a deadly new indigenously developed missile to its conventional arsenal that can target radar and communication installations, command and control centres, and advance airfields using a non-nuclear warhead.
Pralay fills the gap of a conventionally armed ballistic missile that is not hampered by 'No-First-Use' nuclear policy, because it is difficult to intercept owing to its ability to change its flight path.
The Defence Ministry has given the go-ahead for the acquisition of about 120 of the missiles in December 2022. Named Pralay, meaning apocalypse in Hindi, it is a ballistic missile for battlefield use developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The missile is an amalgamation of technologies developed for the Prithvi missile from the Indian Ballistic Missile Defence Programme and the Prahaar tactical missile. The project to develop Pralay was sanctioned in March 2015 and successfully tested twice by the armed forces on two consecutive days in December 2021.
Similar international missiles of the same class include China’s Dongfeng 12 (CSS-X-15), Russia’s Precision Strike Missile, 9K720 Iskander and South Korean Hyunmoo missile. Powered by a solid fuel rocket motor, the missile follows a quasi-ballistic trajectory and is able to perform mid-air manoeuvres using manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle (MaRV) to defeat anti-ballistic missile (ABM) interceptors. Pralay uses the same composite propellant developed by High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL) for Sagarika from the K Missile family (K, for Kalam, after APJ Abdul Kalam). The composite propellant is highly efficient and generates more energy compared to the propellant used in the Agni missile series.
A tactical ballistic long-range missile
Pralay carries 350 kg to 700 kg high explosive preformed fragmentaton warhead, Penetration-Cum-Blast (PCB) and Runway Denial Penetration Submunition (RDPS) at a range of 150 km to 500 km. Pralay is designed to target radar and communication installations, command and control centres and advance airfields using a conventional warhead. The system is road mobile and meets the tactical ballistic missile requirement of the Indian Army.
The newly developed missile, fired from a canister, can make precise manoeuvres before impacting a target. One of the most defining features of the Pralay missile is that it uses a fused silica Radar-dome (RADOME) developed by DRDO for locating its target. Radomes are dome-shaped structures that shield radars from inclement weather while enabling the radar to receive electromagnetic signals without distortion or attenuation, thus, ensuring precision.
The Rudra Mk-2, NGARM (new-generation anti-radiation missile), and QRSAM (quick reaction surface-to-air missile) are other indigenous Indian missiles that use the fused silica Radome produced by the DRDO. The missile guidance system of the brand-new Pralay missile has a cutting-edge navigation system and integrated avionics.
Each launcher vehicle can transport two missiles with a maximum flying range of 310 miles (nearly 500 km). This indicates that the range of India’s Pralay ballistic missile is comparable to the range of Russian Iskander, the latter having struck targets deep inside Ukrainian territory.
As long-range strategic weapons are under the strategic forces command’s jurisdiction, the Pralay missile and BrahMos supersonic cruise missile will be the longest-range tactical weapon systems in the inventory of the Indian armed forces.
(The author is a former Indian Army and Ministry of Defence spokesperson. Views are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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