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India To Buy Milans; Army Wants Better Capability

Aug. 14, 2013 - 05:21PM   |  
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NEW DELHI — While the Indian Defence Ministry has decided to buy 4,500 Milan 2T anti-tank guided missiles for $200 million, Army sources said they would prefer acquiring a third-generation missile from the international market.

Indian Army sources said the Milan, being produced at state-owned Bharat Dynamics Ltd. (BDL) under license from MBDA, does not provide adequate range. The range of the Milan 2T is specified as 2,000 meters but typically hits at about 1,800 meters during test firings, an Army source added.

The Defence Acquisition Council, the highest MoD decision-making body, recently approved the purchase of 4,500 Milan 2T missiles.

“The additional order for Milan 2T is only to sustain the production facility of BDL,” the source said, until other programs mature.

Rahul Bhonsle, retired Indian Army brigadier and defense analyst, said the Milan 2T buy was intended to help BDL use its stocks.

“The decision to procure with Milan 2T is possibly related to the expiry of shelf life of existing stocks of the ATGM. Instead of going in for repeat orders, one would have thought that the Indian Army would be looking at the Milan ER [extended range], which has a range of 3,000 meters. As per my understanding, Milan 2T, despite the tandem warhead, may not be able to defeat the T85 reactive armor [the tank used by the Pakistan Army] which has multiple layers,” said Bhonsle.

Despite repeated efforts, BDL executives refused to comments on the on the subject.

MBDA also refused to discuss the topic. One executive said, “We cannot disclose the industrial work share between BDL and us on this [Milan 2T] program.”

The Army’s ATGM inventory has been falling, however, the Army source said the service needs greater capability.

“Yes, Milan 2T meets the operational requirement when it was planned for induction in the early ’80s as it was intended for infantry only as a man-portable version with day firing capabilities as even tanks did not have night vision capabilities at that time,” said another Army source.

Today, the Army needs an ATGM that is man-portable, can lock onto a target before launch, has night-firing capability, a range of more than three kilometers and has a remote-firing capability.

MoD has been negotiating the purchase of Javelin from the United States on a government-to-government basis, but technology transfer has not been guaranteed, said an MoD official, adding that the Israeli Spike has also been considered.

“The Army has had a problem of low inventory of ATGMs for years, which is as much due to poor procurement management and pressure from the Ministry of Defence to keep the BDL assembly line going. Maybe to avoid criticality in inventory the easy option of [buying more] 2Ts was exercised,” Bhonsle said.

The tandem-warhead Milan 2T is used against tank’s equipped with reactive armor.

India’s ATGM inventory also includes Konkurs being manufactured by BDL under license from France and Russia.

The Army also has ordered 443 homegrown Nag ATGMs and 13 Namicas (Nag missile tracked carriers), but the date of delivery is uncertain.

Nag is a third generation fire-and-forget ATGM and has both ground and helicopter versions. ■

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