India is pursuing development of the Nag anti-tank guided missile amid talks with the US to co-develop the Javelin missile. (Wikimedia)
NEW DELHI — India has begun working on a homemade, man-portable anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), despite a US proposal to co-produce the Javelin ATGM.
Defence Ministry sources said the homemade project — a third generation Nag missile — is unlikely to derail the proposed Javelin deal, which is in only the preliminary stages of negotiation with the US. A scientist with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) claimed the Nag is lighter than the Javelin.
In what one US Embassy diplomat in India described as a groundbreaking initiative in India’s ties with Washington, US Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has proposed that India co-develop — rather than merely buy — the Javelin missile.
The Indian Army has a pressing demand for more than 20,000 third generation man-portable ATGMs, and all attempts to procure them from overseas over the past eight years has yielded no results.
Israel’s offer of its Spike ATGM was rejected in 2007 because it was the only vendor to respond to the tender. The US, meanwhile, refused to transfer technology after a proposal to buy the Javelin on a government-to-government basis. Indian MoD sources said that last year, the US refused to sell Javelin in adequate numbers to India due to “ international strategic and geopolitical considerations.”
The full details of Washington’s latest Javelin proposal have not been released, but MoD sources said the US wants to sell around 6,000 units within one year of the signing of the contract. In the future, the US would explore co-production of the Javelin and, at a later stage, work on the co-development of an ATGM tailor-made for India.
The US would also transfer Javelin technology, including the manufacture of the warhead, rocket motor, propellant, guidance and seeker, but no algorithms for guidance, which an Indian Army official said is the core to any guidance system.
A team from Raytheon and Lockheed Martin has briefed the Indian MoD on the possibilities to be explored in the Javelin project, Indian MoD sources said.
A Lockheed Martin executive said Javelin is better than any other man-portable ATGM because it is ejected non-explosively, which is useful to the Indian Army in higher terrain. The executive, however, declined to discuss details of Carter’s proposal.
DRDO, meanwhile, has begun work on the homemade Nag missile, which would weigh only 16 kilograms compared to Javelin’s 26 kilograms, the DRDO scientist claimed.
The man-portable version of the Nag missile is simpler than the vehicle-mounted version and, as such, could be developed in the next three years, the scientist said.
An Indian Army official said everyone, including DRDO, would be happy to get Javelin as nearly 25 years of work on the Nag ATGM has yet to result in a mature, third generation ATGM.
The Indian Army uses second generation, French-made Milan and Russian-made Konkurs ATGMs, which have a range of less than 2,000 meters.