Lethal attack: Push to India's Cold Start doctrine

When the Pakistani forces, in the guise of Jehadis, had intruded along the Line of Control in the Kargil region of Jammu and Kashmir in 1999, Indian Army strongly felt the absence of a 70 km long range weapon system which could have destroyed the operational headquarters of the Northern Light Infantry in Skardu.

India till that year had only the Bofors Howitzer guns which were rendered ineffective and counterproductive as it invited retaliation from across the LoC because the Pakistani army had the Gun Locating Radars supplied by the US Raytheon.

Since then the Indian army has traveled a long distance and not only deployed the more powerful 40 km range Pinaka multi barrel rocket launcher, the 70 km range Russian Smerch MBRL has also been inducted which can very easily take on an army base at a distance of 70 km.

However, the Indian army will now very soon have much more accurate and lethal firepower after the successful test of the 150 km range surface-to-surface Prahaar ballistic missile at the Balasore test range in Orissa on July 21, 2011.

Unmatched capability

The Prahaar, described as quick reaction tactical missile has been officially compared to the US ATACMS (The Army Tactical Missile System) will prove to be a very important component of the undeclared Cold Start Strategy of the Indian Army.

In future, any Kargil like intrusion can easily be tackled by the Indian armed forces. Even, the Mumbai like terrorist attack can invite effective retribution from Indian army which can effectively use the Prahaar missile for destroying the terrorist bases across the LoC.

The Circular Error Probability of only ten metres provides it with unmatched destructive capability, which can annihilate the entire military facility of the enemy. Officials claim that the Prahaar will fill the vital gap between the Multi Barrel Rockets and the Medium range Ballistic Missile.

The missile would be capable of carrying different kind of warheads and will be fielded as the battlefield support system to the Indian army. This will enable Indian army with a quick preemptive strike against the enemy location and prevent the advancing army from moving towards Indian borders.

The Indian armed forces need not send its forces across the border to tackle the enemy advance. Defence sources unofficially express the opinion that Cold Start doctrine has been adopted as a strategy to retaliate in the face of grave provocation by the adversary, either through direct attack or through terrorist attack as seen on the Indian Parliament in 2001.

The nation was then demanding a fitting response, but in the absence of a suitable weapon system, the country was helpless. However, in future the Prahaar can assist the Indian army with lethal fire support, striking the enemy locations far behind the International border.

The infrastructure support like the roads, bridges, railways and other communication systems can be destroyed with a Prahaar kind of tactical missile which in fact can come under the category of the long range rockets.

With the use of Prahaar the enemy cannot level allegations of raising the level of war. Though the Pakistani army also has Hatf range of missiles which can hit a target from 70 km to 150 km but they are not as accurate as Prahaar would be.

Tactical system

In fact, India began with the 150 km Prithvi ballistic missile in 1988 but they are difficult to transport. The Prahaar missile can easily be transported on a truck which can carry six missiles.

A volley of missiles can be fired from any location even from the high altitude border areas from the China border in the North East to the cold hilly terrain of Laddakh.

In fact, with 200 kg payload the Prahaar can substitute for long range artillery from the plains of Rajasthan and Punjab to the hilly terrain of the 4000 km long Line of Actual Control with China.

Unlike the 150 km Prithvi which can carry 1000 kg warhead the Prahaar will deliver lesser but more effective punch on the enemy bases.

Since Prahaar will only have a 200 kg payload it can not carry nucleara  payload, which should not be less than 500 kg. The nuclear warheads can only be employed in a very serious combat situation whereas Prahaar can be used at every stage of the Cold Start doctrine implementation.

The Prahaar will have a range of warheads which will give the Indian army multiple options. The warhead can carry bomblets or incendiary bombs which can be dropped at the enemy location with wider impact.

The Prahaar can also drop air delivered mines which will be scattered all over the enemy area, preventing the easy movement of the enemy troops. It can also carry a single high explosive warhead to destroy the critical infrastructure of the enemy forces.  

It can also be utilized to interdict enemy reserve and logistics columns far behind the enemy lines. Not only the Indian Army but also the Indian Air Force would want to induct them in large numbers to destroy the enemy air bases across the borders both at China and Pakistan.

The ATACMS were extensively used by the US forces in the Iraq war. Interestingly, the DRDO missile scientists claim that after the mandate was given to them to develop the ATACMS type of a missile system on the recommendation of the Army, the system was developed within two years.

The solid fueled missile can be launched within two three minutes of getting the instruction to fire and it will take only 250 seconds to reach the enemy target. It would be logical for the Indian army to replace the 70 km range Smerch systems with the 150 km range Prahaar.

The Lockheed Martin manufactured ATACMS is 13 feet long with a diameter of 24 inches whereas the Prahaar has a length of 22 feet, weighing 1280 kg is equipped with a state of the art high accuracy navigation, guidance and electro mechanical actuation systems with latest on board computer, which achieved the terminal accuracy of less than 10 meters during the first flight trial.

The official statement from the DRDO and the MOD claimed that the Prahaar would provide the Indian army a cost effective, quick reaction, all weather, all terrain, high accurate battlefield support tactical system.