SOURCE: TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG.
India has achieved “complete self-reliance” in missile technology and the most advanced missiles can now be developed in the country had declared DRDO chairman G Satheesh Reddy and wanted India to be free from import of missiles from 2022 onwards but that is far from the truth. India seems to be one of the major regional power that has failed to build credible low-cost subsonic cruise missile technology in the country.
Nribhay that is now called ITCM continues to be plagued by technical issues and there is still no clarity from the DRDO when it will enter production even after being in development for the last decade. ITCM seems to be the only subsonic cruise missile program for a country like India it’s like putting too many eggs in one basket as it would require India, multiple projects to fulfill all the demands even though the private sector companies are keen to tap Research and Development expertise of the DRDO to offer its range of subsonic cruise missile range.
Bengaluru-based startup NewSpace Research and Technologies with State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is working on the development of a low-observable Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) subsonic Hunter cruise missile designed to hit targets more than 200 kilometers. CATS Hunter program is the first non-DRDO initiate to develop a subsonic cruise missile in the country that has some unique features like that it can deliver warhead payload over the target and can be recovered thus enabling reusability factor for the first time in the subsonic cruise missile segment their by also reducing the cost of the missiles.
Former Vice Chief of Indian Air Force, Air Marshal SB Deo (retd) start-up JSR Dynamics in collaboration with State-owned Bharat Electronics has offered to develop 4 missiles of different types for Indian armed forces. Vel is a 297-km strike range subsonic cruise missile. Khagantak is a long-range stand-off weapon with a strike range of 180km. Waghnak also is a stand-off weapon with a strike range of 154km. Deo had claimed that foreign exchange content is less than 10% in these missiles and is seeking funding from the government for its development.
Kalyani Centre for Technology and Innovation (KCTI) is working on the development of 1.2 KN and 1.56 KN jet engines meant for cruise missiles that it later plans to use in its development of subsonic cruise missiles at a later stage. KCTI claims to have tested inhouse this engine and is ready to enter production.
Indian Private sector has demonstrated that it can develop technology in the sub-sonic cruise missile tech that is often called the low hanging fruit in missile engineering but also can be a tedious process if done by uninspired people. It is high time India opens up the development of subsonic cruise missile tech to the private sector and let them develop missiles that can be done while DRDO works on much more challenging areas of work like Hypersonic cruise missile technology.