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Pinaka is a multiple barrel rocket launcher or MBRL produced in India and developed by DRDO for use by the Indian Army. The system has multiple variants including a 40 km Mark-I and 60 km Mark-I Enhanced to start with. The rockets can be fired in a salvo of 12 rockets in mere 44 seconds.

Mounted on a Tatra truck Pinaka, inducted into the Indian Army in late 1990s in large numbers has been effectively used in the 1999 Kargil War to neutralize entrenched Pakistani positions on difficult to climb mountain tops. Pinaka was developed as a replacement to the aging BM21 Grad MBRL, the soviet origin rockets that have been in service with Indian Army for over 4 decades. Each Pinaka battery consists of 6 launcher vehicles, each with 12 rockets; 6 loader-replenishment vehicles; 3 replenishment vehicles; 2 Command Post vehicle with Fire Control computer, and DIGICORA MET radar. A battery of six Pinaka launchers can neutralize an area of 1,000 mtrs × 800 mtrs.

The Pinaka MBRL can operate in autonomous mode, stand-alone mode, remote mode, and manual mode. Its features include: –

1. Use of state-of-the-art technologies for improved combat performance.

2. Microprocessor-based fully automatic positioning and fire control console.

3. Cabin pressurisation for crew protection in addition to blast shield, as well as night vision devices for driver and crew.

4. Total operational time optimised for shoot & scoot.

5. Neutralize exposed troop concentrations, military land vehicles concentration, and enemy guns/rocket locations.

However, what is very interesting and matter of very good idea to pursue for further development is that Guided Pinaka that has a range of 75 kms can be developed into air launched munitions. In all probability Pinaka MkII (range 90 kms) and Pinaka MkIII (range 120 kms) will also be guided. What DRDO and ARDE can do is to modify Guided Pinaka, Pinaka MkII and Pinaka MkIII to be launched from air, just like the Brahmos missile.

What is the benefit of modifying Guided Pinaka, Pinaka MkII and Pinaka MkIII to be launched from air? Simple Brahmos is a very costly missile (priced around 24 crore), which is why Nirbhay or its newer version LRLACM was developed. Just like Brahmos; Nirbhay or LRLACM will be developed as an air launched missile. But still will be very costly at around 12 crores approximately.

So, the need of the hour is to develop an even cheaper missile or guided munition. According to some estimates, a Pinaka guided munition costs around 30 to 35 lakhs. If air launched version of Pinaka is developed, even if it may cost up to 1 crore but it will be still way cheaper than a Brahmos (24 crores) or even a Nirbhay/LRLACM (12 crores). At this point many may ask what is the benefit of developing an air launched Guided Pinaka.

Please remember, an air launched supersonic Brahmos or even anair launched subsonic Nirbhay/LRLACM are strategic weapons. They are needed to take out extremely high value targets, troop concentration, equipment warehouses. But using them to take out low value but important targets like bridges, buildings, power stations, and even lightly armoured vehicles, trucks is a total waste. To take them out anair launched Guided Pinaka, can be best suited. A land launched Pinaka can hit targets up to its maximum range of 75 kms, but an air launched Pinaka (75/90/120 kms) can hit targets way beyond that, thanks to the range/reach of the fighter aircraft or helicopter.

While air launched Brahmos and Nirbhay/LRLACM can be fired from only Su 30 mki, the Brahmos Mini in future can be fired from Mig 29, Tejas mk1/mk1a/mk2, Mirage 2000. Only Su 30 mki can carry 3 Brahmos Mini in future, but Mig 29 can carry 2 Brahmos Mini, whereas Tejas mk1/mk1a/mk2, Mirage 2000 can carry 1 each. However, if air launched Guided Pinaka is developed then Tejas mk1/mk1a/mk2, Mirage 2000, Mig 29 can carry 2 or 3 of them in a double/triple launch rack. Not just that being small, light air launched Guided Pinaka can even be launched from a Mi 17 V5 in dual launcher rack attached to 1 of the 4 stubs.

DRDO and ARDE can definitely modify Guided Pinaka, Pinaka MkII and Pinaka MkIII to be launched from air, but even if IAF says it doesn’t require them at all due to operational reasons, Guided Pinaka can definitely be developed for the export market; because many countries in the world have a requirement for air launched Guided Pinaka. Lets’ hope IAF, DRDO and ARDEcan find a common ground where air launched Guided Pinaka can be put to great use. Even as an export item Guided Pinaka can rake in a lot of foreign exchange.

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Article by JOYDEEP GHOSH ,  cannot be republished Partially or Full without consent from Writer or