India is working on a new tactical ballistic missile capable of striking targets at a range of 200km, two top government officials said on Thursday on condition of anonymity.
The surface-to-surface missile, being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has been named Pranash, the first official cited above told Hindustan Times at DefExpo 2020, a military systems’ exhibition organised by the Department of Defence Production that seeks to project India as hub for global defence manufacturing.
The new weapon traces its origin to the Prahaar missile developed by the DRDO, the official said. The Prahaar has a range of 150km but the army wanted a weapon with a better range, which is why Pranash is being developed, he added.
“The configuration of Pranash has been frozen and development trials will begin by 2021-end. We will be in a position to offer it for user trials in two years. The army wants a missile with a range in the region of 200km,” said a second official aware of the matter.
The non-nuclear Pranash missile will be propelled by a single-stage solid propellant engine, he added.
DRDO’s short-range Prithvi series of missiles with ranges of 150 to 350 km are nuclear-capable and powered by a liquid propellant engine that has its limitations. “Missiles with solid propellant engine are ready-to-use. However, liquid propellant engines can be complicated as the liquid propellant mixture has to be added before the launch,” the second official said.
India’s Agni series of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles can hit targets at different ranges between 700km and 5,500km.
Once developed, the Pranash missile could also be exported to friendly foreign countries, said the first official cited above.“It will be one of the cheapest missiles in the world in its range category. Also, the missile is outside the purview of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which places export restrictions on missiles with ranges of more than 300km,” he said.
Increasing weapons exports is a top priority for the government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the country’s target was to clocks exports worth Rs 35,000 crore in the next five years.
This is in line with a draft Defence Production Policy, released in March 2018, that visualises India as one of the top five countries in the aerospace and defence sectors in the coming years. The PM said India had exported military hardware worth Rs 17,000 crore during the last two years, compared to Rs 2,000 crore in 2014.
This year’s DefExpo is being attended by ministers from almost 40 foreign countries.