India to order large number of Javelin anti-tank missiles from US

EW DELHI: Faced with a huge shortfall of anti-tank guided missiles(ATGM), coupled with the delayed induction of the indigenous `Nag'missile, India will order a "large'' number of the quite-expensiveJavelin ATGM systems from the US.

The deal for the man-portable, fire-and-forget Javelin ATGM systemswill once again be a direct government-to-government one under theAmerican foreign military sales (FMS) programme, without any globalmulti-vendor competition.

Much to the dismay of Russians and Europeans, India is increasinglytaking the FMS route to ink big arms deals with US. The biggest on theverge of finalisation, of course, is for 10 C-17 Globemaster-III giantstrategic airlift for upwards of $3 billion.

As for the Javelin contract, defence minister A K Antony toldParliament on Monday the "letter of request'' to US government forprocurement of the third-generation ATGM, along with "transfer oftechnology'', would be issued soon.

This means India will buy some of the 2.5-km range Javelin systemsoff-the-shelf, while a much larger number will be indigenouslymanufactured under licensed production. The US has already showcasedthe ATGM system during bilateral combat exercises like `Yudh-Abhyas' inBabina last October, as reported earlier.

While the exact number of Javelin systems India will induct is yet tobe decided, it could well run into thousands. The Army, after all, hasa shortfall of around 44,000 ATGMs of different types. "Though Army hasan authorised holding of 81,206 ATGMs, not even half that number ispresent in its inventory,'' said a source.

This when Pakistan is inducting a wide array of missiles, including2,769 TOW-2A heavy anti-armour guided missiles from US. Mechanised aswell as regular infantry units armed with advanced ATGM systems aredeemed critical to slow down, if not halt, enemy armoured thrusts intoone's territory.

Indian infantry units are as of now equipped with variants of thesecond-generation 2-km-range Milan and 4-km-range Konkurs ATGMs,produced by defence PSU Bharat Dynamics Ltd under licence from Frenchand Russian companies.

As for the third-generation Nag ATGM, with a 4-km strike range, Armyhas placed an initial order for 443 missiles and 13 Namicas (Nagmissile tracked carriers). After 20 years of development, the Nag isonly now getting ready to enter the production/induction phase.

The urgency about the fast-dwindling ATGM stock can be gauged from thefact that Army has ordered 4,100 "advanced'' Milan-2T missiles, with"tandem warheads'', as well as 15,000 Konkurs-M missiles over the lastcouple of years.
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