Pinaka MLRS:- India’s most underrated & lesser known weapon system
One of the most underrated & lesser known weapon system of the Indian Army, the Pinaka MLRS (multiple launch rocket system).
The Pinaka is a complete system, with a single Pinaka battery comprising six launcher vehicles, each with 12 rockets; six loader-replenishment vehicles; three replenishment vehicles; two Command Post vehicles with a fire control computer and a DIGICORA radar. Each Pinaka regiment, in turn, comprises three batteries plus reserves and the first regiment was raised in February 2000.
Pinaka is a medium ranged rocket artillery, developed indigenously by DRDO and is being used successfully by the Indian Army since over 2 decades. Not many people know about this weapon system in the thick of many fancy systems around, but lets uncover some facts.
Pinaka’s development was completed in-house by DRDO, TATA & L&T with minimal involvement from foreign support.
1981, Indian Army cited a need for a longer ranged rocket artillery.
In 1983 army drafted the General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR), a desired spec sheet for the rockets.
1986 saw the commencement of development of Pinaka.
In 1994 the development completed & after testing for 4 years, the Pinaka was inducted in the service in 1998 just before the Kargil conflict.
This rocket system played an elemental role during the Kargil Conflict with its precision and devastating strikes, neutralising enemies sitting on mountain tops which were deemed too risky for the ground troops to be put into action. This battle proven system, then gained Army’s confidence & Army decided to induct it in much larger numbers.
The Pinaka Rocket ::
Each Pinaka Mk.1 rocket is capable of carrying a 100kg payload to a range of 40km. Equipped with six, twelve rocket launchers, a single Pinaka battery can neutralise a surface area of 700m x 500m. In its basic form, the system has a circular error probability (CEP) of one to two per cent of range.
Besides a monolithic HE warhead, the rockets can be fitted with a variety of warheads including pre-fragmented high explosive, anti-tank bomblet, anti-tank minelet warhead, anti-personnel mines plus incendiary practice and pilot shot. These dramatically enhance the rocket’s lethality with the pre-fragmented warhead delivering 25% to 30% more destructive power than the basic HE warhead. Using an HMX-based composition, then anti-tank bomblets / minelets are able to achieve 150mm armour penetration, making the Pinaka quite useful against armour.
The Pinaka is combined with the Sagem 30 artillery pointing navigation system to improve its efficacy.
But what it actually is ?
Pinaka is a form of Rocket Artillery. Unlike conventional artillery (howitzers & mortars), Pinaka & in general rocket artillery employs “shoot-and-scoot” (alternatively, fire-and-move) technique.
It is an artillery tactic of firing at a target and then immediately moving away from the location from where the shots were fired to avoid counter-battery fire from enemy artillery.
Unlike a Bofors or ATAGS howitzer which can sustain fire for longer duration of time, firing comparatively cheap 50 kg shells at ranges of 40 km, Pinaka provides a bigger punch with 12 rockets, each having 100 kg warhead, out to greater ranges.
There are 12 rockets mounted in “barrels” on the back of a TATRA truck. The launcher can move in traverse & elevation, thus targeting a wide spectrum of area.
There are 6 such launcher trucks (total 72 rockets), 6 loader-replenishment vehicles, 3 replenishment vehicles, 2 Command Post vehicle (one stand by) with a Fire Control computer, and the DIGICORA MET radar. This constitutes one “battery” of Pinaka MLRS
The first Pinaka regiment was raised on February 2000. Each regiment consists of three such batteries of six Pinakas each, plus reserves.
The Indian Army has plans to operate a total of 10 regiments by 2022 and increase this to 22 within the next 10 years.
All of the 72 rockets can be fired in 44 seconds, completely annihilating an area of 1 square kilometer. Rockets can also be fired in “bursts” or in single shot mode in different directions.
In contingency, each launcher truck can fire autonomously too with its local fire control system.
The 5 meter long rockets are 214 mm in diameter & weigh 276 kg each, including a 100 kg warhead. It can be fired from 7 km upto a maximum engagement range of 42 km. 5000 such rockets are being produced every year.
ARDE developed the Mark II version of Pinaka. The Mark II version is equipped with a navigation, guidance, control kit and has considerably enhanced the range and accuracy of the missile. The range is 75 km.
The CEP (circular error probable), i.e the circle of error in which the rocket falls on the target is 60 to 80 meters.
The Pinaka Mk.2 ::
Work on an extended range Pinaka, fitted with a guidance system in 2013. This uses a new guided rocket with an Israeli designed Trajectory Control System (TCS) to improve its accuracy. These rockets were tested to a range of 65km in 2013 and have now evolved into a 90km range system. It is believed that a 120km range rocket is being contemplated.
Currently DRDO is developing a Mark III version. This 7.2-meter rocket can reach a distance of 120 km and carry a 250 kg payload will be developed. These new rockets can be fired in 44 seconds, have a maximum speed of Mach 4.7, rise to an altitude of 40 km before hitting its target at Mach 1.8.
It’ll be integrated with Searcher UAVs & Sigma 30 artillery navigation and pointing system is designed for high-precision firing at short notice.
Pinaka will be the backbone of rocket artillery in future & once integrated with UAVs & longer ranged rockets, it will prove to be one of the the most fearsome weapons in the battlefield.
The Significance of the Pinaka ::
While the Pinaka is a formidable weapon system in itself, the real significance lies in the fact that its new incarnation represents one of the few examples of an evolutionary process being followed with an indigenous Indian weapon system.
For far too often, Indian systems have been neglected or not further developed in favour of an imported system of apparently better performance.
With the Pinaka, India seems to have broken with this pattern and has moved towards an evolutionary path in weapons development. This, if used on all indigenously developed systems, augurs well for the future as it enables a combination of technological improvements and user feedback to be incorporated periodically.
Hyder Ali & Tipu Sultan would be proud if they would be alive today seeing the development of rocket artillery to this extent from somewhere they started 200 years back.