Wednesday, March 07, 2007

PGM (Purpose Gone Missing)

In the context of Programme Air Defence (PAD) and Advanced Air Defence (AAD), and all the chatter about Prithvi (most of it incorrect!), I thought I'd reproduce Dr VK Saraswat's PGM report from 2003. At the very least, it makes for interesting reading:

Missile Lanched Precision Guided Munitions Report No. RCI/PGT/PGM/1, dated July 7, 2003 and authored by Dr VK Saraswat, then Director RCI, Hyderabad, Main Missile laboratory and now Chief Controller at DRDO Headquarters:

"Non-availability of appropriate technologies has not allowed PGM system's development in India. Though the accuracy levels of some of the missile systems like Prithvi are acceptable in surface-to-surface theater weapons role, but precision strike capability in sub-meter level and precision neutralisation of mutiple targets without collateral damage is not possible with this system. Intelligence to each sub-munition aided by mother missile (e.g. Prithvi supported by high level of navigation accuracy with INS/GPS) is a possible candidate to fulfill precision strike weapon's requirements. Already developed Nag IIR seeker capable of giving sub-meter accuracy can be used for TGSMs (terminally guided submunition).

At present, two types of PGMs are being considered by the Indian Armed Forces. It has been suggested to explore reverse engineering after identifying suitable PGMs, available in the world market. In this contect, sensor fuzed munitions (SFMs) launched from Smerch and laser guided artillery projectiles like Krasnopol, which will be available in India, may be used for bridging the technology gaps. Although, the trend world over is towards precision strike weapons, there is no national programme on PGMs in India. Recently, SA to RM [Dr VK Aatre] has formed this task force for initiation of PGM development programme. Meetings of task force have helped in exchange of technological ideas on PGMs and involvement of many young scientists of various DRDO laboratories. Miniaturization of seeker systems, inertial navigation systems including MEMS [Micro Electro Mechanical Sensor] based sensors, actuators, etc are gaining importance for meeting the challenging requirements of PGMs."

Saraswat's report also has an interesting timeline slide on systems and technologies essential to improve the precision of missiles. There were and are DRDO's milestones and where it wants to end up:

2003: interface with mother missile, modelling and simulation, harware in loop simulation (HILS), control and guidance.

2007: TGSM with Nag IIR seeker, SFM with Strap Down millimeter wave. (Automatic Target Recognition, Lock-on After Launch, Target Library, Lattice Tail Fin)

2012: Miniaturised TGSM/SFM (miniaturised IR/IIR/MMW, acoustic sensors)

2017: MEMS based TGSM/SFM single/dual/seekerless (MEMS; seekers/sensors/SOC)

Hmm! So after a couple of decades of PGM development (albeit not under a national programme), the Army wants DRDO to seriously consider reverse-engineering the Krasnopol (click here for the Express report on how the Krasnopol has turned out a virtual dud too).

Sources in the Army also tell me that the Prithvis deployed on our borders have problems with their battery packs and fuel leaks. A liaison group has recently been set up to sort out the matter quietly without having the haul the systems back to Hyderabad.


chacko Joseph said...


Look Prithvi is just another piece of equipment. When they are in actual deployment a lot of issues surface which cannot be seen in tests (equivalent to test drive in simulated conditions). That is why there is warranty given by the equipment producers. For example look at Russian Missile Launch failures. Even if you order F-18 SH, such problems will come up. SH has landing gear problems which have not yet been rectified.

Battery leak is not a Prithvi specific problem. Battery's leak. Battery is not a DRDO product. Take for example of Exide making batteries for Indian Navy submarines. They did not get it right for a number of years. India navy constantly interacted and improved them.

But with Indian Army and Indian Air Force, the procedure is different. They are not like Indian Navy which constantly interacts with suppliers for making the product better. These two forces just complain on Indian products and keep quite on Russian products. Indian Navy is called builders navy and that is a winning attitude.

About the fuel:
The fuel is extremely corrocive. If you do not handle the liquid as it has to be or as per the standard operating procedure, it will definitely produce problem.

The question is why did the fuel and battery problem surface with the "newly" raised units and not with DRDO? Its because there is a learning curve for both manufactures and users. Blame can be put on the new users or DRDO.

Even ALH issue. Army Aviation corps during last Aero India 05 complained that ALH maintainence is costly. HAL 's reply was: Army is used to Chetak/Cheta's etc which need maintainence at x number of flight hours. AlH does not require that kind of maintenence, It requires maintainence after x + Y + Z hours. So the maintence cost of ALH is actually low. Repeated communication from HAL to Army did not help. Aviation corps kept maintaining it at x hours.

So quit reporting things what we call "Nit Picks." Its just a suggestion.

Shiv Aroor said...

hi chacko, thanks for your comment. your point about teething troubles in the field are well taken -- i was simply mentioning it here since the army and DRDO have set up Project Bhishma to hone up the deployed prithvis. it was simply information. but on your suggestion not to report "nit picks" (sic), i think i will be the one to decide on that, if you don't mind!

Shiv Aroor said...

chacko.. what do you think of saraswat's report? do give us your views on that too.

chacko Joseph said...


The "nit pick" was only a "suggestion".

Ok, I more missile at you "copy and paste reports". I will end at that. You know what I mean.

A word on Krasnopol incident in IA:This a production and quality control problem. Its not a R & D problem. I hope you get it. The R&D passes a product to the producers as the R&D is not a production unit (Ditto for DRDO and HAL, OFB, AVRDE debate)

Krasnopol on its own is a technology worth emulating.

IA requires TACMS

IRTGSM is possible by RCI considering NAG has been cleared for production, I wouldn't have said this last year as NAG IRR had issues.

MEM's and Nano tech are already getting implemented in DRDO, so 1012 is possible target.

Even if there is a varience of 5 years, I would consider the program a sucess, as they are operatiing in babudom environment.But thank god, we are actually talking about such stuff.

There is a Pune institute which is also developing PGM's. If you can ask Manu Pubby (indian Express, Pune), he will be able tell. They seem to have made strides in PGM's.

chacko Joseph said...

What are the details of Project Bhishma?

Shiv Aroor said...

one more missile? i've mentioned in the post that i'm reproducing saraswat's report because it makes interesting report. so saying "copy and paste" doesn't exactly brim with profundity or insight, chacko. give us something to work with here, not the usual yada! you're such fun otherwise, stop being a bore!

Shiv Aroor said...

chacko, project bhishma is understood to be the name of the liaison group between the army and drdo to sort out problems with the deployed prithvis.

Abhiman said...

Hello Mr. Aroor. IIR seeker of the Nag has been completed, and user trials for the same are scheduled this year.

However I think that by the term "Mother" missile, a type of MIRV weapon may be inferred to. The development of this technology may be a long-term project, and thus it may not be an immediate priority (already, Pakistan's missile of the Hatf series I to VII can be neutralized by PAD after it is developed fully in 4 years' time; it's unlikely that MIRV technology is being pursued by Pakistan).

Thus, as the targets laid down in the report upto 2007 have been met, there may not be any delay on the part of DRDO in the development of PGMs.

Besides, reverse-engineering was not proposed by the Army after any failure.
There was no failure anyway, that was to be a motivation for reverse engineering.

As per the report that you posted, it was the lack of technologies, that reverse-engineering had become necessary.

Thank you.

Raj said...

Hi Shiv

It is good to see a mainline reporter setting up a blog and inter-acting with his audience/critics.

On the whole I agree with your criticism of slow pace of Drdo work.

Having said this, one should also focus on some good work done (if any).

As a reader of news myself, I feel that positive has its own feel good factor and there is too much emphasis on negative scoops.

Have you ever tried to find out more about the sensor fused fencing done by TATA's through NALCO. I understand it was almost Rs. 500-1000 crore project with tech absorbtion which has been done on the quiet by TATA's. It would become a good read if you could find out more about it.

Apart from PGM's I find it very odd that Drdo has not worked on some more obvious projects like :-

Short range (WVR) IR guided missiles

or Even Anti Radiation missiles, which should have been on its portfolio long time back.

Pls do ask some Drdo heads when you interview them.

Anonymous said...


What couple of decades work on PGMs? If you read the report, its clear that PGM development has only begun recently. The only thing comparable to a PGM is the Nags seeker tech.

Having worked on Prithvi I can state with cent per cent confidence that its CEP is = best in the class worldwide, but there you were claiming that it had poor accuracy in your reports, cant expect a journo to understand technology or be accurate i guess.