India’s $500M Smerch-M Order: From Russia, With… Love?
In February 2006, IANS reported that India had finally signed a $500 million deal with Russia for SPLAV’s Smerch-M BM 9K58 long-range 300mm multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). SMERCH systems will offer a huge capability boost, relative to India’s older truck-mounted 122mm Grad rocket launchers.
So, what kind of capabilities does this weapon bring to the table? It sounds similar to the Soviet NKVD’s dreaded World War 2 SMERSH (“death to spies”) units, who sometimes acted to stiffen defenders’ resolve by waiting just behind the front lines with machine guns. The Smerch 9K58s may also stiffen resolve on the front lines, and end up being justly feared – albeit for different reasons.
I SMERCH You…
The 48.5 ton Smerch version the Indian Army is acquiring is capable of firing 7 types of rockets to a maximum range of 90 km. This is approximately 60 km further than regional rival Pakistan’s M109 self-propelled howitzers can fire.
In addition, several Smerch rocket types have submunitions warheads that can cover wide areas with anti-armor or fragmentation munitions, destroying concentrations of armor and troops well beyond the range of any of India’s present artillery systems:
- 9M528 HE-fragmentation warhead
- 9M55F separable HE-fragmentation warhead
- 9M55K fragmentation submunitions
- 9M55K5 shaped-charge fragmentation submunitions
- 9M55K1 sensor-fuzed submunitions for killing vehicles
- 9M55K4 with anti-tank mines
- 9M55C fuel-air explosive warhead
As of 2006, RIA Novosti reports that India was the 3rd foreign customer for SMERCH rocket systems. Russia delivered 18 systems to Algeria in 1999, and 27 systems to Kuwait in 1995-1996.
Contracts & Key Events
Aug 28/12: India’s state-run Ordnance Factory Board signs a Memorandum of Understanding in New Delhi for a Joint Venture with Russia’s Splav “SPA,” via Russia’s central Rosoboronexport agency. The OFB will manufacture 5 versions of the rockets, based on the technology received from Russia. Indian government PIB.
Nov 10/11: Support problems. Defense News reports that India is experiencing difficulties getting timely spares for its Smerch-M systems, and is complaining about occasional problems with the firing systems. An Indian delegation reportedly raised these matters last month at an October 2011 joint meeting in Moscow.
Russia’s official response appears to be that the firing system issues have been isolated instances, in systems that were tested by India before receipt. In other words, it’s India’s problem, and probably India’s fault. With respect to their customer’s other complaint, Russian support is notoriously bad at supplying timely spares and maintenance. India has had this problem with many other platforms, including its MiG-29 fighters. That’s why they asked for the transfer of the relevant technologies as part of their buy. Russia refused.
India’s existing dependence on its Smerch-M systems as its only long-range rocket artillery leaves Rosoboroexport in position to keep supplying Smerch systems. Unless, of course, India decides to change course, and cooperate with Brazil on their ASTROS 2020 system…
Dec 31/05: India signs a $500 million deal with Russia for SPLAV’s Smerch-M BM 9K58 long-range 300mm multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). India will become the 3rd foreign country to receive the Smerch MLRS. The Smerch-M contract reportedly includes 28 wheeled MAZ-543A vehicles with 12-tube 9A52-2 launchers, plus logistics supply and fire-control vehicles. The systems will arm two artillery regiments of 12 Smerch-Ms each, with 4 platforms being kept in reserve.
Indian Defence Ministry sources reportedly said that the Smerch contract was divided into 3 stages over 3 years, with the arrival of launchers and ‘basic’ rockets scheduled to begin later in 2006. More advanced launchers and guided rockets would arrive in subsequent stages, with deliveries scheduled to be complete some time in early 2008. IANS | RIA Novosti.
2 Smerch regiments