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India Moves to Boost Anti-Tank Capabilities

T-90 Firing

T-90 firing
(click to view full)

$432 million deal for 66,000 APFSDS anti-tank shells.

March 27/14: Tank shells. India’s Ministry of Defence signs a deal with Russia’s Rosoboronexport for 125 mm 3VBM17 anti-tank shells. Previous reports had cited 66,000 shells, and INR 26 billion is about at $432.7 million at current exchange, making each shot worth about $6,556.

An India story wouldn’t be complete without self-inflicted problems, and the Army had informed the standing committee on defense that their ammunition problems worsened when India blacklisted its supplier Israel Military Industries (IMI).

The 3VBM17 shells are Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) rounds, which are focused very tightly on defeating enemy armored vehicles, and lack the full versatility of High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) rounds. In compensation, they’re better at penetrating armor. The 3VBM17s offer penetration of about 450mm of Rolled Homogenous Steel armor, when fired straight on from 2 km. That’s pretty good. By comparison, the M829A1 shells used by American tank crews during Desert Storm in 1991 reportedly had penetration of about 570mm under similar circumstances. As Russian armor improved, the American have fielded updated shell versions, but this is nonetheless a useful benchmark. Sources: dna India, “India, Russia sign Rs 2,600 crore deal for anti-tank ammunition” | IHS Jane’s Land Platforms, “India to buy, produce Russian Mango ammunition”.

March 24/14: India’s Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by the Prime Minister, has cleared a proposal to acquire 66,000 tank shells from Russia as a transfer of technology program to India’s state-run Ordnance Factory Board.

The decision comes shortly after media leaks exposed a top secret letter from former Army Chief Gen V K Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, complaining that India’s tank regiments had just 3-4 days worth of anti-tank ammunition. Sources: Zee NEws, “CCS clears tank ammunition deal with Russia”.

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Indian T-90S(click to view full) India’s armed forces have been complaining of a severe shortage of tank ammunition, and the fleet’s new T-90 tanks have had their share of problems. In 2012, India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) began moving to patch these gaps, by approving budgets for a pair of purchases. One is a gun-launched missile that can make the T-90 fleet more effective, while supplementing existing tank ammunition. The other is a follow-on order for an anti-tank missile that can be used by the infantry or mounted on vehicles. That has been followed in 2014 by a more prosaic order for basic ammunition, as a fix for self-inflicted injuries. Taken together, India hopes to add some punch to its mechanized divisions in particular. The Weapons: Konkurs and Invar [youtube:v=GSvVXa8ut64] AT-5, from Arma-II gameclick for video Konkurs-M/ AT-5 missiles. Can be mounted on a number of vehicles, or deployed separately as an infantry-portable anti-tank weapon. The US Army’s FM 3-19.4 lists its effective range as being up to 4 km/ 2.5 miles. It uses semi-active command line of sight (SACLOS) guidance, which means you have to keep the missile sight on target, but don’t need a joystick to control […]
Indian T-90S

Indian T-90S
(click to view full)

India’s armed forces have been complaining of a severe shortage of tank ammunition, and the fleet’s new T-90 tanks have had their share of problems. In 2012, India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) began moving to patch these gaps, by approving budgets for a pair of purchases. One is a gun-launched missile that can make the T-90 fleet more effective, while supplementing existing tank ammunition. The other is a follow-on order for an anti-tank missile that can be used by the infantry or mounted on vehicles. That has been followed in 2014 by a more prosaic order for basic ammunition, as a fix for self-inflicted injuries.

Taken together, India hopes to add some punch to its mechanized divisions in particular.

The Weapons: Konkurs and Invar

[youtube:v=GSvVXa8ut64]

AT-5, from
Arma-II game
click for video

Konkurs-M/ AT-5 missiles. Can be mounted on a number of vehicles, or deployed separately as an infantry-portable anti-tank weapon. The US Army’s FM 3-19.4 lists its effective range as being up to 4 km/ 2.5 miles. It uses semi-active command line of sight (SACLOS) guidance, which means you have to keep the missile sight on target, but don’t need a joystick to control the missile’s flight. The tandem HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank) warhead is lethal to lightly armored vehicles, and remains dangerous even to main battle tanks with explosive reactive armor.

Russia’s Tula KBP doesn’t list the “9M113” as a product offering any more, but license production by firms like Bharat Dynamics continues to keep the missiles relevant. The missile is in service with a number of countries, including Iran, who supplied its own license-built “Towsan-1” missiles to its Hezbollah foreign legion for use during the 2006 war in Lebanon.

Invar. The tandem-warhead, 125mm gun-fired missile is closely derived from the laser beam riding 9M119 Refleks (T-90)/ Svir (T-72) family. NATO’s designations consider it to be part of the same AT-11 Sniper series, with an effective range of up to 5 km/ 3.1 miles.

India’s armed forces have been complaining of a severe shortage of tank ammunition, and the Invar missile purchase is expected to help offset that somewhat, while providing long-range accuracy and helicopter-killing capabilities. India’s locally designed Arjun tanks have the same inherent capability if they’re armed with the Israeli LAHAT missile, but India doesn’t have very many Arjuns.

Contracts & Key Events

T-90 Firing

T-90 firing
(click to view full)

March 27/14: Tank shells. India’s Ministry of Defence signs a deal with Russia’s Rosoboronexport for 125 mm 3VBM17 anti-tank shells. Previous reports had cited 66,000 shells, and INR 26 billion is about at $432.7 million at current exchange, making each shot worth about $6,556.

An India story wouldn’t be complete without self-inflicted problems, and the Army had informed the standing committee on defense that their ammunition problems worsened when India blacklisted its supplier Israel Military Industries (IMI).

The 3VBM17 shells are Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot (APFSDS) rounds, which are focused very tightly on defeating enemy armored vehicles. The shell casing separates after it leaves the barrel, sending a heavy metal dart straight into the target. APFSDS shells lack the full versatility of High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) rounds, but compensate by being better at penetrating armor. The 3VBM17s offer penetration of about 450mm of Rolled Homogenous Steel armor, when fired straight on from 2 km. That’s pretty good. By comparison, the M829A1 shells used by American tank crews during Desert Storm in 1991 reportedly had penetration of about 570mm under similar circumstances. As Russian armor improved, the American have fielded updated shell versions, but this is nonetheless a useful benchmark. Sources: dna India, “India, Russia sign Rs 2,600 crore deal for anti-tank ammunition” | IHS Jane’s Land Platforms, “India to buy, produce Russian Mango ammunition”.

APFSDS anti-tank shells

March 24/14: Ammo. India’s Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by the Prime Minister, has cleared a proposal to acquire 66,000 tank shells from Russia as a transfer of technology program to India’s state-run Ordnance Factory Board.

The decision comes shortly after media leaks exposed a top secret letter from former Army Chief Gen V K Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, complaining that India’s tank regiments had just 3-4 days worth of anti-tank ammunition. Sources: Zee NEws, “CCS clears tank ammunition deal with Russia”.

AT-11 Invar

Invar
(click to view full)

Aug 20/13: Invar bought. The Indian Ministry of Defence signs an INR 30 billion (currently around $475 million and dropping) contract for Invar missiles with state-owned Bharat Dynamic Ltd. in Hyderabad.

Invar is the name for locally-built Refleks missiles, which include the 125 mm 3UBK20 round and the 9M119M laser guided missile. Refleks is fired from T-90s, while similar Svir missiles would be fired from T-72s. The Invars will be made locally under a continuing license from M/s Rosoboronexport, and deliveries are expected to take place from 2013 – 2018. Note that this figure is a INR 10 billion/ 33% increase over the October 18/12 Cabinet approval for 20,000 missiles, and works out to about $23,750 per shot at current exchange rates.

Apportioning that 33% difference depends on foreign exchange conversions, as well as the average level of imported materials in each Invar missile ordered. Work done by BDL is a straight Rupee transaction, but key supplies will be imported, and license and support costs to Russia aren’t paid in Rupees. Do they convert the Russian component of the sale through the US dollar? Or was the trade a direct Rupees to Roubles deal? That matters a lot, because the Rupee dropped by 16.7% vs. the US Dollar from Oct 18/12 – Aug 20/13, and keeps hitting new lows every day. In the same period, it ‘only’ dropped 10.92% against the Rouble. Issues like payment terms can confuse the issue further. Is payment of license and support fees to Russia a lump sum, or due annually? If the latter, what does the contract specify for how foreign exchange is handled at each payment period?

Recent currency arrangements make these questions very germane. In March 2012, Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) Summit members signed a BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism agreement to back their mutual trade with credit offered in local currencies, instead of using US dollars as an intermediate conversion. As an ancillary, they also signed the Multilateral Letter of Credit Confirmation Facility Agreement between their respective Exim/Development Banks. On the other hand, Russian VEB chair Vladimir Dmitriev recalled that it took 3 years to make similar arrangements work with China, and added that he expected the same thing for India. That means direct conversion wouldn’t be ready until 2015, unless the governments of Russia and India have special arrangements around defense buys. Sources: India MoD release, “BDL Signs Contract with MOD for Invar Anti Tank Guided Missiles ” | Russia Today, “BRICS agree to local currency credits to ease dollar dependency” | Zee News, “BRICS members sign pact to trade in local currencies”.

Invars bought

Oct 26/12: Konkurs ATGM. India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approves an Rs 1,200 crore (about $250 million) budget proposal to buy 10,000 Konkurs-M/ AT-5 wire-guided anti-tank guided missiles, in order to equip infantry and mechanized units. Sources: Defence Now, “CCS Clears USD 250 Million Konkur Missiles for Army” | India’s Economic Times, “CCS clears 10,000 Russian anti-tank missiles for Army” | India Today, “Cabinet clears Rs 1,200 crore deal for anti-tank missiles from Russia”.

Oct 18/12: Invar. India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) clears a Rs 8,000 crore budget that will buy 200 or so air-launched BrahMos long-range supersonic strike missiles, and 20,000 Invar 9M119M/M1 missiles that are fired from the 125mm barrels of India’s T-90S tanks. The Rs 2,000 crore ($380 million) Invar missile purchase is expected to be divided evenly between Russian production, and licensed production by Bharat Dynamics. Sources: NDTV, “Rs 8,000 crore cleared for BrahMos, Invar missiles” | Defence Now, “India Approves $1.6 Billion Orders for Invar, BrahMos Air Version Missiles”.

Additional Readings

* Bharat Dynamics Limited – Products.

* Army Guide – Konkurs M.

* Army Guide – 9K119 Reflecks.

* DID – Indian Army Wants to Add Another 1,000 T-90S Tanks by 2020 (updated). Last update 2008.

* DID – India Reverses Gear, Puts Arjun Tank Back in Production.

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