The Pinaka system: A formidable addition to India’s weapon systems

Updated: March 15, 2019 9:44:19 PM

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 Mk.1 rocket is capable of carrying a 100kg payload to a range of 40km.

By Sanjay Badri-Maharaj

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.

In an important boost to the private sector production of defence equipment on the 29 March 2006, the Indian Army awarded Tata Power SED and Larsen & Toubro’s Heavy Engineering Division, to 40 Pinaka MBRLs each – thus equipping two regiments with Pinaka systems.

These were followed by additional orders for four more regiments in two batches. On 29 October 2015, the Defence Acquisition Council chaired by the Defence Minister of India, cleared the purchase of two more Pinaka regiments and in 2016 the Cabinet Committee on Security(CCS) confirmed this purchase of two additional Pinaka regiments. In addition to these orders, and to supplement the earlier 4 regiments, an order for additional six regiments was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council on 7 November 2016, thus making for an eventual total of ten regiments to be in Indian army service by 2022, with possibly a dozen more regiments to follow.

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.

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.

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.

(The author is an independent defence analyst and security consultant and author of: INDIAN NUCLEAR STRATEGY: Confronting the Potential Threat from both China and Pakistan. Views expressed above are his personal)

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