The independent resource on global security

10. Military technology: the case of India




Military research and development (R&D) in India is not progressing as
rapidly or as far as its leaders had hoped and observers had predicted. The
obstacles preventing India from developing a more advanced military technology
base are primarily technical and economic, stemming from chronic problems with
project management rather than any lack of scientific resources. Indian
military R&D programmes have achieved some immediate goals but have not
created the anticipated technological momentum that would allow them to move
from limited import substitution to indigenous innovation. Consequently,
reports to the effect that sophisticated conventional or nuclear weapons are
easily or inevitably within the grasp of India or other countries that do not
share India's scientific resources should be viewed with scepticism.

The Prithvi (Earth) battlefield support missile's role can be expected to be
similar to that of the US Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), but it is less
flexible, being limited in particular by the decision to use liquid fuel and
the Indian Army's limited battlefield surveillance capabilities at the
missile's full range. Strictly speaking, the Prithvi system should include an
integrated surveillance and mission planning support capability and is
incomplete without one. Although the Army has accepted the first delivery of
the Prithvi and is beginning field testing, it is reportedly reluctant to buy
more than 80, given a procurement budget that has fallen by 17% in three years.
While its role may be similar to that of the ATACMS, the Prithvi missile is
more closely comparable to the Soviet Scud-B or the German V-2.

The Agni (Fire) missile test bed is a completely indigenous design. India's
chronic problem of systems integration in programmes of this level of
complexity have only been overcome in cases where there is foreign management
assistance. Also, there is no service requirement whatsoever for the Agni, a
significant barrier to its deployment in the procurement budget crisis. The
Indian Air Force has not been given a strategic or nuclear bombardment mission
for which it might use the Agni, nor does the Army require a missile with the
Agni's range.