While India’s relations with China and its western neighbor Pakistan are getting complicated, Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh launched 15 products developed by DPSUs (Defence Public Sector Undertakings) on the latter’s independence day on 14th August.
Among the products launched were three out-of-the-box designs which were a topic of discussion among defense circles, namely the NAMICA, Vidhwansak Rifle, and the OFB Sniper Rifle chambered in .338 Lapua.
While the other two are small arms and have been in development/production for a long time, the showstopper was the new prototype of NAMICA – short for ‘Nag Missile Carrier’.
The Nag Missile
As its name suggests, the NAMICA (Nag Missile Carrier)) is a tracked, amphibious, armored ‘missile-carrier’ vehicle based on the BMP chassis. The new prototype was developed by the Ordnance Factory Medak in conjunction with DRDL, Hyderabad, and has an import substitution of Rs. 260 cr. In the first phase, and expected to rise up to Rs.3000 Cr.
First revealed in 2008, the Nag Missile and its Carrier share parallel development processes.
The earlier versions of the Nag missile had the uncooled LWIR sensors which failed to correctly identify their targets’ heat signature during testing in the hot desert conditions of Rajasthan. According to sources, only one of the four missiles fired during trials in July 2012 had hit the target.
However, the development of the Nag missile had been fast-tracked owing to its importance in a number of projects – the Helicopter-launched variant Dhruvastra to arm Rudra and LCH – Light Combat Aircraft, the ground-based MPATGM, and SANT missile systems, and of course, the NAMICA.
This led to the development of a better seeker with higher resolution- the addition of a new focal panel array which enables the missile to get a clearer picture of the target and the surroundings, aiding in its differentiation from the background.
Missiles were further upgraded by incorporating IR-CCD processor chips supplied by France’s ULIS-SOFRADIR. The trials of the missile from 2016 to 2020 have since been all successful – against both stationary and moving targets. The Indian army has repeatedly declared its plans for induction.
According to unclassified specifications, the Nag ATGM has a flight speed of 230 meters per second, is armed with an 8kg tandem shaped-charge warhead, has a rocket motor using nitramine-based smokeless extruded double base sustainer propellant, has a single-shot hit probability of 0.77, and a CEP of 0.9 meters, and has a 10-year maintenance-free shelf-life.
As of early 2020, the NAMICA remains the sole platform in which the missile is fully integrated while integration and testing of other platforms and variants are still in development.
Undaunted by the failures of the early NAMICA prototypes, the Defense Research & Development Organization (DRDO) went on to produce the improvised version of the platform called the NAMICA-2, housing not one but two CoMPASS Electro-Optical sighting systems – one for the gunner and one for the commander, giving it the “hunter-killer” capability.
The new addition, the CoMPASS Electro-Optical sensor is developed by the Israeli firm Elbit Systems and manufactured in India by BEL.
This sensor is also used in HAL Rudra and the Light Combat Helicopter and has been put on “hundreds of platforms” including UAVs, Helicopters, and other fixed-wing platforms providing excellent day and night intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities and has proven itself in the battlefields of Afghanistan and the Middle East.
The main visible change from the early version to the NAMICA-2 was the reduction of missiles carried from eight to six, along with an additional six in reserve totaling to twelve missiles carried.
Additionally, the NAMICA-2 is also given an Auxiliary Power Unit, which serves as an alternate source of power for the vehicle’s new and improvised fire control system.
This enables the vehicle to switch off the engine to reduce the infrared signature while being completely capable of firing the missiles, helpful in defensive and training roles.
The vehicle is also equipped with the NBC protection suite, protecting its crew from Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical threats in case such a situation arises. The vehicle is also installed with an automatic fire detection and suppression system and also features a remotely-controlled 7.62mm PKT machine gun.
The turret which houses six Nag missile launcher tubes provides 360-degree fire coverage and has an elevation capability of 0 to 24 degrees. It is also equipped with an advanced land navigation system, helping the commander with better situational awareness on the battlefield.
Based on the Russian-designed BMP chassis, the NAMICA-2 is amphibious, which can drive up to a maximum speed of 64 km/hour on flat terrain and 7 km/hr in water, making it immune to water obstacles like rivers or lakes, which gives it an additional capability to travel across first establishing a defensive perimeter with other BMPs of mechanized forces while engineers build the bridges to carry the tanks forward.
The NAMICA is indeed an important power booster for the Indian Army and a very essential addition for its mechanized and armored formations. The vehicle can be an effective deterrence against its enemies, being lighter at just about 15 tonnes, extremely maneuverable, and capable of destroying targets at ranges more than 4 kilometers.
Penned By Ayush Jain