Saturday, April 04, 2009

Telegraph: How Dr Pillai put the BrahMos back on track

By Sujan Dutta & GS Mudur

India can stake claim to be among the first in the world to be ready with a supersonic land-attack cruise missile because of the tenacity of an unheralded Missile Man whose pet project was almost written off for aiming too high.

Sivathanu Pillai, a technocrat whose bald pate is not covered by berets, whose chest is bereft of medals and shoulders of epaulettes, dared the Indian Army by claiming he would arm its artillery divisions with a missile the world had not seen.

The army is led by an artillery officer, General Deepak Kapoor, who wanted to see this wonder weapon himself. So he led a team to the Pokharan desert range on January 20. The general witnessed the dismal failure of the BrahMos Mark II personally.

Yet, in the space of just over two months, Pillai produced a missile — a supersonic cruise missile for the army — through three rapid-fire tests that left the generals gasping for its uniqueness, for its speed and for Pillai’s sheer grit.

Pillai has made the BrahMos Land Attack Cruise Missile Mark II real despite opposition from the Indian Army that kept upping its demands and reducing the size of the targets in the tests.
The first target was the size of a factory, the second, also a factory the size of a large building and the third, a small building in a simulated urban cluster. The missile was tasked to hit the factory in the first two tests. In the third test, it was to discriminate, select and choose its target before destroying it.

Pillai’s BrahMos missed the first. The mission was aborted after the missile went off-target mid-course despite a successful launch on January 20 when the army chief was witness.

After the second test, on March 4, seen by deputy army chief Lt Gen M.S. Dadwal, Pillai said it was a success but the army said it was “evaluating and analysing” the results even three days after the test.

"The missile was in the target area all right,” Gen Kapoor said of the test. “But there has been one failure (on January 20) so we need confirmation and there are some technical issues.” Then on March 29 — just last week — Pillai requested the army to send a team to witness another test. The director general of military operations, Lt Gen A.S. Sekhon, led a team.

This time, the army put up just a sheet as a target with reflectors on two sides to deflect the missile from its trajectory. Pillai’s BrahMos hit bull’s eye. Without waiting for official word from the army this time, Pillai went public, proclaiming its success.

“In 15 minutes flat,” he put it simply in his chamber inside the headquarters of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in an interview to The Telegraph, “your enemy country can be destroyed and you do not even have to go nuclear.”

Pillai is the chief executive officer and the head of the Indo-Russian BrahMos, an acronym from the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers. He is also the chief controller for armaments, land and naval systems in the DRDO.

"In the Iraq war, the US launched 1,000 Tomahawks in half a day,” he recalled. “You have to think on that scale. And the BrahMos is supersonic. It cannot be intercepted. Even we cannot do anything to it, once we launch it. Fire and forget. You think of the missile in hundreds, thousands, like you think of many, many arrows being fired from a quiver,” he said.

Two other known supersonic land-attack cruise missiles under development are the Fasthawk, made by Boeing in the US, and the French ANS. China also has a supersonic missile programme.
The BrahMos is ready. Then why did the Indian Army open itself to suggestions that it was not keen on the project? Clear-cut answers won’t be available to such questions. But the army has been seeing demonstrations of missiles by Raytheon Corporation. A section of the army’s artillery officers has been impressed by it.

A piece of history that DRDO’s scientists are familiar with was in danger of being repeated: was another indigenous, rather, a semi-indigenous military programme going to be sacrificed in the interest of imports? And to the benefit of middlemen who would earn fat commissions? All in the name of national security? And national interest?

But this week — soon after Pillai’s third test — the vice-chief of army staff, Lt Gen Noble Thamburaj, announced at a seminar: “The BrahMos Mark II is ready for induction. The missile’s accuracy, lethality and range have made it a deadly combination.”

The army is now ready to raise two regiments of the BrahMos Mark II.

Text ©Copyright The Telegraph


Anonymous said...

Incidentally this Telegraph seems to be funded from across the border. During the New Year incident when some Policemen roughed up some Army officers and were treated to a taste of their own medicine it was the Telegraph that was the first to rumour monger. When the facts were out that the Police in cahoots with the Hotel had tried their usual 'bully the Public ' stunt this paper did not even have the guts or the decency or moral courage to publish the facts. Now Pillai must have hosted a lavish lunch with freebies for their reporter else how can only the Telegraph report this in the east when the trials were carried out in the West. Were the other papers sleeping on the scoop?

NJS said...

Army / govt should place orders for large volumes , If we don't believe india products , then their is no use of saying Indians.

IAF have decreased ordering AKASH missiles sqn's by 8 to 2 nos sqn's.let's see what army is going to do with bramhos.

Make india stronger , don't allow neighbors to be stronger . JAIHIND


Ooopsss.... Our articles coincided :).


Ooopsss.... Our articles coincided :).

Mumbaiwala said...

This is all good, for now. Arjun, Akash point to a systemic scuttling of the indigenous weapons systems by people in the "system", corrupt military officers and babus(since all babus are corrupt) pocket taxpayers money on the side.
Until the time India starts exporting weapons systems this trend will not change. When that happens babus will still make money but from other countries coffers.

Anonymous said...

i am too confused to say Bhaat is right and bhaat is wrong with the army or Mr. Pillai?

Anonymous said...

How about an investigative piece on this

Missile range was scaled down to benefit Israel firm

Harpreet said...

Is there any need for such one-upmanship? Didn't DRDO put its foot in the mouth on the first test?

spr said...

Does this piece not seem to be written as a promotional piece for Dr Pillai?

Why demonise the Armed Forces? Is it too much to ask for weapon systems that perform on the battlefield? Did the failure of the first missile test inspire a lot of confidence amongst the writers of this piece?

Is a missile not supposed to work in a multi target environment? If the Army insists that the missile should be able to discriminate a designated target in a multi target scenario, it is just being realistic. After a failure, it was Dr Pillai's duty to inspire confidence among the Armed Forces, and by extension to all of India, by successful demonstrations.

It is a matter of pride that BrahMos is a partially indegenous product. The Armed Forces, more than anybody else, are aware of the pitfalls of imported products. But for induction into services, the products must be of requisite standard - it is a matter of thousands of human lives and NATIONAL SECURITY/SOVEREIGNTY.

Anonymous said...

What is a regiment anyway? How many launchers and missiles would that be? I would imagine 2000 odd missiles will be more than enough to form a reasonable first wave into Pakistan. Even with the published range there are a lot of valuable targets in the envelope.

Anonymous said...

that currupt ex air force officer
is air wing commander SP TYAGI who is working for IAI and he is the cause of decreasing no of akaash sqn in IAF service

moreover regarding brahmos army personnel looking demonstrations of 300km tomahawk by raytheon

not sure what advantage 300km tomahawk provides and it will b much costlier than brahmos

and drdo working on nirbhay

this is the level of curruption in india

Hojo said...

Well i would say, This is not good for IA/IAF/IN. We should use our Products to show to world What we are.

2 sqn. Of akash missile doesnt made any difference in IA thinkings.

Join New IDF

Mayuresh Gaikwad said...

I sincerely feel we should induct these in large numbers (1000+) as quickly as possible and also export some Mark1 Anti-ship missiles to friendly countries. That shall give us credibility in the eyes of the world, of being a good weapons manufacturer

Anonymous said...

Looks like Sir has fallen ill after coming back from Chennai.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Sir has fallen ill after coming back from Chennai.

Mahesh said...

What exactly was the "Naval War Room Leak? Is there any article on that? How many people were punished for that?

Anonymous said...

As such we don't have the balls to use any of these missile system against our enemy, in the west or east.Then why bother?
Don't you feel bored talking about this high tech equipments serving no purpose in the indian context.
The same does not even have a deterrent effect on tke pakis as can be seen from the recent incidents in our counrty

Vivek said...

The main opposition of the army has been the missiles prohibitively expensive unit cost. Neither the article nor the comments on the thread have addressed the army's very valid concerns.

A 1000 missiles launched in half a day sounds very good, but at $3 million a pop, the fireworks will cost the military $3 billion.

While the army's interest in the Tomahawk may seem like a betrayal to many, an in-depth analysis(which is beyond the majority of us) may end up suggesting the Tomahawk is a better choice.

The Tomahawk at a fifth of the Brahmos' cost has a payload that is 50% higher and range that is almost eight times as much. When manufactured in a 300km variant(to comply with international norms), one can expect the payload to be even larger.

The Brahmos' only advantage remains its sheer speed and maneuverability. Intercepting a barrage of Brahmos missiles is a tall order for any AD unit.

But, while such penetration may be crucial to hit naval targets its utility diminishes in the land attack mode. Pakistan's surface based air defence network is very poor to say the least, which the Tomahawk shouldn't have much trouble with.