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By Bulbul Singh

26 Jan 06. Pressing requirements from the Indian Army, New Delhi has been compelled to sign a deal with Russia last month in which Moscow has declined to give the transfer of technology. According to a deal signed last month Russia will supply 28 pieces of Smerch, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) for around $500 million. According to a policy under work for ten years, New Delhi’s defense acquisition policy is based on transfer of technology principle only. The Smerch is one of the top priorities of the Indian Army which will help increase its fire range to up to 90 kilometers from the
current level of around 30 kilometers, with the currently available

Russian BM-21 series multi barrel rocket launcher systems. The homegrown Pinaka MLRS which is on assembly line for induction has a range of 40 kilometers.

The Smerch deal was put on hold by Moscow, in the wake of the Intellectual Property Rights Accords which was finally singed in November 2005 after nearly one year of negotiations. Russia has also reduced the order of the Smerch MLRS from the required numbers of 36 to only 28 pieces which will be supplied in 2007. The case for import of Smerch MLRS systems has been under consideration since 1994, said an Indian Army official as there is delay in the development of the homegrown Pinaka MRBL and to have an edge in fire capability.

In 2002, the Smerch rocket system was tested at India’s missile testing facilities of Balasore in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, in the desert of Rajasthan and the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir and found satisfactory.

The Smerch systems to be inducted will include combat vehicle, transponder cum loader vehicle, topographical control vehicle, command and staff vehicle, radio direction finding meteorological support complete, workshop repair and fitter vehicle.

The Smerch is a 300mm gun system designed to hit soft and hard targets, artillery and missile systems up to 90 kms. The launch vehicle is based on the MAZ-543M 8 x 8 wheeled truck chassis on which is mounted a 12-tube launcher. The launcher has a crew of four and is capable of a single or salvo firing.

The Smerch fires the 300mm 9M55K rocket which has a solid propellant rocket motor. The rocket is 7.5 meter long and weighs over 800 kilograms. The Indian Army established the need for MLRS with a range of more then 20 kilometers and work on the homegrown Pinaka system began in 1986. The Pinaka did not come up to the expectations of the Indian army during the 1999 battle in the upper reaches of Kargil in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. Thereafter requirements of the Indian army were reduced and the Pinaka is currently under production and will be inducted by 2008.

The Indian Army has been hard pushing the case for the purchase of
the Smerch MLRS, said one Indian defense ministry official.

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