Army on 'urgent hunt' for helicopter missiles

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The Army is on a hunt for missiles which can be fired from the ALH Rudra chopper to destroy enemy tanks, under the fast track procedure for urgent acquisition.

Seeking to provide more firepower to its aviation fleet, sources said it is moving a proposal worth over Rs 1,300 crore before the crucial meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council to buy a limited number of anti-tank guided missiles.

The ATGMs sourced from global suppliers would be fired from the helicopters - a weaponised version of the ALH Dhruv manufactured by the HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) - which would be used by both the Army and Air Force. 

The Rudra helicopter is a weaponised version of the ALH Dhruv manufactured by HAL

They would also be equipped with the indigenous HELINA missiles when they are ready for operational deployment in future, it is claimed.

Sources in the Defence Ministry said the Army needs missiles which can hit enemy tanks at a distance of seven kilometers in all conditions, claiming that the indigenous HELINA can't do so - but there is doubt whether any foreign-origin missile can achieve the strike distances from a helicopter. 

The programme to utilise the weaponised version of the ALH was started over five years ago by the HAL and it handed over the first chopper to the Army in 2013. 

The force had initiated a tender to procure helicopter-fired ATGMs earlier also in which private firms from Israel, Sweden and France had participated and their trials were held at foreign locations. 

The Army wants to 'urgently' secure missiles that can be launched up to 7km from target

However, none of the vendors could meet the Indian requirement of providing twin-tube missile launchers as the attack helicopters fire from four tube launchers. 

'The previous tender had to be scrapped in 2015 as the twin-tube solutions could not be found and having a four tube launcher would have resulted in the boom touching the ground while landing as the Rudra is not a genuine attack machine,' sources in the Army said. 

However, the continuous delays in the project have also resulted in the Army postponing its plans to utilise the choppers in anti-tank roles due to the lack of attack choppers in its inventory. 

'We are taking clearance from the Defence Ministry under the fast track procedure to buy these ATGMs as they are required urgently for our choppers,' Army sources said. 

The Indian Army and the Air Force together are looking to acquire a fleet of 76 weaponised Rudra choppers which would be fitted with a 70mm guns and rocket pods along with four anti-tank missiles with two each fitted on both sides. 

The HELINA missile, is a heli-borne version of the NAG missiles developed in the 1980s.

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