To avenge Pulwama, is Agni or Prahaar a better option for India
New Delhi, Feb 19: Several options are being considered to give Pakistan a befitting response for the ghastly and cowardly Pulwama terrorist attack which claimed the lives of 40 CRPF jawans. From surgical strikes to precision air strikes on terrorist camps, all kinds of offensive military options are being debated not only by the experts on news channels, but also by the public in general. Emotions are running high and all that the entire nation seems to want is revenge.
Buckling under public and political pressure, and taking action just to assuage the public anger is not a hallmark of a professional armed force like the Indian Army. Several factors need to be considered including the fact that the enemy is actually anticipating a strike and would be prepared for it at this point. One also must consider that openly crossing the LoC may not go down well with the international community.
Under these circumstances, one option that can be considered is a tactical strike using short range high precision missiles. India has a vast range of missiles, from long distance strategic ballistic missiles like Agni series to short range precision striking tactical missiles like Prahaar.
Prahaar is a surface-to-surface short-range tactical ballistic missile. Prahaar is equipped with state-of-the-art navigation, guidance and electromechanical actuation systems with advanced on board computer. Having a strike range of 150 km, Prahaar has no parallel in the world in its range category. It fills the vital gap between multi-barrel rocket Pinaka and medium-range ballistic missile Prithvi. Unlike Prithvi, it can engage multiple targets in different directions.
Fuelled by solid propellant Prahaar missile is about 7.32 meter long and its diameter is 420 mm. While its launch weight is about 1.28 tonne, it can carry a payload of 200 kg. The missile system was developed to provide the Indian Army with a cost-effective, quick reaction, all weather, all terrain, high accurate battlefield support tactical system.
One of the striking features of Prahaar is it high accuracy. During the test firing in September last year, the missile achieved the terminal accuracy of fewer than 10 meters. It went up vertically and then manoeuvred as coordinated. It is highly manoeuvrable and can be directed to change path while in flight. It can be deployed in different kinds of terrain making it more effective against targets.
What's more, the last test of Prahaar in September 2018 was successful and the missiles achieved all the mission objectives.
Multi Barrel Rocket systems such as 'Pinaka' and medium range ballistic missiles such as Prithvi - 1 are also options, but Prithvi -1 is a little bulky and has been in service for decades now. Pinaka Multi Barrel Rocket system is more suited to flatten an area with a barrage of launches rather than hitting a specific target with high precision. Pinaka system has a maximum range of 40 km for Mark-I and 75 km for Mark-II variant, and can fire a salvo of 12 rockets in 44 seconds. The system is mounted on a Tatra truck for mobility. Its use, however, cannot be totally ruled out
Prahaar on the other hand can launched from a road-mobile launcher, which can carry six missiles at a time and can be fired in salvo mode in all directions. Prahaar can also carry different types of warheads and has a greater manoeuvring capability, acceleration and can be deployed in different kinds of terrain.
Another thing that can be considered is a cruise missile strike. A striking feature of a cruise missile is 'terrain hugging ability' which means that the missile can fly so close to the ground that it can avoid detection by the enemy radars. Nirbhay sub sonic missile has this feature, but unfortunately Nirbhay is still under development. Army has a variant of BrahMos with it and it was also successfully test fired, but not much is known about its stealth and 'terrain hugging' feature. But undoubtedly, BrahMos is a potent supersonic cruise missile which is considered among the best in its class.
Whatever may be the decision taken by the military top brass, one thing is for sure that it would involve lot of deliberations on the possible consequences. Any such high risk option would have to be prudently and realistically analysed with appropriate preparations for any outcome. The strategists would definitely have to consider what if the action fails or does not pan out as expected. A preparation for adverse outcome is also a vital part of strategy.
Why 2016-like surgical strike looks difficult right now?
The Prime Minister has said that he has given the forces a free hand to deal with the situation. The military's response has been restrained and rightly so, as no professional and mature force would go around tom tomming about its future course of action, especially when it is about stiking the enemy in their territory. The 2016's surgical strike in response to Uri terrorist attack was effective because there was an element of surprise in it.
A 2016-like surgical strike immediately after Pulwama is almost ruled out as as the enemy would be well prepared. While various options are being explored, Intelligence agencies report that Pakistan has already started pulling back its terrorists out of the fear that they may be struck. The alert levels are high on both sides says an officer with the intelligence. Pakistan is anticipating a hit and has hence pulled out its terrorists along the border and also closed down several camps.
The other option discussed was regarding a limited cross border strike. The intention would be to dismantle terror infrastructure. Since the alert levels are high at the border, crossing over to enemy territory is almost next to impossible at this point in time. Precision air strikes in Pakistan occupied Kashmir against the non-state actors is also a good option, but even that may require Indian fighters to enter enemy's air space which may not go down well with the international community.