Army opts for Nag missile as it enters final trials - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 7 March 2010

Army opts for Nag missile as it enters final trials

The Nag being fired during trials from a BMP based Nag Missile Carrier (NAMICA)

by Ajai Shukla
Hyderabad Missile Complex
Business Standard, 8th March 2010

In Rajasthan, this May, the indigenously developed Nag (Cobra) missile will undergo a final round of trials before entering service in the Indian Army’s arsenal. Developed by the Defence R&D Laboratory (DRDL) in Hyderabad, the army is delighted with how the Nag has performed in a series of earlier trials. A senior army officer calls it, “the world’s deadliest anti-tank guided missile (ATGM).

Indian infantry formations urgently want a potent ATGM to handle Pakistani tank forces that now bristle with capable Ukrainian T-80 and Chinese T-85 tanks.

So confident is the army about the Nag that, even before trails are completed, it has budgeted Rs 335 crores for buying 443 Nag missiles, which will be manufactured at the public sector Bharat Dynamics Limited. The missiles will equip Reconnaissance and Support Battalions, mechanised units that locate and destroy enemy tanks.

In trials last summer six Nag missiles were fired at tanks 3-4 km away; each of them hit their target precisely. Next month the Nag must demonstrate its capability at its minimum range of 500 metres.

“Since the Nag travels at 230 metres per second, it has just 2 seconds to align itself to a target that is 500 metres away. But we are confident that the Nag will meet this requirement during the forthcoming trials”, the DRDL’s Officiating Director, Amal Chakrabarti, told Business Standard during a visit to the Hyderabad missile complex.

The Nag is a third-generation (Gen-3), “fire-and-forget” missile; once it is fired, its seeker automatically guides the missile to even a fast-moving tank. In earlier-generation missiles an operator had to guide it all the way, often exposing himself to enemy fire. The world has just a handful of “fire-and-forget” missiles, such as the American Javelin, and the Israeli Spike. The Javelin and the Spike are lighter missiles that can be carried by a soldier; the Nag is a heavier and more powerful missile designed to operate from vehicles and helicopters.

While the infrared seekers of the Javelin and the Spike can be jammed, the Nag’s optical guidance system makes it virtually jam-proof. The indigenous development of an imaging seeker, a highly complex and closely guarded technology, is the Nag’s greatest triumph.

Here’s how it works. Nag missile operators search for enemy tanks through thermal imaging telescopes, which see as well by night as they do by day. Picking up a tank, the operator locks the Nag’s seeker onto the target. A digital snapshot of the target is automatically taken, which serves as a reference image. As the Nag streaks towards the target, at 230 metres per second, the seeker takes repeated snapshots of the target; each one is compared with the reference image, and deviations are translated through on-board algorithms into corrections to the Nag’s control fins, which steer the missile precisely at the target.

This method of firing is termed “lock-on before launch” or LOBL. In the pipeline is an even more sophisticated method --- “lock-on after launch” or LOAL --- for the helicopter-mounted Nag, or HELINA, which can target a tank 7 kilometres away. Since the target will seldom be visible at such a distance, the missile operator launches the HELINA in the general direction of the target. As it flies towards the target, the Nag’s seeker downlinks to the missile operator images of the area ahead; after travelling 3-4 kilometers, i.e. after about 12-16 seconds, the operator will be able to identify enemy tanks. He will lock the seeker onto the tank he wishes to destroy, and the command will be uplinked to the missile in mid-flight. After that, the missile homes in onto the target and destroys it.

The Nag provides its operator with another important tactical advantage. The plume of burning propellant from the tail of most missiles gives away its flight path and allows the target to get behind cover. The Nag, in contrast, is visible only during the first one second of flight, when the missile’s booster imparts 90% of the momentum; after that, a sustainer maintains the missile’s speed, burning a smokeless propellant that is practically invisible.

Acceptance of the Nag missile into service will be a triumphant conclusion to the Defence R&D Organisation’s (DRDO’s) long-delayed, but eventually successful, Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). Initiated in 1983 by then DRDO boss, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the IGMDP set out to develop five missiles: the Agni and Prithvi ballistic missiles; the Akash and Trishul anti-aircraft missiles; and the Nag ATGM. Only the Trishul will have failed to be accepted into service.


  1. I've heard the the current NAG Sensor cannot operate in bad wether conditions . Is there any truth to that.

  2. Hi Ajay. Its nice to know that the nag is successful at last.. Is the mmw seeker of the missile developed? And what about the man-portable nag? Is it going to be completed anytime soon?

  3. Why was the Spike evaluated recently?

  4. The fuel burning is a weak point in the design, because the enemy will know after 10 seconds, it wants an input, so a false input can be fed and the missile can be diverted = Dummy missile

  5. They should make the helina smaller, so many can be mounted on one dispenser.

    We are giving lots of soultions in this message board.

  6. This is really good news. I hope that Nag lives up to the Army's expectation. Hopefully BDL will be able to produce the missile in the quality that is needed. Good luck Nag team.

  7. Ajai sir
    US army has fired the Javelins in India. Is there a chance to reduce weight of NAG block 2 missiles and make it man portable.

    Will these be ever exported. By the way, any news on HELINA.

    One more sometime

    back to one of my querries you said 'Its a waste of time and money to canisterize the already available missiles.' But the DRDO is reportedly working on canister version of every missile it has developed.

    see this

  8. Ajaiji,
    Could u give a little bit more insight into why Nag is so-good to be called "best ATGM" by Army?I mean the Spike-MR/LR also cannot be jammed has IIR+fibre-optic command link to firing station..and as is demonstrated in videos..has a laser pointer+seeker onboard the Spike that lets the user to define within inches of accuracy which part of tank to hit realtime plus the obvious fact that Spike can do Lock-On-After-Launch to hit non-line-of-sight targets!

  9. Dear Ajai,

    Thanks for this great news. You have also taken the pains to describe how the Nag will be operationally used. I have a few questions which you can hopefully answer:

    a) You mention an optical seeker. Is this used in parallel with the IIR seeker for daytime operations? Reason I ask is that optical seekers wont work at night

    b) If there is an IIR seeker as well, has that also been indigenized? The imported IIR seeker has been mentioned as one of the reasons for the relatively high cost of Nag (though the Nag of course compares quite favorably with say the PARS 3LR cost-wise)

    c) Summer trials were completed in July 2009. Why was the "minimum range" scenario not tested back then. Was that a lack of foresight by the IA or was Nag not ready for this scenario back then?

    Thanks in advance for your clarifications

    Prem Kumar

  10. Fantastic !! Congrats to the DRDO Team !!,

    The cost u mentioned in the article is Rs 335 crores for 443 Nag missiles. Is that the cost of just the missile Projectiles or the entire Nag Missile and delivery system. And how does it compare with the its global competitors in terms of performance and cost?
    U have also mentioned that Nag is a heavier system . Is there a plan to have a lighter, Javelin type NAG which can be operated by our soldiers from places where the BMP cannot go?

    Great work Ajai ji , Your reports are truly path breaking. Keep up the good work.

    Regards ,
    Tushar Rathod

  11. Bombay Walla: where have you gotten that from?!

    Sujith: Manportable Nag? Unlikely without reducing its range from 4 km to 2500 metres. That's the range of the manportable Javelin.

    BadIndian: the HELINA is the same size as the vehicle mounted Nag. It can't get any smaller anytime soon without reducing range.

    Jay: it's the army's opinion that the Nag is the best missile for their requirements. I, alas, have tested neither the Nag, nor the Spike, nor the Javelin.

    Prem Kumar: It has an IIR seeker. Indigenous.

    The reason why the Nag needs testing down to 500 metres is that the version tested last year had a minimum range of 800 metres. The army now wants 500 metres minimum.

    Tushar: The Rs 335 crores buys 13 carriers and 443 missiles. This, naturally, is only an initial order. As the Nag is inducted into service and more units are converted, the order seems likely to increase manifold.

  12. Hi Ajai,
    Good information. I thought that IIR seeker in French. By the the way where has Prasun Sengupta gone?

  13. Great news!

    Ajai sir, is there a talk regarding developing Helina into a all round CAS weapon as well as mounting it on fighter jets?

  14. Ajay, Extract from Wikipedia: The missile’s fire-and-forget capability has been established using the day version of the IIR passive seeker.In its IIR form the Nag has limited all weather capability. This has given added impetus to develop the mmW seeker. Efforts are on to provide special embedded on-board hunters, that can hunt for targets using ‘day seekers’ and ‘day-&-night seekers’.

  15. Sir,

    In your reply to one of the posts, you wrote, "As the Nag is inducted into service and more units are converted, the order seems likely to increase manifold."

    Apart from equipping the R&S battalions, do you forsee IA raising/converting dedicated ATGM Battalions with NAMICA?If I remember correctly, IA had(has?) dedicated ATGM Battalions in Brigade of Guard? Also, will such a weapon have role to play in the Recce Regiments of Armored Divisions?
    Thank you.

  16. Simranjit Singh8 March 2010 at 00:48

    Congratulations to DRDO :)
    Thanks a lot Ajai Sir....This is indeed a great news & the best part is the support that Army has given to this project.

    Sir, if possible Can you please tell us something about the following :
    1) Is there any plan for man portable Nag ?

    2) What's going on with HELINA ? This is an important project. Trials were scheduled for last year but so far no new news have come from DRDO.

    Thanks once again....

  17. Uh-oh!
    The army now wants minimum close in engagement at 500 down from 800.

    Why at such close distance?

    Are there not other alternatives,smaller,cheaper,more portable at such small distances.
    The present Nag launcher system is on a modified BMP.

    Will not such a close distance make them more vulnerable.
    I think the emphasis has to be on engagement from stand-off distance.
    Further -the better.
    Hope the army does not want an all-in-all missile from just one system.
    There will have to be a mix of systems,NO one system will address all needs at once.
    And that Nag's induction is any way adversely affected due to that.

  18. Congrats DRDO. Hope you also develop a man-portable Nag for high-altitude Himalayan border areas where a BMP cannot go for defending against Pandas.

  19. Ajai sir,
    335 Crore for 443 Nag missiles?
    Shouldn't that be 443 Namicas, and a much larger number of Nag missiles?

    Can you please verify?

  20. Simranjit:

    No plan for a man-portable Nag. As I mentioned, if you want a range of 4000 metres, you have to forget manportability.

    Anonymous 14:18:

    Recce regiments will be equipped with tanks, not missiles. Fast movement, not firepower, is the hallmark of a recce regiment.


    No, that should not be 443 Namicas. You are aware that a Namica is a BMP+missile launchers+sighting system. You believe you can get that for under a crore??

    The 335 crores includes (I presume) the capital cost of setting up a production line for Nag missiles. It is not just the cost of the missiles.

  21. Still Ajay, why do the army need to test NAG for 500ms. They have lot of milans and Konkurs to do the job at a cheaper cost.

  22. Shukla Sir there's been a typo.

    So confident is the army about the Nag that, even before trails are completed

  23. HI Ajai,

    What is the cost of a Nag Missile. In Aero India 2009, BR People reported that each NagMissile costs about 75 lakh but that costs includes the imported IIR seeker. Since, now you are saying IIR seeker is indigenous how much each nag missile costs. Any idea?

    Thanks in advance

  24. Ajai,

    What are the plans regarding the chassis? Will new ones be manufactured under license, or do they envision using some of the existing BMP-2s?

  25. Here is out response to your article


    Editor The Dawn News
    Moin Ansari

  26. How much does a Namica cost?

  27. ajai, please ban this lunatic green views (moin ansari) from your blog.

    the dawn is his personal blog and not The Dawn newspaper. read his link to get what this fellow is, a typical frothing at the mouth internet-warrior from pakistan. do you want to give coverage to people like this here ?

  28. ... LOL .... please please please don't remove "Moin Ansari" a.k.a "Editor The Dawn News" LOL from u'r blog. This blog desperately needs a village idiot..and what better than from our immediate neighborhood? you must really visit his site ... its quite funny really. Then again y give free publicity and increase his hit rate :)

    Let us just enjoy his lunacy in this blog .....

  29. Ghorcharrah Gabbar28 March 2010 at 04:04

    The NAG was originally touted to mount three types of mutually exclusive seekers - the millimetric wave, the imaging IR & the optical (day channel) ones. Which ones are at work here ? The optical seeker is useless in poor visibility or darkness, the IIR one can be 'seduced' like the SPIKE & Javelin while the MMW seeker is yet to come. So whats all the brouhaha about ?

    Anyways, I hope DRDO can spin-off the optical LOBL (Lock-On-Before-Launch) technology to an Auto-Tracking capability for the Arjun TI sights-FCS combine.

    And yes, the proof of NAG versatility lies in its stability during storage. The current crop of Russian-origin ATGMs (Konkurs & Faggot) are giving the infantry & mechanised infantry honchos sleepless nights due to their phenomenally high number of technical failures during practice firings. These have been attributed to poor manufacture practices & even poorer tolerance to storage conditions. Lets see a NAG deliver on its performance after 6-8 years in field storage & handling by our desi soldiers.

  30. tsarkar aka fraud aka ghorcharrah gabbar, why dont you tell everyone about your true ID?


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