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Battle Of ATGMs: How Do India’s Nag & Spike ATGMs Compete Against China’s Red Arrow Anti-Tank Missiles?

The Indian Army acquired its homegrown ‘Nag’ and the Israeli Spike anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) amid the border standoff with China last year.

The Chinese PLA boasts its Red Arrow-10 (HJ-10) that can shoot down helicopters, drones, and damage tanks and howitzers.

The PLA first approved the Red Arrow-10 multi-purpose missile system, also known as the AFT-10, in 2012. The system was designed by the China Aerospace and Industry Corporation Limited (CASIC).

The ATGM is intended to effectively engage modern armored vehicles, which may be equipped with dynamic protection and fortifications features. The system can also shoot down combat helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, and damage self-propelled artillery.

According to the specifics mentioned in Missilery.info, the Hong Jian 10 or the Red Arrow-10 has a solid propellant launch and marching engines. In front of the rudder and on the side surface of the missile, recessed taper-type marching engine nozzles are located.

Weighing 43 kgs, the Red Arrow has a length of 1850mm and its hull diameter is 165mm. The maximum flight range of the missile is 10km. With a speed of 150m/s, the missile can reach 230 m/s on its final dive.

The ATGM is guided by a combined system of television/thermal imaging (IIR) homing head, an inertia system, and a two-way fiber optic data transmission channel.

A data transmission channel generates the target image by the homing head to the operator’s console. The same channel relays the control commands to the missile.

This enables it to put the missile on a variety of uses, like use in combat, including fire-and-forget technology, command guidance, and composite paths, target acquisition and redirection after launch, shooting indistinguishable targets from a closed position.

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The upgrade that is being planned includes the replacement of the present fiber optic data channel with a radio channel.

The ATGM can hit a target directly and from above through various other combat units.

The missile complex can be placed on the chassis of a ZBD-04A infantry fighting vehicle, weighing 20 tons. Protection against bullets of large caliber, smaller arms and artillery shell fragments is provided by the hull armor of the ZBD-04A.

The guidance equipment of the missile complex includes a radar target detection station, optical and electronic equipment with a thermal imager, and a laser ring finder. The two work stations of the missile operators enable the firing of a double missile volley.

In 2018, the Red Arrow 10-A was showcased at the sixth International Exhibition of Arms IQDEX-2018 held in Baghdad by the Chinese foreign trading company NORINCO. 

The Israeli Spike ATGM

The nearest equivalent of the Red-Arrow 10 is the Israeli Spike ER. Developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the Spike-ER is an anti-tank missile system capable of engaging dynamic armored vehicles. 

The EurAsian Times reported that India had opted for the third-generation Israeli Spike MR (medium-range) ATGM following the Balakot airstrike in 2019. It procured the 4th-generation Spike LR (long-range) missiles in early December 2020.

The Indian military has reportedly acquired more than 200 Spike ATGMs through the emergency procurement route. These can be fired from vehicles, helicopters, ships, and ground launchers.

These advanced missiles have optical seekers, smart target trackers, and various artificial intelligence features. 

These missiles can be fired either in “direct attack or mid-course navigation based on target coordinates” mode, according to The Jerusalem Post.

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India’s Nag Missiles

In February 2018, Indian successfully test-fired its ATGM Nag. The Nag has been manufactured by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

After the successful completion of the trials, the DRDO stated that the missiles are ready for induction into the army. It is an all-weather missile and has an operational range of 500m to 20 km.

The Nag ATGM can be launched from land and air-based platforms. The missile when launched from land can strike up to a range of 4 km, while the strike range when launched from an air-based platform is 7 km. It has an indigenous IIR (imaging infra-red) seeker with integrated avionics.

The missile is also equipped with ‘top attack’ and ‘front attack’ capabilities. It can effectively rout heavy armor, both ‘reactive’ and ‘composite’ armor found in many modern battle tanks. Due to its IIR seeker, the missile can operate both day and night, against silhouette tanks, whether moving or stationary.

India is also set to acquire the Milan- 2T Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, as reported by the EurAsian Times. It is expected to be manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited under the license of MBDA Missile Systems, France.

The Milan-2T is a second-generation infantry ATGM. Described as a Tandem Warhead ATGM with a range of 1,850 meters, it is capable of destroying both moving and immobile targets. The Milan-2T can be launched from the ground and vehicle-based launchers as well.

The Milan-2T follows the induction of indigenous third-generation ATGMs – the Helina and Dhruvastra.

According to Nitin J Ticku, a strategic exert with the EurAsian Times, India had opted for the Israeli Spike ATGMs after the Balakot airstrike in 2019.  An order was placed for 240 missiles and 12 launchers as part of an “emergency purchase” to meet immediate operational requirements.

Ticku says between all the three ATGMs, Israeli Spike is battle-tested and widely regarded as one of the best anti-missiles systems in the world alongside American Javelin. Besides India, Israel has supplied more than 27,000 Spike missiles and systems to over 26 nations.

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