The first consignment of India’s first indigenously designed and developed Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher System (MBRLS) Pinaka is en route to Armenia via Iran, according to claims by Azerbaijani media.
Azerbaijani sources claim Indian-made military equipment was transferred to Armenia through Iran.
The cargo was delivered to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.
Armenia and India have signed military contracts worth over $400 million over the recent months. pic.twitter.com/VHfVNmzcdd
— Clash Report (@clashreport) July 26, 2023
The export to Armenia indicates India’s attempt to fill the void created by Russia’s preoccupation with the Ukraine war. This has been reported by Caliber.az website, besides publishing operational footage.
A video of trucks loaded with ‘military cargo’ was shared by several social accounts and Azerbaijani media, claiming that the shipment was weapons and ammunition from India and was heading to Armenia via Bandar Abbas port in Iran.
“India has been pumping weapons and military equipment to Armenia through Iran. Unfortunately, India turns a blind eye to the fact that this runs counter to the principles of the Bandung Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement, of which India is also a member,” said foreign policy commentator Toghrul Mammadli while sharing the video.
Assistant to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Head of the Foreign Policy Department of the Presidential Administration Hikmet Hajiyev is reported to have met Indian diplomat Sridharan Madhusudhanan to express concerns about the expanding military cooperation between India and Armenia. He pointed out that the weapons were being supplied even as the two countries were engaged in war.
Earlier, in January 2023, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev called India’s supply of weapons to adversary Armenia an “unfriendly move,” adding: “If we are facing a serious threat, we will deal with that threat immediately, regardless of where that threat arises, within our territory or outside our borders. It is our legitimate right to do so.”
On September 27, 2020, significant fighting broke out between the militaries of Armenia and Azerbaijan, two states locked in an intractable conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh since the last days of the USSR.
Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions have seen periodic outbursts of violence in recent years, but the current fighting is the most serious since Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a cease-fire in 1994.
Pinaka Rockets For Armenia
As earlier reported by the EurAsian Times, the Pinaka system is considered at par with the US HIMARS. The DRDO developed the Pinaka system as a replacement for the Russian GRAD BM-21, which also equips the Armenian armed forces.
Another important reason for Armenia’s choice was likely its adversary Azerbaijan’s heavy use of drones, including suicide drones. For an MBRLS to survive in a drone-saturated battlefield, it must have the ability to shoot and then disappear quickly. The Pinaka Mk-1 has precisely that ability.
Shoot and Scoot capability enables the launcher to escape the counter-battery fire. Pinaka support vehicles have matching mobility and logistics commonalities.
The Pinaka MBRLS export contract with Armenia was the export contract of the first genuinely indigenous system by the Indian Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) with near zero import content.
And it has proven to be a shot in the arm for Indian defense exports. Armenia, which has predominantly Russia-supplied weapons, is looking to diversify its supplies and purchased four batteries of the rocket system through a government-to-government contract with India.
The multiple rocket launcher is already in service with the Indian Army and has been deployed along the borders with China and Pakistan.
The ex-Soviet republic bought four indigenous Swathi weapons locating radars in 2020 from India, which was delivered in the backdrop of its conflict with Azerbaijan.
The Swathi radars are jointly produced by the DRDO and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) at a cost of US $40 million. Swathi represents the latest generation of phased array or electronically steered radars to detect and direct counter-battery fire against enemy ordnance.
Pinaka – The Backbone Of India’s Rocket Prowess
Pinaka rocket system derives its name from the divine bow of Lord Shiva, and it got its first glimpse of action in the 1999 Kargil conflict against Pakistan. The battles fought in the frigid mountain ranges of the Himalayas saw Pinaka neutralize the Pakistani positions on mountain tops.
“The best feature of Pinaka system is that one regiment can launch as many as 12 rockets in under a minute in multiple directions, and then regiment can be re-located within minutes,” an official familiar with the system told the EurAsian Times.
The first version of Pinaka has a range of 40 kilometers. After the system was combat proven, the Indian Army raised its first regiment in February 2000.
The complete Pinaka MBRL system is comprised of six launcher vehicles, each equipped with 12 rockets, six loader-replenishment vehicles, two command post vehicles integrated with a fire control computer, and a DIGICORA MET radar.
The best part is that each launcher can be operated independently. So, rockets can be fired individually or simultaneously in different directions. The launcher can operate in four modes – manual, remote, standalone, and autonomous.
The enhanced version of the rocket system with an increased range between 60 to 90 kilometers is undertrial by the DRDO. Besides the enhanced version, the DRDO has also been testing a guided version of Pinaka with a range between 70 to 90 kilometers.
The guided version is more of a missile that can hit the target with pinpoint accuracy. The enhanced and guided version of the rocket is designed to counter the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Eastern Ladakh in support of the Indian Army’s artillery regiments.
China has developed “Rocket Force” as a military branch. It is the largest missile force in the world. It comprises missiles and rocket artillery and works around the tactic of overwhelming the adversary through a barrage of missile attacks.
In August 2020, the Indian government signed a Rs 25.8 billion (US $353.5 million) contract with Tata Power Company, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), and Bharat Earth Movers for supplying six regiments of Pinaka Mk I MBRL systems to the Indian Army and are expected to be delivered by 2024.
- Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
- She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at) mail.com