All of the leading armies of the world field some form of Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) on the battlefield. These vehicles serve in the area saturation role but more advanced types can conduct surgical strikes, either through conventional warheads or specialized rounds, from well out of range of an enemy response. In the mid-1980s, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India undertook development of a new MLRS weapon system that became the "Pinaka" in service. Three major marks of the line have since emerged.
The Pinaka was originally formed around a 1981 requirement by the Indian Army for a long-range area saturation weapon to succeed an aging line of Soviet-era types in same role. By the mid-1990s the indigenous system was ready for service and, following the requisite trials and testing phase, saw introduction into the Indian Army inventory.
To date (2017), some 54 Pinaka vehicles are in circulation with the Indian Army and these have been manufactured by the likes of Tata Power SED, Larsen & Toubro and the Ordnance Factories Board. Manufacture has been ongoing since 1998 and Soviet-era BM-21 vehicles are being replaced by these newer machines in Indian Army service.
The complete weapon system consists of an 8x8 wheeled heavy-duty, diesel-powered military truck with a fully-protected driving cab at front and fighting compartment set over midships. Over the rear section of the flatbed is the launcher component which has its own elevation and traversal mechanisms allowing the missile pods to be aimed independently from the direction that the truck is facing. Support arms are lowered prior to the rockets firing to help stabilize the launcher and assist in recoil. The launcher components have two pods of six rockets each for a total of twelve rockets. The rockets are of 214mm caliber and both pods can be cleared in under 45 seconds with reloading accomplished by an accompanying resupply vehicle. A full Pinaka battery counts six launchers. Night vision is optional for the crew for low-light / night time environments.
Beyond the conventional explosive warhead, the rockets can also carry chemical, nuclear and anti-infantry/anti-tank payloads. The rockets can further be fired locally or remotely and cover a large area - suitable for eliminating a stubborn enemy presence or driving soft targets either underground or rearwards.
The original model, the Pinaka Mk.1, appeared with an inherent engagement range out to 30 kilometers. This was then later improved by the follow-up Pinaka Mk.2 variant which has seen engagement ranges increase to 65 kilometers. Still another improved model has since appeared on the horizon, the Pinaka Mk.3, which promises to increase engagement ranges out to 120 kilometers. Additional improvements (helped along by the Israelis) include GPS-guided munitions for surgical strikes.
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