| A Trishul model in an exhibition
New Delhi, Oct. 13: Israel’s Barak also bites. It has shot down President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s pet missile: his Trishul programme will be scrapped in December.
After dropping the Trishul programme, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been asked to get more active in the co-development of the Barak NG (next generation or Barak II) project that was signed this January. The DRDO has been roped in as a joint venture partner in the project. The development would focus mostly on extending the range of the Barak to 60 km.
The navy has virtually told the government that the Trishul can be junked after 22 years, nearly 50 trials and an estimated $70-million expenditure. And that it is happy with the Barak, happy enough to place more orders. As far as the navy is concerned, this should put the lid on any controversy over the Barak’s quality.
The Barak (lightning in Hebrew) and the Trishul (trident in Sanskrit) are missiles of the same category, designed for a ship’s self-defence.
“Our experience with the Barak missile has been good. We are happy with it,” the chief of naval staff, Admiral Arun Prakash, said here today.
Doubts about the Barak’s capabilities were voiced after the CBI this week alleged that George Fernandes, Jaya Jaitly, R.K. Jain and Admiral (retired) Sushil Kumar were recipients of kickbacks through middleman Suresh Nanda who brokered the October 2000 deal to buy seven Barak systems.
The shooting down of the Trishul by the Barak is a blow to the DRDO.
The CBI’s case has rested on Kalam’s objection in 1999 to the induction of the Barak because the Trishul was said to be on course.
For the armed forces, the experience with the Trishul programme goes much beyond the debate over the Barak’s capabilities. Even within the defence establishment the DRDO is being called upon to justify its long-gestation projects.
The Indian Air Force, for example, would not have to budget some $10 billion to buy 126 multi-role combat aircraft if the DRDO’s light combat aircraft (LCA) project were on schedule.
Like the Barak, the Trishul is the naval version of a surface-to-air missile (SAM) project (the land and air variants are the Akash and the Nag) that was begun in 1984. The Trishul project was begun on the insistence of the Navy. Its urgency came out of Pakistan’s acquisition of Exocet and Harpoon missiles.
Two years before that, in 1982, the Argentines had fired an Exocet missile that gored into the control room of the British Royal Navy’s HMS Sheffield in the Falklands war killing an unspecified number of the frigate’s 268-member crew.
Like the Barak, the Trishul is also designed for ship protection and it should have been able to shoot down an enemy missile up to a range of 9 km. The Navy has never been satisfied with the Trishul’s guidance and propulsion systems.
Two years ago, the DRDO was asked to move the Trishul from the list of active programmes for the user — the Navy — to a category for academic exercises. It was designated a “technology demonstrator”. The Navy does not want the demonstrations any longer.
The Trishul programme was launched in 1984 as part of Kalam’s integrated guided missile development programme.