India’s Missile Shopping List

India is still weak in many vital rocket technologies, and needs help in composites, electronics, computers, sensors, navigation, guidance, control and propulsion, according to a Pentagon study which ranks countries’ military capabilities. To bolster its efforts in these areas, India is looking for imports.

Composites from America dried up in 1992 when the United States sanctioned the Indian Space Research Organization. Lightweight and heat-resistant composite materials are ideal for making rocket motor cases and nozzles. They improve a rocket’s range as well as its engine thrust. The U.S. sanctions also dried up ISRO’s American sources of application-specific integrated circuits, which are needed for rocket and missile guidance.

India also needs high quality gyroscopes and accelerometers for mis-sile guidance. India has some gyroscopes of its own, but Indian engineers are seeking better equipment “to improve the accuracy and stabilization of their missile systems,” says one State Department analyst. India recently obtained U.S. ring laser gyro-scopes for fighter planes, but the gyros are difficult to adapt for missiles. “I don’t think India can get there without a lot of help from the outside,” the analyst says.

India also hopes to get high quality accelerometers to measure missile speed more accurately. In addition, India is shopping for laser radars to improve guidance, although India has not approached U.S. companies to buy them recently.

Computers are also on India’s shopping list, according to the Pentagon study, which says that India has “limited” capability in digital computing, “no capability” in hybrid computing, but “capabilities in some critical elements” of advanced computing.

According to the Pentagon, computers play “a pivotal role in the development and deployment of missiles and missile systems.” Digital computers can predict the behavior of entire weapon systems and are required to process space-borne sensor data in real time, the study says. The recent decontrol of computers may have helped India fill some of its needs.