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‘IMMATURE HANDLING’ OF MISSILE SYSTEM LED TO BRAHMOS MISFIRING?
Incident draws attention to need for regular psychological tests of key officials
The inquiry into the misfire incident of an Indian missile into Pakistan has pointed towards ‘human error’. An air vice-marshal, a two-star rank officer of the air force is heading the probe, which is expected to be completed in a month and is mandated to fix responsibility for acts of omission and commission. It appears several officials handling the missile system are likely to be indicted for the lapse.
“It’s a case of immature operation or handling (mishandling) of the missile system, as there is no question of missile missing its target,” a key defence official said. Another officer said the process takes at least four hours to launch the missile with multiple electronic and mechanical locks.
Deviating from its flying path (trajectory) is next to impossible in case of BrahMos,” said an officer, indicating towards ‘human error’ for the misfire incident.
The incident also drew attention to the need to carry out regular psychological tests and background checks for all the officials handling such strategic arsenal.
During routine maintenance and inspection, a missile was accidentally released at around 7 pm on March 9. It was later learnt that the missile had landed inside the territory of Pakistan in Mian Channu town. While no one was hurt in the accident, India has regretted the misfire of its missile.
Though officially New Delhi has not named the missile, sources said that it was a supersonic cruise BrahMos missile, which landed 124km inside Pakistan territory.
Official sources maintained that it was a practice missile without a warhead and target coordinates were realistic but the missile was not meant to be launched. And, conventional missiles like BrahMos do not have to self-destruct mechanisms and a “fire and forget” missile. While other strategic and nuclear ballistic missiles like Agni and Prithvi do have such features. Once launched, the missile (BrahMos) cannot be aborted and flies at almost three times the speed of the sound of Mach 2.8.
Last week, defence minister Rajnath Singh, in a statement in Parliament has said standard operating procedures (SOPs) for “operations, maintenance, and inspection” of such systems were being reviewed, while adding that India attaches highest priority to safety and security of its weapon systems. “If any shortcoming is found, the same would be immediately rectified,” he said.
While assuring the House that the missile system is very reliable and safe, Rajnath Singh said that our safety procedures and protocols are of the highest order and are reviewed from time to time. He added that Indian Armed Forces are well-trained and disciplined and are well-experienced in handling such systems.
Rajnath’s response came two days after the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought “a joint probe to accurately establish the facts surrounding the incident” as the missile had landed in Pakistani territory. Terming it as a “profound level of incompetence”, Islamabad went into to call upon New Delhi to explain if the missile was indeed handled by its armed forces or some ‘rogue elements.’ Earlier, India’s ministry of defence had issued a statement, in which, it had inadvertently mentioned that “in the course of a routine maintenance, ‘a technical malfunction’ led to the accidental firing of a missile”. The word ‘technical malfunction’ has upset the developers of the BrahMos missile.
Developed by BrahMos Aerospace, it is a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia. And the supersonic cruise missile can be launched from land, air and water.
Touted as India’s most advanced missile, BrahMos is India’s only missile that will be exported. Philippines has become its first customer.