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THE IAF TODAY
Ballistic Missile Defence for India
By Dr. Sanjay Badri-Maharaj
Unique among the countries of Asia, India finds itself threatened by two nuclear powers - China and Pakistan. The latter, using thinly-veiled nuclear blackmail tactics, has embarked upon a campaign of terror against India and considers itself immune from Indian retaliation thanks to its nuclear weapons.
To counter this dual threat, India must make a comprehensive ballistic missile defence system one of its major defence priorities. Indeed, an effective missile defence network, covering all major military, infrastructure and civilian targets could render the spectre of Indian cities being incinerated by a lunatic regime in Pakistan somewhat less likely and would offer a considerable buffer for India when considering the nuclear asymmetry vs. China.
It is no secret - thanks to the ever speculative Indian media - that India has expressed considerable interest in a number of anti-missile systems and has made some small purchases of ballistic missile defence technologies. Moreover, DRDO has often expressed the hope that its Akash SAM could offer the potential for development into an effective anti-missile system and has confirmed that it is working on a two-tiered missile defence network.
DRDO efforts aside, it is clear that imported systems would greatly accelerate Indian BMD ambitions and to this end, India is examining the Israeli Arrow, the Almaz design bureau's S-300 PMU-1/-2 and S-400 and the Antey design bureau's Antey 2500/ S-300VM.
This article will examine India's various BMD options and attempt to speculate on an effective combination for the comprehensive defence of India.
The existing Air Defence Network
India's air defence network has two principal components - the Air Defence Ground Environment System ( ADGES ) and the Base Air Defence Zones ( BADZ ). The ADGES network provides for wide area radar coverage and permits the detection and interception of most aerial incursions into Indian airspace. The BADZ system, however, is far more concetrated with radars, interceptors, SAMs and AAA units working in conjunction to provide an intense and highly effective defensive barrier to attacks on vital targets.
As this article is primarily focussed on the deployment of ground-based anti-missile systems in the Indian context, it is worthwhile to examine India's current employment of SAMs. The Indian Air Force deploys some 39 SAM squadrons and numerous MANPADS flights.
Most major Indian airbases are protected by up to one full squadron of S-125 Pechora-1b SAMs. Some of the bases closer to the IB and LoC have additional deployments of OSA-AKM mobile SAMs and nearly all bases have close in defences centred around radar directed 40mm Bofors L-40/70 AAA guns and Igla-1M MANPADS. The BADZ controlling these assets usually has a ST-68/U phased-array radar at its hub, augmented by the surveillance and weapons control radars of the SAMs and AAA units and supplemented by Indra-1 low-level radars.
Non-military targets, such as cities and critical industrial sites are also well protected with Pechoras and Bofors AAA guns. In the past, India deployed as many as 30 V-750 Dvina launchers in 5 squadrons to defend Delhi alone. Now the Dvinas stand replaced by Pechoras, but the basic concept remains unchanged.
The Indian army operates several regiments of Kvadrat, Strella 10M and OSA-AKM mobile SAMs but these are intended for the defence of the army's field formations rather than for the defence of targets within India.
With upgrades planned and modifications undertaken in the past, India's BADZs network is a highly effective and most formidable defensive system against attacks from aircraft and even cruise missiles. It has, however, only the most limited capability against ballistic missiles - a volley launch of Pechoras might get lucky against a couple of incoming missile warheads - and even the planned upgrade of the Pechoras will only add marginally to this capability.
With respect to the ADGES network, this has a highly effective detection capability against medium and high altitude aerial incursions, but - because of the vast area to be covered - has only partial ( though extensive ) low-level coverage. The interceptors it controls and the radars at its disposal are largely without missile detection or interception capability.
The heart of the ADGES network is the huge THD-1955 radar which, despite its upgrades and excellent performance, is ageing. TRS-2215D and PSM-33 radars complete the array of long-range 3-D surveillance radars. These are highly effective in detecting aircraft and possibly even cruise missiles but are almost without capability against ballistic missiles. Numerous low-level radars are also deployed with the Indra series being the most modern. Older radars such as the P-19 and P-15 are still in service but they must be considered as being near the end of their service lives.
It is now wise to briefly examine the existing set-up in detail. This may be repetitive, but it is essential for the reader to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of India's air defences.
Indian Air Defences: Sensor Network
The Indian Air Defence Ground Environment System employs a three tier detection network. While this system is currently in the process of a major modernization program, the basic structure of the ADGES network will remain unchanged. The first layer, rather surprisingly, consists of Mobile Observation Posts. These remain among the most reliable of the early-warning mechanisms available to the Indian Air Force.(1) The MOPs consists of two-man teams equipped with a HF/VHF radio set and field glasses.(2) The personnel in the MOP are very well versed in the visual identification of aircraft as well as their general direction of flight.(3)
The MOPs are scattered along the borders at random intervals, ranging between 25 and 45 kilometres.(4) The MOPs give the first warning of airborne intrusion, the general direction of the attack and, more often than not, the number of aircraft and their type.(5) The MOPs are assisted in this task by personnel from the Indian police forces and Railway Protection Force who are given some training in aircraft identification.(6) These agencies report via a communications system based on both HF/VHF radio sets as well as telephone lines. A more advanced communications system based on fibre optic cables and satellite communications is also available to assist the MOPs in reporting to the radar picket line.(7)
The radar picket line, which lies about 150km behind the MOPs, consists of a number of radar clusters. These comprise three radar stations separated at a distance of the sum of their radii.(8) The equipment issued to these clusters generally comprises one license-made Soviet ST-68/U and two P-18/-19 radars. These are then flanked by two P-12/-15 radars.(9) The ST-68/U acts as the Control and Reporting Centre ( CRC ).
|P-15 'Flatface' Radar of a SA-3 Pechora SAM Squadron|
Moreover, India has been license producing the French designed TRS-2215D 3-D surveillance radar for a number of years and has derived an indigenously built radar - PSM Mk.2 from it. These have probably supplanted most of the older Soviet-bloc equipment.(10) It should be pointed out, that these radars are all long-range surveillance types with ranges in excess of 300km and good performance against targets flying at all altitudes - even those employing electronic countermeasures (ECM) and anti-radiation missiles.(11)
The PSM-33 Mk.2 Radar of the 'Desert Scanners' Unit in Rajasthan.
The ST-68/U is known by NATO as the 'Tin Shield' radar and has a maximum range of some 350 km with a peak power output of 1.23MW, operating in the S/E/F bands. It is optimised for the detection of low-flying aircraft and cruise missiles employing electronic countermeasures (ECM). The TRS-2215D and PSM-33 Mk.2 have surveillance ranges of up to 510km with a peak power output of 660-700KW operating in the E/F bands and possess a very significant ECCM capability.
|The ST-68 'Tin Shield' Radar equip mobile 'TRU's or Transportable Radar Units in the Indian Air Force.|
These radar pickets are responsible for giving accurate information on the intruding force to the Air Defence Control Centres (ADCC) located behind the radar picket line. The picket line and the ADCC are separated by a first layer of air defence weapons which are the first to engage the intruders.(12)
The backbone of the Indian Air Defence Ground Environment system is the huge THD-1955 3-D long-range surveillance radar that was once in widespread use in NATO. This radar, originally of French design, has been license produced in India for a number of years. This E/F-band radar, though somewhat elderly, still has sterling performance characteristics and is capable of maximum detection ranges of up to 1000 km, though the Indian Air Force usually limits its power to a 400km detection range. These form the core of the ADCCs. The THD-1955 has a peak operating power of up to 20 MW, though its normal operating power is usually 2MW. The radar has comprehensive ECM/ECCM capabilities and has no real detection altitude limitation. If the radar has one disadvantage it is its sheer size. The Indian Air Force has undertaken to upgrade these radars with digital signal processing and clutter removal techniques.
|Not many pictures of the THD-1955 in IAF service exist. This photograph of a THD-1955 is reproduced from a Sticker Sheet distributed by the IAF.|
ADCCs also keep in touch with the Base Air Defence Zone ( BADZ ) control centres. The BADZ is a scaled down version of the ADGES configuration and is geared towards the defence of key air bases and other high value targets. The BADZ is limited to an arc of 100km, compared to the hundreds of kilometres in the case of the ADGES system.
Like the ADGES, the BADZ consists of three layers. The first of which are the mobile observation posts, followed by a mixed layer of weapons and their associated radars along with a picket line of low-level radars. These are in turn supported by anti-aircraft artillery batteries. This network is controlled by a ST-68U radar.(13) The BADZ provides comprehensive and gap-free coverage over its assigned area of responsibility. Some observers have likened the BADZ set-up to the defence pattern of a carrier battle group. Any aircraft attacking a vital military target, therefore, not only has to get past the ADGES, but also the far more formidable BADZ.
Surface-to-Air Missiles and Anti-Aircraft guns
The backbone of the Indian SAM network is the S-125 (SA-3b) Pechora medium range SAM. This missile is ageing, but has been successfully upgraded with new ECCM and new seeker heads to prolong its service life. The current SAM network is estimated to be equipped with up to 30 squadrons of Pechoras and 4-8 squadrons of SA-8bs.
The Pechora has a range of around 25km and a ceiling of 18km, though it is possible that the upgrades may have increased the range to 32km and the ceiling to 20km. Moreover, the 'Low Blow' radar associated with the system has been fitted with TV cameras with a 25km range ( it is possible that these may be fitted with effective night-vision devices ) enabling the system to engage targets in an intense ECM environment. It has been reported that India is seriously considering an offer by the Russians to upgrade the Pechoras even further - to Pechora-2 standard. A series of trials were conducted in India in mid-1999 and an order appeared imminent.(14)
|Low Blow Radar in the background provides Acquisition and guidance to the SA-3 Pechoras Battery in the foreground.|
|The existing Radar coverage is also augmented by the older P-19 Russian radars which are on the verge of being phased out.|
For short-range defence, the IAF operates a few squadrons of SA-8b OSA-AKM. This missile, with a range of 15km and a ceiling of 12km, defends several key airbases along the Pakistani border. Though the SA-8b is still a very viable missile system, a replacement is nearing service.
Last-ditch hard-kill defences are in the hands of a substantial number of Igla-1M (SA-16) man-portable SAMs and a large number of anti-aircraft artillery regiments from the Indian army operating license-built Bofors 40mm L-40/70 anti-aircraft guns.
The AA guns are radar directed by a mix of license made 'Flycatcher' and 'Super Fledermaus' and the indigenous 'PIW-519' radars. The 'Super Fledermaus', though ageing, has been extensively upgraded and now represents a very capable tracking radar with significant capability against difficult, low-flying targets such as cruise missiles. The upgraded radar has a range of 90km and is fitted with a new digital fire control computer.
In addition, licensed built Dutch 'Reporter' radars are used for low-level target detection. This system has a range of 40km and can track up to 20 targets simultaneously. India is upgrading its Flak batteries with improved electro-optical fire-control equipment such as laser rangefinders and thermal imagers.
India's 17 fighter squadrons - 2 Mirage 2000H, 3 MiG-29, 2 Su-30K/MKI and 10 MiG-21 - are of widely varying quality. The MiG-21s are, in large part, equipped only with short-range infra-red AAMs and have only the most basic point air-defence tasks. The MiG-29 fleet is better equipped and carries BVR AAMs but still lacks effective autonomous operational capabilities.
The Mirage 2000s, though highly effective, are handicapped by ageing radars. India's MiG-21 upgrade will confer a massive improvement in the air-defence capabilities of the aircraft while the Su-30MKI is an interceptor of unmatched ability in Asia.
The MiG-21 fleet is currently armed with R-550 Magic-2 and R-60 air-to-air missiles - the normal load being 4 R-60s. However, over 125 MiG-21bis aircraft are currently being upgraded with new Kopyo radars which bestow the ability to fire R-73 and R-77 air-to-air missiles, alongside older R-27s. This confers a quantum leap in the air defence potential of the MiG-21bis and with it the air defence potential of the Indian interceptor force.
The MiG-29B/S are armed with R-60,R-73 and R-27 air-to-air missiles while the Mirage 2000s carry Super 530D and R-550 Magic-2s. However, the IAF has embarked on a limited upgradation program for its MiG-29s, being undertaken at Ozhar, which will confer the ability to fire the R-77 missile. Moreover, the IAF has adapted the MiG-29 to fire Super 530D and R-550s, while the Mirage 2000s have carried out trials with R-27, R-60 and R-73 AAMs. It is not inconceivable that the Mirage 2000 fleet may be cleared to fire the R-77 in the not too distant future.
The IAF plans to further modernize its interceptor force with Sukhoi Su-30 and its much delayed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The Su-30 force is gradually taking shape with twenty-eight out of the 50 aircraft ordered having been delivered. It has been reported that a further 10 aircraft are now ready for delivery. The definitive Indian Su-30MKI possesses a powerful phased-array radar and thrust-vectoring engines alongside a highly sophisticated EW suite. More Su-30s will be obtained to eventually produce a force of approximately 8 squadrons. These aircraft, besides the normal R-73, R-27 and R-77 AAMs, routinely carry long-range versions of the R-27 which enable the aircraft to engage targets at ranges exceeding 130km .
India's LCA is slowly moving towards service sometime before 2010. This single engine aircraft is a small and highly maneuverable air-superiority fighter with significant ground attack potential. A new active-radar homing AAM - the Astra - is under development for this aircraft and has a planned range of 100km.
To these dedicated fighter defences must be added India's tactical strike aircraft - all of which routinely carry air-to-air missiles. The Jaguars, MiG-27s and MiG-23BNs can fire a mix of R-60 and R-550 short-range air-to-air missiles.
Shortcomings of the Existing Network
There is little doubt that the current air defence set-up is formidable and presents an effective challenge to aerial attacks upon airbases and important installations in India. With upgrades to radars, aircraft and missiles, this network is likely to remain a viable defence against air and cruise missile attack for the foreseeable future.
However, though India will continue to face a threat from air-attacks, the principal menace comes from short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles launched by Pakistan and China. In time, these will be augmented by stealthy cruise missiles and represent a clear and present danger to the entire landmass of India - no target, no matter how far from the borders - is immune from attack.
The current air defence network has many shortcomings with respect to dealing with these future threats and it is worthwhile to summarize these shortcomings before looking at what needs to be done to upgrade India's defences:
1) At present, SAM defences are confined to relatively short-range defence of point targets. Area defence is almost exclusively the preserve of manned interceptors.
2) Many of the principal long-range 3-D surveillance and GCI radars are ageing. Most of the systems are of 1980s vintage and, despite being upgraded, would provide inadequate detection capabilities against stealthy cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
3) Neither the ADGES nor BADZ system is truly nationwide. Defences are concentrated at targets within aircraft range from Pakistan and China. Defences are wholly inadequate around targets deep within India's heartland and in the South.
4) Neither India's SAMs nor manned interceptors has any meaningful capability against ballistic missiles.
5) The entire system is insufficiently hardened to survive an attack by ballistic missiles. It cannot be ruled out that initial attacks would be aimed at suppressing defences prior to a nuclear strike.
In addition to these fundamental shortcomings, it is also essential to point out that the ADGES network was designed at a time when the missile threat to India from China was at best existential and, from Pakistan, non-existent. How times have changed !
Now, with reference to the shortcomings listed above and with a clear understanding of India's air defences, it is now proper to examine the threat that India now faces from its two nuclear armed neighbours.
The probable characteristics of Pakistan's missiles are as follows:
|Ghauri-1||claimed 1500km||600-700 kg||10-12 in service|
|Ghauri -2||claimed 2000km||700 kg||tested|
|Shaheen-1||700 km||1000 kg||tested / in service ?|
|Shaheen-2||claimed 2500 km||1000 kg||displayed.|
|Hatf-1||80 km||500 kg||in service|
|Hatf-3||600km||500kg||probably Chinese M-9|
Source: J.Hackett Ballistic Missile Threat : India & Pakistan CDISS website - www.cdiss.org:80/column3.htm
With a total stockpile of between 30 and 50 nuclear warheads, Pakistan is likely to be able to arm a significant proportion of its missile inventory with such weapons. The ranges of Pakistan's missiles in service and under development would put almost all of India within range.(15)
Given its past history of aggression and its recent history of nuclear blackmail supporting military adventurism and terrorism, the Pakistan's missiles and their nuclear warheads represent the critical component of that country's feeling of immunity from Indian retribution. Moreover, they provide Pakistan with the ability to threaten virtually all of India, thus presenting fresh problems for Indian defences.
Pakistan's missiles are all land-based and so their points of launch and trajectories are relatively easy to predict. However, because of the close proximity of the launch sites to India, the warning time in the event of an attack could be as little as 5 minutes.(16) This would demand an extremely rapid detection, tracking and engagement system.
With over 600 ballistic missiles and approximately 400 nuclear warheads, China is a most formidable nuclear power with ambitions that extend beyond South Asia. China also possesses a substantial inventory of air and sea launched cruise missiles, some of which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
China's nuclear forces can be summarized as follows(17):
|Chinese Tactical Forces: End of 2000|
|Delivery Systems||Entry into Service||Range
|Warhead Number and Type||Launcher Number|
|M-9||1988||600||300||Single HE or nuclear||?|
|M-18||1990s?||Single HE or nuclear||?|
|Grand Total||120 |
|1. Nuclear armed.|
|Chinese Strategic Forces: End of 2000|
|Weapon Designations||Launcher Number||Warhead Loading
(Number x Mt)
|Warhead Number||Total Yield
|Land Based Missiles|
|Dong Feng-3A (DF-3A)
|40||1 x 2-3.3, or 3 MRV 50-100 kt||40||6-132||16.3-88.7|
|Dong Feng-4 (DF-4)
|20||1 x 2-3.3||20||40-66||31.7-44.3|
|Dong Feng-5A (DF-5A)
|20||1 x 4-5||20||80-100||50.4-58.4|
|Dong Feng-21A (DF-21A)
|48||1 x 0.20-0.50||48||9.6-24||16.4-30.2|
|Dong Feng-31 (DF-31)||0||MIRV x ?||0||0||0|
|12||1 x 0.20-0.50||12||2.4-6||4.1-7.6|
|Xia Class Submarine||1||12 x JL-1|
|120||1-3 x bomb||120||kt to Mt (120 )||120 |
|30||1 x bomb||30||kt to Mt (30 )||30 |
|1. Equivalent megatonnage (EMT) is
based on the relative blast effect and is calculated by Y2/3 where Y is the
yield in megatons.
2. Assumes 1 Mt nominal average yield (both gross and EMT).
|Chinese Delivery Systems and Characteristics|
|Delivery Systems||Entry into Service||Range
|Warhead Number and Type|
|Dong Feng-3A (DF-3A)
|1971||2800||2150||1000||1 x 2-3.3 Mt, or 3 MRV 50-100 kt|
|Dong Feng-4 (DF-4)
|1980||4750||2200||1 x 2-3.3 Mt|
|Dong Feng-5A (DF-5A)
|1981||13000||3200||500||1 x 4-5 Mt|
|Dong Feng-21A (DF-21A)
|1985||1800||600||1 x 0.20-0.50 Mt|
|Dong Feng-31 (DF-31)||2001?||8000||MIRV x ?|
|New ICBM||2010?||12-13000||MIRV x ?|
|1987||1700||600||1 x 0.20-0.50 Mt|
|Xia Class Submarine||1987||12 x JL-1|
|2010?||8000||600||1 x 0.20-0.50 Mt|
|1965||3100||4500||1-3 x bomb (kt to Mt)|
|1970||400||1500||1 x bomb (kt to Mt)|
As can be seen, China's forces are truly formidable in the South Asian context. However, set against this must be the fact that China's ICBMs are intended primarily to deter the United States while some of its IRBMs might be diverted against Taiwan. Moreover, though nuclear capable, China does not seem to have so armed more than 120 of its 335 M-11/-9/-18 series of missiles.
In the ( as yet unlikely ) event that China chooses to enter into a confrontation with India, China's India-specific nuclear weapons would centre around its IRBM forces of over 100 DF-3A, DF-4 and DF-21 missiles. It is suggested that the DF-3As will gradually fade from the scene as more DF-21s come into service. However, India must factor in these until further information becomes available. Added to these would be M-11/-9/-18 missiles aimed at targets closer to the Sino-Indian frontier.
Moreover, China's SLBMs lend a completely new dimension to the potential threat to India, capable of being launched from a wide variety of locations, thus making defensive preparations even more difficult.
Finally, India must contend with China's bomber forces. With a mix of elderly H-6 bombers and more modern strike aircraft, China could conceivable equip these with cruise missiles for deep strikes into Indian territory. It is not impossible - indeed it is likely - for China to eventually modify some of its C-601/-611/-801K air-launched cruise missiles for nuclear warhead delivery. Thus India will have to contend with a Chinese nuclear threat encompassing several delivery methods. This further complicates defensive plans for India.
Ballistic Missile Defence Options: Existing Systems
At present, India's ballistic missile defence plans have revolved around the evaluation of three distinct systems: the Israeli Arrow, the Russian Antey 2500/ S-300VM and the Russian Almaz S-300 PMU-1/-2. Moreover, India has made tentative requests for information on the American Patriot PAC-3. All of these systems have advantages and disadvantages that are worth considering.(18)
The American Patriot system has been initially designed as an antiaircraft system. In addition, the absence of a need to cover US territory against intermediate-range missiles has influenced the spectrum of weapons against which this system can be effective. Considering its relatively poor result against the Iraq Scud missiles, the Patriot has been successively updated several times. Unfortunately, these updates have not eliminated the fundamental limitations this system has with respect to target engagement velocities (up to 3000 m/s, corresponding approximately to the ballistic-missile extreme range of 1000 km). It is noteworthy that the last Patriot modification could not pass the testing phase for several years. In August 2002, after a series of failures, it was officially announced that there would be about a one-year delay in the start of system manufacturing.
Unlike its competitors, the Patriot does not have its own ballistic-missile acquisition aid. During the Gulf War, over-the-horizon radars deployed in Turkey and satellite surveillance systems were used to detect Scud missiles. The cost of such information support is not generally included in the initial price of American Patriots. In India's case, the additional problem of US approval must be considered. The United States - with typical shortsightedness - has balked at fully sharing ballistic missile defence systems and technologies with India.
The main advantage of the Israeli Arrow advanced air-defence missile system (ADMS) is its capability to engage tactical missiles up to 50-km altitudes and up to 70-km ranges - even up to 90 to 100 km according to sources. However, the Arrow system is designed to engage Iraq's Scud missiles and Iran's ballistic missiles that are capable of destroying targets throughout Israel, with their range not exceeding 800 to 1000 km.
Furthermore, the Arrow, like the Patriot, has been optimised to engage launch vehicles intended to deliver conventional or at the outside, chemical warheads, while the Pakistan missiles, unlike the Iranian and Iraqi ones, are capable of delivering small nuclear warheads that may be imperative to intercept. The Arrow's lower engagement level is 8 km and so, will need additional weapon systems to be deployed for protecting it against aircraft attacks.
The performance analysis of targets to be engaged by the Patriot and the Arrow reveals that these systems will be able to engage about 50% of these. In combination, however, the Arrow and Patriot could provide a reasonably effective defence against ballistic missiles with ranges of up to 1000km.
As a result of its huge US input, the Arrow missile is subject to US approval and, despite Israel's willingness to supply the system to India, the United States Department of State has have given no commitment to approve the sale of the system to India.
Another major strength of the Arrow system lies in its superb "Green Pine" missile tracking radar. This system can detect missiles at ranges of up to 500km and provides considerable warning time to alert defences.(19)
The Russian S-300 PMU-l system and its modification - the S-300PMU -2 - reportedly have similar ATBM capabilities to the PAC-3. The Russian systems feature an enhanced capability of changing firing positions quickly, which is important for their survivability on battlefields.(20)
The Pakistan missiles threatening India are basically similar to the US Pershing-2 missiles that forced Russia to develop the S-300V and, further, the S-300VM (Antei-2500). The Pershing-2 had a nuclear warhead with a very small radar cross-section and delivery range of up to 2500 km. The Pershing-2 missiles were more difficult to intercept than their current Pakistan counterparts. However, Russian specialists were able to develop systems to engage them successfully.
S-300VM ADMS allows engagement of nearly invisible ballistic-missile warheads moving at up to 4500 meters per second and launched from distances of up to 2500 km. ADMS includes a dedicated mobile radar capable of detecting a ballistic-missile warhead within 3 seconds and deliver timely data for firing against it. The S-300VM has the additional advantage in its capability to "cut out" enemy jammers and command-centre aircraft beyond its engagement range of 200 km.
Yet even the S-300VM has significant shortcomings. The ceiling of the S-300VM is around 30km against aircraft and 25km against ballistic missiles and while its range against aircraft may be great, its published range against ballistic missiles is only 40km. Moreover, reports circulating in India have indicated that the S-300VM has failed trials at the Pokhran test range.(21)
The Almaz S-400 is a development of the S-300 PMU family with a staggering range of some 400km against aircraft. It has been suggested that the ATBM performance of this missile is substantial and could provide long-range area defence against air and missile attack. It is also reported that a further development, the S-500 is in progress.
With all these systems on offer to India, it would seem that India has thus far opted for the Arrow as its first choice with various Russian systems as a second choice. Moreover, DRDO has embarked upon the first steps of its own ATBM program.
Indigenous BMD efforts and prospects
Given shortcomings in existing foreign systems and the reticence of the United States to permit the export of India's preferred choice - the Arrow - it is not surprising that some effort has gone into developing some basic BMD technologies in India.
India's first efforts in this field can be seen in the much delayed Akash SAM. This medium range SAM, guided by the Rajendra phased array radar and linked to a 150km range Central Acquisition radar will provide a limited ATBM capability to India.
The Akash uses an integral ramjet rocket propulsion system to give a low-volume, low-weight (700 kg launch weight) missile configuration, and has a low reaction time - from detection to missile launch - of 15 seconds. This allows the missile to carry a heavier warhead (60 kg). The solid-propellant booster accelerates the missile in 4.5 seconds to Mach 1.5, which is then jettisoned and the ramjet motor is then ignited for 30 seconds to Mach 2.8 - 3.5 at 20g. Akash has a range of 27 km, with an effective ceiling of 18 km.
The Akash is capable of engaging aircraft flying at tree-top height. Development is on to increase speed, maximum altitude and range to 60 km. A dual mode radar/infra-red seeker is also being developed as is a longer range version of the Rajendra radar, to give earlier warning and tracking of ballistic missile targets.
Rajendra is a 3-D phased-array surveillance/engagement radar developed by the Electronic Research & Development Establishment (ERDE). Also mounted on a modified BMP-2 chassis, like the Akash, the radar is capable of tracking 64 targets, engage 4 simultaneously and guide up to 12 missiles. The Rajendra has air surveillance, multiple target tracking and multiple missile guidance functions via multi-channel monopulse features. It includes fully digital signal processing system with adaptive moving target indicator, coherent signal processing, FFTs, and variable pulse repetition frequency. Rajendra comprises a surveillance antenna array with 4000 elements operating in the G/H-Band (4-8 GHz), engagement antenna array with 1000 elements operating in the I/J-Band (8-20 GHz), a 16-element IFF array and steering units. The range of the surveillance radar is some 60 km against aircraft targets. (22)
The Akash-Rajendra combination is to be linked to a mobile Central Acquisition Radar with a planar-array antenna. This radar can track some 150 targets at ranges of up to 150km. It is as yet unclear as to its capabilities in the BMD role.
The Akash has been primarily developed to meet the requirements for a successor to the IAF's Pechora SAM and the army's Kvadrat mobile SAMs, however, it should have some limited ATBM capability especially against M-9 and M-11 missiles.
Moreover, India has announced plans to develop a two-tier ballistic missile defence system to deal with incoming ballistic missiles. The system is to use satellites for communications and a unique two layered defensive line using surface-to-air missile for any incoming ballistic missile attack.(23)
This will no doubt represent a massive challenge to India's technological capabilities and significant imports may yet be necessary, but the Akash has demonstrated that the basic skills and technologies have been developed and can be substantially enhanced without too much foreign input.
However, assistance may come from a somewhat unexpected source. During Aero India 2003, the European missile giant - MBDA and Bharat Dynamics Limited signed a very promising Memorandum of Understanding to extend co-operation in development and also manufacture of all varieties of missile systems including anti-tank, surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles required both by the Indian Armed Forces and those abroad.(24)
MBDA is responsible for development of the Aster 30 SAM which has a limited ATBM capability in its basic version and a dedicated BMD version is under development.(25) Should India make full use of the MBDA-BDL MoU, technology from the Aster 30 and its variants - if not the actual systems - could be used to hasten the development of an Indian ATBM system. It is a golden opportunity and should not be wasted. Joint-ventures and technology transfers are vital for progress on ATBM systems in India - Almaz and Antey would do well to heed this.
India has also been enhancing its ballistic missile detection capabilities by purchasing two Israeli Green Pine radars and a large number of Aerostat radars.(26)
It is possible that at least some of India's existing air defence radars have limited ballistic missile detection and tracking capabilities, but this is as yet inadequate. The induction of the Rajendra and Central Acquisition radars should alleviate this shortcoming to some extent. However, the induction of more Green Pine radars and other shorter range radars with ballistic missile detection and tracking capabilities is absolutely necessary.
Nonetheless, if India is to deploy an effective BMD system in the near future - 5-7 years - it is probable that imported systems would need to be deployed in significant numbers alongside indigenous systems. What then would be the most effective combination for India ?
Most manufacturers, in seeking to promote their own products, try to exaggerate the capabilities of their individual products. Yet, it has been shown that current BMD systems have shortcomings. As such, only a combination of systems would provide adequate coverage.
Regrettably, the political aspects of the sale of the Arrow ATBM system are now moving into the realms of the surreal. The American penchant for appeasing Pakistan is staggering and the failure of the US to clear the sale of the Arrow to India - a fellow democracy - does not augur well for future India-US defence cooperation or indeed for political trust.
An Indian BMD network
Any BMD network for India must be able to provide defence in depth against a variety of threats from China and Pakistan. As has been shown, these are sophisticated, of varying ranges and capabilities and can attack targets deep within India.
The BADZ system provides the basis from which a BMD network can be developed. At present, principal SAMs - the Pechoras - need to be upgraded but even this upgrade can do no more than provide a limited ATBM capability. Of course this should be done so that even the ageing Pechoras can provide a veneer of ATBM defence.
However, the SAMs of the BADZ must, in the future, be fully capable of ballistic missile defence and anti-aircraft/ cruise missile defence out to the maximum range of the BADZ surveillance systems. To this end, it is suggested that a combination of Akash/ modified Akash SAMs and S-300VM ADMS systems - augmented of course by short-range mobile SAMs of the OSA-AKM class , AAA and MANPADS - should be deployed to defend every Indian air-base and important target throughout the country - including targets in the deep South and Heartland of India.
This might sound like a preposterously excessive deployment, however, India can no longer assume that only targets close to the IB, LoC and LAC will be attacked. India's two potential adversaries have the means to attack in depth and as such India must defend in depth.
Cost is an important factor in any decision and there is little doubt that any extensive BMD system would be very expensive. However, set against this are the following factors:
1) The intial investment for BMD would be large but maintaining and upgrading the system would represent relatively modest costs.
2) It is likely that any comprehensive system could remain in service for several decades without the need for replacement.
3) BMD cannot be seen in isolation. Most BMD system would also dramatically enhance India's defences against air-breathing targets such as aircraft and cruise missiles.
The BADZs can at best provide point ballistic missile defence - because of the short ATBM ranges of the S-300VM and Akash - and as a result, it would be necessary to consider the deployment of an additional layer of longer range systems - a combination of S-400 and Arrow ( if it is made available ) systems being the preferred choice. The latter two systems being particularly useful in the defence of India's population and industrial centres as they facilitate engagements at extreme ranges and altitudes.
In other words, India's BMD requirements cannot be served by only a single system but by networking and integrating a variety of types. The Akash and its derivatives alongside the S-300VMs ( and modifications/ upgrades thereof ) will form the backbone of the BMD network - supplementing and then supplanting SAMs in the existing BADZ network and expanding that network to cover all airbases and Vital Areas / Vital Points ( VAs/ VPs ). To add additional defences to cities, Arrow and S-400 systems must be considered.
In total, some 400 launchers - S-300VM, S-400 and Arrow - might be needed, besides some 200 Akash. This would represent a colossal expenditure and a massive upgrade of India's current land based air defence cover. Yet, it must be emphasized once more that the threat has increased to such proportions that the current 120-180 odd Pechora launchers are wholly inadequate to meet future requirements. An alternative would be to wait for Indian versions similar in capability to the S-300VM, Arrow and S-400 to be developed. But does India have that much time ?
S.P.Baranwal, Military Yearbook 1990-1991 ( New Delhi : Guide Publications, 1991 ), p.246
2. J.Baranwal, SP's Military Yearbook 1992-1993 ( New Delhi: Guide Publications, 1993 ), p.748
3. ibid p.SS 13
4. ibid p.749
6. G.K.Tanham & M. Agmon, The Indian Air Force: Trends & Prospects ( Santa Monica: RAND, 1995), pp.47-48
7. S.Basu, 'Battle Eyes in the Desert' in the Hindu Weekly Edition: 26 August 1995, p.16
8. J.Baranwal, SP's Military Yearbook 1992-1993, p.SS 13
10. B.Blake,Jane's Radar and Electronic Warfare Systems:1995-1996,(Surrey: Jane's Info.Group, 1995),p.17
11. For a more detailed discussion, see Jane's Radar & E.W. Systems as well as the Indian Air Force section of SP's Military Yearbook 1992-1993, pp.738-758
12. Baranwal, SP's Military Yearbook 1992-1993, p.749
14. The Pechoras, after their periodic upgrades, may have a very limited capability against M-11 type missiles. The IAF would not want to rely on this limited defence, but it does present an interesting twist to India's SAMs.
15. It is curious to note, however, that relatively few of Pakistan's missile tests have demonstrated the range capabilities claimed by Pakistan. It is also vital to note that the Ghauri series are effectively North Korean Nodong missiles with Chinese guidance packages while the Shaheen series are Chinese missiles of modified M-9 and DF-3A classes.
16. In comparison, the warning time in the event of a Soviet attack on the US was approximately 30 minutes.
17. See http://nuketesting.enviroweb.org/hew/Nwfaq/Nfaq7-2.html
18. 'How Can Indian Cities Be Protected Against Pakistan Missiles ?', VAYU Aerospace Review: VI/ 2002, pp. 18-19
19. Jane's Land Based Air Defence, ( Surrey, Jane's Information Group, 1998 ), pp. 256-257
20. Ibid, pp. 133-134
21. Ibid p. 139
23. 'India developing ballistic missile defences to counter missile attacks', Press Trust of India: February 9th 2003
24. 'MBDA and Bharat Dynamics Limited Signed a Strategic Memorandum of Understanding': MBDA Press Release: February 14th 2003
25. Jane's Land Based Air Defence: 1998-99, pp.108-110
26. 'India gets missile tracing Israeli radar', Press Trust of India: June 28th 2002 see also 'India asks Israel to speed up supply of Aerostat Balloons', Press Trust of India: June 1st 2002
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