Ballistic Missile Defense
Missile defence was one of the potential areas for strategic partnership between the US and India identified in the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) in January 2004. June 2005, as part of the "New Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship," signed by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the United States offered India increased opportunities for technology transfer, collaboration, co-production, and research and development, with the understanding that US technology-related sanctions on India will be lifted.
The US turned down Israel’s request to transfer the Arrow-II (a US-Israel joint venture) to India, despite it being an endo-atmospheric (range within Earth’s atmosphere) system, though it agreed to transfer the Green Pine Radar. Two Green Pine units were transfered to India around July 2002 for evaluation. One was sent for trial to the national capital area and another was placed closer to the border to permit surveillance of Pakistani tests. Then in August 2005 India's Defense Secretary Yogendera Narain revealed that, after three to four years of discussions, India had acquired a third Green Pine radar from Israel for "advanced research". In February 2003 it was reported that India had agreed to invest approximately $150 million in Israel's Arrow-2 anti-missile system.
Indian BMD experimentats progressed rapidly after the DRDO convinced the government on its ability to develop BMD technology. DRDO is testing a two-tier BMD (ballistic missile defence) system, capable of tracking and destroying incoming hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere. DRDO's BMD program has a two-tiered system consisting of two interceptor missiles, namely Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) for high altitude interception and Advanced Air Defence (AAD) for lower altitude interception. The PAD missiles are for intercepting ballistic missiles at altitudes between 50-80 km and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile is for destroying them at heights between 15-30 km [the capability aspired by the Akash].
The BMD system was tested for the first time on 27 November 2006 when an exo-atmospheric hypersonic interceptor missile was used to destroy an "enemy'' Prithvi missile at an altitude of 40-50 km. With the test of the PAD missile, India became the fourth country to have successfully developed an Anti-Ballistic missile system, after United States, Russia and Israel. The second time, on 06 December 2007, an endo-atmospheric interceptor took on an enemy missile at an altitude of 15-km. As of early 2008 it was planned that in July 2008 there would be another test of the exo-interceptor, at an 80-km altitude against a longer range 'enemy' missile [such a test was conducated in March 2009] Then, in September-October 2008, it was planned to test the exo and endo together.
On 06 March 2009 Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted a test of its interceptor missile and missile tracking radars for validating the advancements made in the Air Defence program. Modifications made in the interceptor missile PAD 02 provided it with higher energy, an improved guidance and control system and on top of it all, a Gimbaled Directional Warhead with it. Though the interceptor missiles, have been tested earlier, the main aim of thetest was to validate the capabilities of the indigenously developed 'Swordfish' Long Range Tracking Radar (LRTR). Swordfish is a target acquisition and fire control radar for the BMD system. The missile to be hit will be fired from a longer distance than it was in the earlier test. DRDO would test whether the radar can track the incoming missile from that distance or not.
India inched closer towards its endeavour to put in place its own home-grown Ballistic Missile Defence System as it successfully carried out the third Interceptor test on 06 March 2009 at 1624 hrs from Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Wheeler Island in Orissa. The mission control room burst into raptures as the radar display indicated the interception and destruction of the decoy enemy missile by the interceptor. Today’s test achieved all the mission objectives. The two-stage Interceptor Missile fitted with advanced systems hit the target enemy missile at 75 kms altitude. To mimic the incoming enemy’s ballistic missile trajectory, Dhanush missile went to an altitude of 120 Km and was launched from ship about 100 km away from the Orissa Coast. The Interceptor missile was launched from a mobile launcher located on Wheeler Island Launch Complex.
After the successful test of BMD system on 06 March 2009, top DRDO scientist V K Saraswat said the Indian Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) shield was better than the American system. “PAC III is an outdated system. Our Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile is 30 per cent superior in terms of range and capability. AAD intercepts at much higher ranges and altitudes compared to PAC III as it has only 15km range for BMD.”
Saraswat said Russia, Israel and France provided assistance in areas where DRDO needed help “bridging technology gap and accelerating technology development.” Russia helped India develop the new Radio Frequency Seeker for the interceptor, Israel provided help in developing the ‘Swordfish’ long-range tracking radar and the French helped with the Fire Control System for the BMD.
After the third test in early 2009, plans called for a test of the endo and exo together in an integrated mode later in 2009. DRDO said the first phase of the system would be developed by 2011. If the tests prove successful, the DRDO will go ahead with the deployment of the BMD by 2015.
To tackle missiles with a striking range of over 6,000 km, hypersonic interceptor missiles will have to be developed for the phase 2 of the defence program. Plans are also afoot to have space-based surveillance systems to ensure a hostile threat can be detected even earlier than the present long-range tracking radars (LRTRs) used in the BMD system.