India is now speeding up efforts in this arena with the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) investing heavily in hypersonic research. The experience gained from the development and operation of the BrahMos Mach-3 supersonic cruise missile by the Indian armed forces will be an added advantage not available to other nations in the region. As a result, India could likely have operational hypersonic weapons capability before the end of the decade.
With hypersonic weapons capability still some time away, Indian efforts to have a credible Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system in place are being speeded up and the Russian S-400 system will play a key role here. Russia has already been requested to speed up deliveries of the five S-400 Triumf air-defence missile systems. Deliveries are to commence later this year and the 5th and final S-400 system will be delivered in 2025. The importance of the S-400 deal signed with Russia in 2018 can be gauged from the decision taken, to proceed with the acquisition despite strong opposition from the USA.
The urgency to induct the S-400 is also related to the complexity of the weapon system, which requires at least 3-5 years to be fully integrated into India’s expanding BMD and Ground-Based Air Defence (GBAD) network. An operational S-400 system has the capability to simultaneously engage up to 36 targets and launch 72 missiles to engage aerial threats as far as 400 km away. The S-400 can be considered the pinnacle of Russian military technology and can engage aircraft, stealth aircraft and drones, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and hypersonic weapons conferring an unmatched defensive capability against any aggressor. Highly-mobile and automated, S-400 systems feature advanced long-range radars that are able to track 100 to 300 targets at the same time.
Indigenous missile defence
A credible BMD system is now a vital necessity for India to protect important cities and vital installations against hostile attack, now that India is catering for the real possibility of a two-front conflict in the future. The DRDO which is responsible for the Indian BMD system is working in close coordination with the Indian Air Force (IAF) to deliver a two-layered BMD programme for defending the vital assets from ballistic missile attacks. As per the DRDO, tests have been completed validating all the elements of the BMD systems in an operational scenario. In March 2019, an Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test ‘Mission Shakti’ tested a DRDO-developed BMD interceptor missile successfully engaged an orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The three-stage interceptor missile with two solid rocket boosters was operated in ‘Hit to Kill’ mode.
Two new BMD interceptors are to developed in Phase-II of the programme to intercept Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM). These hypersonic missile interceptors (AD1 and AD-2) are being developed to intercept ballistic missiles with a range of around 5,000 km (3,100 mi). The two anti-ballistic missiles can intercept targets from up to 5,000 km (3,100 mi) both at Exo (outside atmosphere) and endoatmospheric or inside the atmosphere regions.
This two-layered BMD approach makes use of the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile for high altitude interception with low altitude interception being handled by the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile. The Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) Pradyumna and Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) interceptors make up the first layer. These land and ship-based interceptor missiles can destroy missiles at exo-atmospheric altitudes of 50–180 km. The DRDO performed its first interception in November 2006, when a modified Prithvi-II surface-to-surface missile was engaged by a PAD missile at an altitude of 50 km. The second trial took place in March 2009, when a ship-launched Dhanush missile was engaged by a PAD missile at an altitude of 75km.
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MEETING NEW AIR AND MISSILE THREATS
The Indian Air Force has begun substantial modernisation of its strategic air defences. But while progress has undoubtedly been made, strategic SAM defences remain weak, writes SANJAY BADRI MAHARAJ
EXPENSIVE BUT INDISPENSABLE AIRPOWER
AMIT GUPTA argues why given the harsh economic challenges facing the country, which is not unique to India, the best way to afford an effective air force is to plan differently but smartly by going for techno-globalisation rather than futile techno-nationalism
IAF INDIGENISATION REALISTIC TARGETS ARE NEEDED
India cannot and must not expect complete indigenisation. The tendency to view Indian efforts in terms of indigenous content is singularly unhelpful. While increasing indigenization is necessary, economies of scale, costs, and realistic appraisal of the level of technology transfer have to be taken into consideration, argues SANJAY BADRI MAHARAJ
EVERGREEN RUSSIAN FACTOR IN EVOLUTION OF IAF
AMIT COWSHISH argues why it is hard to ignore the Russian factor in India’s military capability
NANO DRONES: A BIG IMPACT ON THE BATTLEFIELD
Nano drones, the advanced systems that pack a lot of functionality into a tiny form factor, are becoming a major military tool. With China having a huge lead, India needs to get its act together, argues RAKESH KRISHNAN SIMHA
BEING SELF-RELIANT IN DEFENCE
The ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign is speeding up the growth of indigenous defence manufacturing capability in India, writes C SANTHOSH
POST-RAFALE IAF GROWTH CHALLENGES
In order to have its authorized 42 squadrons earliest by 2038, the Indian Air Force requires $110 billion (₹770,000 crore), estimates ANIL CHOPRA. Where is that money? Will this remain a pipe dream?
AUGMENTING THE AIRLIFT CAPABILITY
India is slowly and steadily raising its means to deploy and sustain military forces across possible distant battlefields by air, writes NINAD D SHETH
MSMEs Can Make Or Mar ‘Make In India' Initiative
The fulcrum of the ‘Make in India’ programme is the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) segment and, as of now, the MSMEs are thought of only as an adjunct. But that is slowly changing, explains R Chandrakanth
Defence Against Offence: India Is Building Up Its BMD Systems
The experience gained from the development and operation of the BrahMos Mach-3 supersonic cruise missile by the Indian armed forces will be an added advantage not available to other nations in the region. As a result, India could likely have operational hypersonic weapons capability before the end of the decade, explains C Santhosh
How We ‘Talk' to Our Pets
Did you ever wonder how you can look in your pet’s eyes and know if he or she is sad, mad or glad or wants attention and they can do the same for you? How can that be when there are no spoken words between you? The answer is neuroscience, and you don’t have to be Dr. Doolittle to “talk” with the animals. We sometimes forget humans are part of the animal kingdom, too, with much the same physical organs and emotions.
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Medium Range Surface to Air Missile launch successful
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