Three Decades of Sta­tus Quo

Army Air De­fence (AAD) is hold­ing sys­tems of vary­ing vin­tage rang­ing from 49-year-old (L70 gun) to the youngest be­ing 17-year-old (Tan­gushka). How­ever, ma­jor­ity of the re­main­ing guns and mis­siles are more than two decades old. Con­sid­er­ing the vin­tage, the

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral (Retd) Naresh Chand

Army Air De­fence (AAD) is hold­ing sys­tems of vary­ing vin­tage rang­ing from 49-year-old (L70 gun) to the youngest be­ing 17-year-old (Tan­gushka).

ARMY AIR DE­FENCE (AAD) is an im­por­tant com­po­nent of mod­ern war­fare. The air threat is de­vel­op­ing at a very fast rate with bet­ter aero­nau­tics, avion­ics and ar­ma­ment. Un­manned ae­rial ve­hi­cles (UAVs) have added an­other di­men­sion to the threat which started with re­con­nais­sance and sur­veil­lance, and has man­i­fested into armed plat­forms. The em­ploy­ment of cruise and bal­lis­tic mis­siles make ad­ver­saries’ air­power for­mi­da­ble. The se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment in In­dia’s neigh­bour­hood is al­ways on a dan­ger­ous thresh­old and a short fuse, am­ply clear by the re­cent in­ci­dent on the line of con­trol (LoC) in spite of the cease­fire be­ing in force; thus it is nec­es­sary to mod­ernise the Army on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Cur­rent AD Sce­nario

AAD is hold­ing sys­tems of vary­ing vin­tage rang­ing from 49-year-old (L70 gun) to the youngest be­ing 17-year-old (Tan­gushka). How­ever, ma­jor­ity of the re­main­ing guns and mis­siles are more than two decades old. The tech­nol­ogy, es­pe­cially in the field of am­mu­ni­tion, mis­siles, sen­sors and ac­tive seek­ers has ad­vanced very rapidly, thus it is nec­es­sary to up­grade and re­place the ex­ist­ing AD weapon sys­tems at least ev­ery 15-20 years, so that they re­main cur­rent. Apart from the as­pect of ob­so­les­cence, there is a fac­tor of shelf life of am­mu­ni­tion and mis­siles which ef­fects their lethal­ity, ac­cu­racy and safety. Con­sid­er­ing the vin­tage, the cur­rent AAD pic­ture is rather dis­mal when re­viewed sys­tem by sys­tem.

L/70 Gun sys­tem: L/70 is the main­stay of AAD and has been the warhorse of AAD since 1964. It was to be re­placed but there is no progress. The De­fence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s (DRDO) devel­op­ment ef­fort also kept its re­place­ment at a limb for about two decades. Not many gun sys­tems are cur­rently avail­able but a pos­si­ble choice was Skyshield of Rhein­metall AD but un­for­tu­nately the com­pany has been black­listed by In­dia. Thus there is no hope even in the dis­tant fu­ture for a suc­ces­sor sys­tem. Even if a gun is short­listed, it may take at least five years for the de­liv­ery to start. No­tion­ally, if 10 reg­i­ments have to be pro­vided with the new guns then at the rate of one reg­i­ment per year, it will take 10 years to equip all the 10 reg­i­ments pro­vided there is no spill over. That takes it to 2028 and if the gun re­mains cur­rent for even three decades, the time frame will be 2058. It is most un­likely that the cur­rent guns and am­mu­ni­tion will be able to counter the air­power of 2058. For­tu­nately, the in­tro­duc­tion of ra­dio fuse has in­creased the lethal­ity of L70 man­i­fold, but it is scaled at only 25 per cent of the to­tal au­tho­ri­sa­tion. It will thus be cost ef­fec­tive to in­crease the scal­ing to at least 50 per cent which will in­crease lethal­ity. It may also be pru­dent to live with the present sys­tem if no re­place­ment is pos­si­ble in a rea­son­able time frame and the gun is re­placed with a suit­able mis­sile sys­tem in the fu­ture. L70 is also be­ing up­graded with elec­tric power lay and elec­tro-op­ti­cal sight­ing sys­tem. The elec­tro-op­ti­cal sight­ing sys­tem is su­per­flu­ous as it al­ready has fire con­trol radar which is much su­pe­rior to the pro­posed sys­tem.

23mm Twin gun: This is a fair weather gun sys­tem which is more than three decades old. How­ever, its rate of fir­ing is very good (2,000 rounds per minute). It is suit­able for mo­bile role and em­ploy­ment in the moun­tains. It is be­ing up­graded with a power lay and elec­tro-op­ti­cal sight­ing sys­tem which will en­hance its ca­pa­bil­ity man­i­fold and also pro­vide it with night-fir­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. The upgra­da­tion should be im­ple­mented at the ear­li­est.

Apart from the as­pect of ob­so­les­cence, there is a fac­tor of shelf life of am­mu­ni­tion and mis­siles which ef­fects their lethal­ity, ac­cu­racy and safety

Schilka Sys­tem: It is a highly mo­bile sys­tem for sup­port­ing ar­mour for­ma­tions and is in ser­vice since the early 1970s. Its suc­ces­sor was Tan­gushka, one reg­i­ment of which was pro­cured, but there were many twist and turns for buy­ing ad­di­tional mounts. The re­sult is that the AAD is stuck with lim­ited equip­ment which is ob­so­lete and dif­fi­cult to main­tain. The upgra­da­tion has been car­ried out with a new more pow­er­ful en­gine, dig­i­tal com­puter, bet­ter elec­tro-op­ti­cal sight­ing sys­tem and a new fire con­trol radar. The four bar­rel 23mm gun with a rate of fire of 3,400 rounds per minute has been re­tained and there is a pro­vi­sion for fir­ing shoul­der­fired mis­siles. The process should be speeded up for equip­ping se­lected reg­i­ments with the up­graded mounts. Mean­while, pos­si­bil­i­ties should be ex­plored for in­duc­tion of a bet­ter sys­tem through ‘Make and Buy’ or ‘joint ven­ture’ route.

Quick Re­ac­tion SAM (QRSAM) sys­tem: The cur­rent sys­tem is OSA-AK which is a highly mo­bile sys­tem for the air de­fence of ar­mour for­ma­tions. This sys­tem is more than 20 years old and needs to be re­placed. DRDO’s ef­fort to de­velop Tr­ishul sys­tem did not suc­ceed and a RFP has been is­sued twice. Hopefully, the cur­rent RFP will be taken to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion.

Medium-Range SAM (MR­SAM) sys­tem: Kvadrat is the cur­rent sys­tem which is more than 35 years old and has the tech­nol­ogy of early 1960s, thus a RFP has been is­sued but later on with­drawn due to poor re­sponse. As DRDO’s Akash has not been found suit­able for mo­bile role, a few reg­i­ments of Akash have been con­tracted for semi-static role. Mean­while, DRDO has signed a MoU with Is­rael for the joint devel­op­ment of a mis­sile sys­tem of about 70 km. It is meant for Army, Navy and the Air Force. Mean­while, in the in­terim phase, the AAD may ex­plore the pos­si­bil­ity of im­port­ing a few reg­i­ments of Pa­triot Ad­vance Ca­pa­bil­ity-3 (PAC-3) from the US through the FMS route. PAC-3 is the ob­vi­ous choice as it is war proven; has hit-to-kill tech­nol­ogy; can en­gage air­craft, he­li­copters, UAVs, cruise and tac­ti­cal bal­lis­tic mis­siles. It is also de­ployed with many na­tions in­clud­ing the US.

Shoul­der-fired sur­face-to-air (SAM)

sys­tems: The cur­rent sys­tem is Igla which is also in ser­vice with the In­dian Navy and the Air Force. A tri-ser­vice re­quest for pro­posal (RFP) was is­sued and com­par­a­tive tri­als have been car­ried out. It is un­der­stood that many sys­tems were tried out in­clud­ing Saab’s RBS70-NG. The re­sults are awaited.

Dur­ing the last two Repub­lic Day pa­rades, there has been no AAD equip­ment on dis­play as there is noth­ing new to show—a telling com­ment on the mod­erni­sa­tion of AAD.

Tan­gushka self-pro­pelled air de­fense sys­tem

Pa­triot Ad­vance Ca­pa­bil­ity-3 (PAC-3) mis­sile

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