Decades of Obsolescence
Majority of AAD weapon systems are of erstwhile Soviet origin with an average vintage of 30 years. To add to the woes of operational readiness, there is shortage of certain types of ammunition which casts its shadow on training. This leads to the dilution
Majority of AAD weapon systems are of erstwhile Soviet origin with an average vintage of 30 years.
ATTENTION CATCHING HEADLINES LIKE ‘State of Unpreparedness’ and ‘Leaky Army Air Defence Umbrella’ have been used in the past to explain the current state of preparedness of Army Air Defence (AAD) and to highlight the lack of even rudimentary modernisation in this important pillar of warfighting machine but it seems that nothing can awaken the decision-makers from slumber.
In this respect, a review of the current weapon systems held by AAD is given in the following paragraphs:
Gun Systems Bofors 40mm L/70: The 40mm L/70 is the oldest system held with AAD which was inducted in 1964. In its time, it was a good gun which has undergone only marginal upgrade. Its fire control radar has undergone changes and currently it has the upgraded Flycatcher. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have not been able to develop an air defence gun and the quest for a successor system has undergone many futile twists and turns. There are not many new gun systems currently in the global market as the advanced nations are inclined towards missiles and other nations do not need such systems or are carrying on with the old systems. The only suitable system is Rheinmetall AD’s Skyshield which has advanced hit efficiency and destruction technology (AHEAD) ammunition which contains 152 heavy tungsten metal, spin stabilised subprojectiles and ejected by a time fuse. But regrettably, Rheinmetall air defence is at present under the shadow of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), thus there is no way this gun system can be acquired unless MoD does a U-turn, as it did for Barak missile recently. L/70 gun has recently undergone an upgradation carried out by the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). The upgrade involves electric drive, electro-optical sighting system and a laser-range finder. MoD has given the contract to BEL for about ` 600 crore.
23mm Twin-Gun: This gun is of erstwhile Soviet origin and is about 25 years old. It is a light weight, mechanical gun which can carry on for some more time provided it is upgraded with electric drive and an electro-optical sighting system with a laser range finder. BEL is also carrying on upgrade of this gun with the help of Israel and field trials are expected shortly.
Schilka: Schilka is a highly mobile tank-mounted air defence gun system with fire control radar. It is of erstwhile Soviet origin and has been in service since 1973. Currently, the gun system has some more life left but the radar is obsolete. The engine also needs replacement. Tungusgka was selected as its successor which was also of Soviet origin. It is a gun-missile system but for some reason only a few was imported during 1995 and there was no further acquisition due to unknown reasons. At present only Russia is producing such systems and thus the choice of successor gets limited to them only. Pantsir-S1 is a suitable gun—missile system of KBK (Russia) which can succeed Schilka, but this system is nowhere in the horizon. BEL is carrying out Schilka’s upgrade with Israeli Aero-- space Industries providing new radar, electro sights and some other sub systems. Hindustan Powerplus Caterpillar is providing a new diesel engine. The cabin is also being air-conditioned. The system is expected for trials during March 2014.
Kvadrat Missile System (SAM-6): This is a tank-mounted missile system which is highly mobile and radar controlled with a range of about 20 km. It has been in service since 1974. Its successor is supposed to be the Akash system to be developed by DRDO under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). Akash has been developed but only in static role. It has been accepted in static role by the Army but the void for mobile systems still remains. DRDO had initiated a joint venture with Israel to develop a medium-range surfaceto-air (MR-SAM) but there is not much development in this. After the clearance of Barak by India, this venture may also move forward. Russia’s BUK-M1 is the only suitable mobile system as other systems like Aster30, Israel’s Barak Next Generation, MBDA’s MICA and Lockheed Martin’s Patriot Advance Capability-3 (PAC-3) will have to be mounted on a suitable platform to make it mobile. Out of all these, PAC-3 seems the most capable.
OSA-AK (SAM8): This is also a tankmounted mobile system of Soviet origin. It is of 1980s vintage and was inducted around 1987. It has a range of about eight km and its replacement should be planned now, considering the long gestation period of new acquisitions by India. Trishul was being developed by DRDO as part of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) but it has not succeeded and thus has been foreclosed. Russia’s TOR M-1 which has a range of 12 km is the only original mobile missile system. The new terminology being used for such a system is quick reaction SAM (QRSAM). A request for proposal (RFP) was issued but no progress was made and it was dropped. It is understood that MBDA is working closely with DRDO to develop maitre (means friendship) which is an offshoot of Mica (range 20 km). It is possible that they will help DRDO in critical technologies like active seeker to have a new avatar of Trishul as QRSAM or maybe a short-range SAM.
OSA-AK weapon system