SP’s Land Forces Team led by Lt Gen­eral Naresh Chand, Se­nior Tech­ni­cal Edi­tor of SP Guide Pub­li­ca­tions, in­ter­viewed Lt Gen­eral V.K. Sax­ena, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of Army Air De­fence, In­dian Army, in his of­fice at Sena Bha­van. The in­ter­view es­sen­tially cov­ered

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Lt Gen­eral V.K. Sax­ena

DG, Army Air De­fence, In­dian Army

SP’s Land Forces (SP’s): Can you give out the cur­rent and the fu­ture pat­tern of air threat glob­ally and how do you re­late it to the South Asian Re­gion?

Lt Gen­eral V.K. Sax­ena (DGAAD): We are pass­ing through ex­cit­ing times, wherein the sever­ity and the lethal­ity of the air threat is fast re­vamp­ing, both qual­i­ta­tively as well as quan­ti­ta­tively. In the cur­rent ca­pa­bil­ity do­main, two di­men­sions of the air threat stand out most con­spic­u­ously when com­pared to the erst­while. The first of this is the ‘mul­ti­plic­ity of aerial threat ve­hi­cles’. In sharp con­trast to the erst­while bi­nary ar­se­nal of air­craft and he­li­copters as threat plat­forms, to­day we have mul­ti­ple play­ers; viz. the UAVs (un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles), UCAVs (un­manned com­bat aerial ve­hi­cles), at­tack he­li­copters, ARMs (anti-ra­di­a­tion-mis­siles), cruise mis­siles, SSMs (sur­face-to- sur­face mis­siles) and more, each vy­ing with the other in terms of its lethal­ity. The sec­ond di­men­sion re­lates to re­vamp­ing of the ar­se­nal, im­ply­ing the mu­ni­tions. Gone are the days of bombs and rock­ets, mostly un­guided, play­ing out in the vis­ual do­main of ter­mi­nal air de­fence (AD) weapons; to­day there is a slew of pre­ci­sion-guided mu­ni­tions, ca­pa­ble of lethal strikes at long stand-off ranges with sub­met­ric ac­cu­racy. These are joined by the emerg­ing tech­no­log­i­cal won­ders in the form of smart and in­tel­li­gent mu­ni­tions, ca­pa­ble of loi­ter­ing over the bat­tle­field to seek and de­stroy their tar­gets, much like the ‘hawks in wait’ pounc­ing on un­sus­pect­ing birds of prey. So much so, that the am­mu­ni­tion it­self has be­come a threat ve­hi­cle.

As to the fu­tur­is­tic air threat, a cou­ple of trends are be­com­ing vis­i­ble. The first of these is the emer­gence of mul­ti­ple kill op­tions for threat ve­hi­cles, that is to say, that apart from the con­ven­tional hard kill with mis­siles, rock­ets, guns and PGMs (pre­ci­sion-guided mu­ni­tions), the soft kill op­tions in terms of laser or EW at­tack on the EM (elec­tro mag­netic) mus­cle of ground-based AD weapon sys­tems (GBADWS) are rapidly be­com­ing pos­si­ble. Be­sides this, the threat ve­hi­cles are be­com­ing stealth­ier, as front-line na­tions are in tough com­pe­ti­tion to do one bet­ter each day in this field. Most vis­i­bly of course is a phe­nom­e­non wherein the en­tire threat con­tin­uum seems to have been hi­jacked by the ‘un­manned revo­lu­tion’. Air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers are com­ing out with un­manned ver­sion of their ma­chines. UAVs are be­com­ing ‘in­sects-in-swarms’, un­con­trol­lable by con­tem­po­rary means, and there is much talk of MUMT – the manned and un­manned team­ing. The nano-kids in the form of car­bon nanopar­ti­cles are pro­vid­ing in­creas­ing sur­viv­abil­ity to air threat ve­hi­cles. In ad­di­tion, a great amount of de­vel­op­ment is tak­ing place in AD BMC2 AD Bat­tle Man­age­ment Com­mand and Con­trol) sys­tem. As I said, we are pass­ing through ex­cit­ing times.

SP’s: What are the plans at na­tional level to counter the above air threat and what role does the AAD play in ex­e­cut­ing the na­tional AD plan?

DGAAD: While the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­vid­ing air de­fence (AD) to the na­tional air space is that of the Air Force, the same is ex­e­cuted by all the three Ser­vices in the re­spec­tive do­mains of their core com­pe­ten­cies. Ac­cord­ingly, the AD means con­sist of air­crafts, GBADWS and naval AD re­sources, both on shore and on high seas. In this trio, the AAD pro­vides the ground-based ar­se­nal con­sist­ing of guns and VSHORADS (very short range AD sys­tem) in the vis­ual do­main, cou­pled with an en­tire hi­er­ar­chy of sur­face-to-air mis­siles (SAMs), start­ing from short range (SRSAM) to medium (MRSAM). In this way, the AAD is a ma­jor com­po­nent of the trio of AD ar­se­nal ded­i­cated to de­feat the aerial threat from our po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries.

SP’s: Does it in­clude AD for home­land se­cu­rity?

DGAAD: The AAD re­sources are de­ployed based on the per­cep­tion of ap­pre­ci­ated air threat to our vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas and vul­ner­a­ble points. Due to se­cu­rity rea­sons, it is not pos­si­ble to elu­ci­date whether AAD re­sources are de­ployed or not de­ployed for home­land se­cu­rity du­ties.

SP’s: Ma­jor­ity of the AAD equip­ment is be­com­ing ob­so­lete/ob­so­les­cent e.g. the

40mm L-70 gun is more than 40 years old. Same is true of some of the mis­sile sys­tems. What are your plans to mod­ernise the AAD weapon sys­tem?

DGAAD: AAD is fol­low­ing a well planned and a well thought out pol­icy of growth. This pol­icy is pro­gress­ing along two iden­ti­fi­able tracks, namely upgra­da­tion and mod­erni­sa­tion. Be­sides upgra­da­tion of ma­jor weapon sys­tems, all out ef­forts are be­ing made to sus­tain the old and vin­tage in­ven­tory through ex­ten­sive in-ser­vice main­te­nance and over­haul.

On the other track of mod­erni­sa­tion, there is a plan in place to in­duct new and mod­ern GBADWS. In essence I would say, Army AD is on the cusp of a ma­jor mod­erni­sa­tion drive.

SP’s: What is the progress on AAD man­age­ment sys­tem (termed as AD Con­trol and Reporting)?

DGAAD: We are fully alive to the fact that an AD Bat­tle Man­age­ment Sys­tem, con­ven­tion­ally re­ferred to as the AD Con­trol and Reporting (AD C&R) Sys­tem is the life­line of the AD bat­tle. In fact, so much is de­pen­dent on it for sur­veil­lance of airspace, to iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of aerial ob­jects, to their recog­ni­tion as friend or foe, fol­lowed by cre­ation of Recog­nised Air Sit­u­a­tion Pic­ture (RASP) based on Multi Sen­sor Track­ing (MST), threat pri­ori­ti­sa­tion, weapon se­lec­tion, threat des­ig­na­tion and minute-to-minute con­trol of the AD bat­tle, that a less than per­fect AD C and R sys­tem will make the best of GBADWS only ‘sub-op­ti­mal play­ers’.

With the above un­der­stand­ing, con­stant ef­forts are be­ing made to con­tin­u­ously re-vamp the ex­ist­ing AD C and R Sys­tem. The ma­jor fea­tures in­clude the tran­si­tion from net ra­dio/land line to SAT­COM do­main and bring in a fair de­gree of au­to­ma­tion in threat pro­cess­ing, tar­get data trans­mis­sion over a hi­er­ar­chy of AD C and R nodes, as also, the dy­namic con­trol of an AD bat­tle. The mod­erni­sa­tion of AD C and R on the above lines is pro­gress­ing well in the AAD en­vi­ron­ment.

SP’s: What is the sta­tus of Akash SAM sys­tem?

DGAAD: It is not pos­si­ble to give you the ex­act sta­tus, suf­fice to say that the same is pro­gress­ing well.

SP’s: Do you con­sider the gun sys­tems rel­e­vant in the cur­rent and fu­ture air threat sce­nar­ios?

DGAAD: I do not be­long to that school of Sub­ject Mat­ter Ex­perts who prop­a­gate, that the days of AD guns are num­bered. The fact is that I be­long to the op­po­site school which prop­a­gates that not only in the cur­rent threat sce­nario, but also in the fu­tur­is­tic sce­nario, the AD guns will re­main very much rel­e­vant. Their un­jammable de­ter­rence in the vis­ual do­main is the most ef­fec­tive last line of de­fence in the con­tin­uum of lay­ered and tiered, in­te­grated AD Sys­tem. Not only that, the guns are prov­ing to be ideal kill weapons against the mod­ern day threat ve­hi­cles like UAVs, UCAVs and at­tack he­li­copters, as also ef­fec­tive in the counter rocket, ar­tillery and mor­tar (C-RAM) mode.

Driven by the above thoughts, no gun man­u­fac­turer the world over has dis­carded or made his prod­uct ob­so­lete. Also, all cal­i­bres are alive. There is no stan­dard cal­i­bre. While the large cal­i­bres of Oto Me­lara and Rus­sian de­signs are prid­ing them­selves in that ‘big punch’ (large quan­tum of war­head) de­liv­ered ac­cu­rately, the 20mm weapons at the other end of the con­tin­uum, are bas­ing their ef­fec­tive­ness on the higher and higher rates of fire (Gat­tling in­cluded). In be­tween, the tech­nol­ogy is play­ing the game of feed­ing round-to-round in­tel­li­gence in each pro­jec­tile (in­stant muz­zle ve­loc­ity and re­sul­tant time of flight) to de­feat smart (stealthy) tar­gets, in­clud­ing the UAVs and UCAVs.

SP’s: What are your plans for in­di­geni­sa­tion of AD Weapon Sys­tems?

DGAAD: In­di­geni­sa­tion of GBADWS is the con­stant en­deav­our of our coun­try in gen­eral and DRDO and DPSUs in par­tic­u­lar. The be­gin­ning has al­ready been made in putting in place indige­nous up­grades of GBADWS.

Suc­cesses are be­ing achieved in mak­ing a va­ri­ety of radars for AAD and putting in place state-of-the-art C and R sys­tem.

SP’s: UAVs in­clud­ing armed ones are be­com­ing a real threat. Can you sug­gest means to counter them?

DGAAD: I have re­cently writ­ten an ar­ti­cle ti­tled ‘UAVs-UCAVs All the Way—What the Tech­nol­ogy Has for the AD War­rior’. I feel that the best op­tion to take out the UAV lies in the soft-kill do­main by ei­ther us­ing the ‘Killer Laser Rays’ or de­bil­i­tat­ing the SAT­COM link be­tween the UAV and its Ground Con­trol Sta­tion (GCS). In this field, new and ex­cit­ing op­tions are emerg­ing to ad­dress the UAV through hack­ing, phish­ing or through a va­ri­ety of cy­ber at­tacks. In the hard kill do­main, start­ing from small arms, ter­mi­nal AD guns and VSHORADS are con­sid­ered suit­able op­tions to bring down an UAV. In fact, all SAM pro­duc­ers claim that their SRSAMs and QRSAMs (VL-Mica, BAMSE, TOR, Pantsyr etc.) are ef­fec­tive against UAVs/ UCAVs. In an ex­treme op­tion, prece­dent ex­ists to launch manned air­crafts against UAVs. Ki­netic kill so­lu­tions are also avail­able, wherein, a low-cost kill body is put on a col­li­sion course to kill a UAV caus­ing cat­a­strophic dam­age due to the im­pact, ex­am­ples are Pere­grine Ea­gle and Cougar.

SP’s: How is real­is­tic train­ing im­parted so that per­son­nel of AAD can carry out their op­er­a­tional role ef­fec­tively?

DGAAD: Im­part­ing real­is­tic train­ing is one of my key re­sult ar­eas. The same is be­ing ruth­lessly fol­lowed not only in our pre­mier train­ing es­tab­lish­ments namely, the Army AD Col­lege and Army AD Cen­tre, but also in units and for­ma­tions. Some key thoughts in im­part­ing real­is­tic train­ing are as un­der: Train­ing must be real­is­tic and re­late to the ac­tual field con­di­tions, chal­lenges, scarci­ties and un­pre­dictabli­ties. Train­ing must be in­clu­sive whereas AAD is seen as a part of the en­tire fight­ing ma­chine and not as an iso­lated ver­ti­cal. The em­pha­sis must be to train the train­ers so that qual­ity train­ers trained ex­ten­sively can pro­lif­er­ate the train­ing ethics in the larger do­main. Ev­ery ef­fort must be made to con­tin­u­ously ex­plore, as to how the cut­ting edge of tech­nol­ogy in the do­main can be adapted to en­hance the qual­ity in the cur­rent train­ing regime. Ev­ery ef­fort must be made to ex­ploit the power of sim­u­la­tors and sim­u­la­tion tech­nolo­gies in sav­ing pre­cious op­er­a­tional hours of com­bat equip­ment. In­no­va­tion and out-of-the-box think­ing must al­ways be wel­comed.

Sur­face-to-air mis­sile Akash test-fired from the ITR Bala­sore

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