Army Air Defence – An Update
The security environment in India’s neighbourhood is always on a dangerous threshold thus it is essential to continuously modernise AAD weaponry and manpower
The security environment in India’s neighbourhood is always on a dangerous threshold thus it is essential to continuously modernise AAD weaponry and manpower.
Lt General Naresh Chand (Retd)
ARMY AIR DEFENCE (AAD) is an important component of modern warfare as air power and air threat is developing rapidly due to improved aeronautics, avionics and armament. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), cruise and ballistic missiles have added another dimension to the threat. UAVs are cost effective, easy to acquire and operate thus a counter to this threat has to be acquired. The security environment in India’s neighbourhood is always on a dangerous threshold thus it is essential to continuously modernise AAD weaponry and manpower.
Current scenario and future plans
40mm-L/70. 40mm-L/70 is the main stay of AAD and has been the warhorse of AAD since 1964. It was to be replaced by 2000 however 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 was blacklisted by India but the present government is reviewing the situation and the process of acquisition may restart soon. This area is most critical as India cannot afford to replace all of them with missiles. The time frame for such a major acquisition will take about five years to fructify. After that notionally if 10 regiments have to be provided with the new guns then at the rather ambitious rate of one regiment per year, it will take 10 years to equip all the 10 regiments. That takes it to 2030 and if the gun remains current for even three decades, the time frame will be 2060. The air threat will change rapidly and these systems will become obsolete thus the need for urgency with more modern guns and ammunition.
Upgrade of 40mm L70. The gun has been upgraded jointly by BEL and Ordnance Factory, Jabalpur; with electric power lay and electro-optical sighting system. The process of induction of this system is in progress. However at best this an interim solution as the basic gun remains of the early 1960s vintage and this combination cannot work in the night and fire control radar is still required.
23mm Twin gun. This is a fair weather gun system which is of 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.
Upgrade of 23mm Twin gun. It has been upgraded by BEL and Punj Lloyd. Punj Lloyd had tied up with a Polish company and their system has been shortlisted for the Indian Army. The upgrade includes power lay and electro-optical sighting system which will enhance its capability manifold and also provide it with night firing capability.
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 twists and turns for buying additional mounts. The result is that the armour formations are devoid of mobile AAD guns as the old Schilkas are obsolete and difficult to maintain.
Schilka upgrade. The Schilka upgrade has been carried out jointly by BEL with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the fire control radar and Elta for the thermal imager and the laser range finder. The upgrade package includes a more powerful engine, digital computer, better electrooptical 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 shoulder fired missiles. The induction has also started and the upgraded system will manage the air threat for the next decade or so. Meanwhile, a better system should be acquired.
Super-Vulcan of IAI. The Super-Vulcan is an advanced tank-based, mobile air defence system in service in the Israeli Air Force. It has M113/Vulcan/Stinger launchers with an enhanced suit of TV and FLIR target auto-tracking capability. It has an effective range from 500 m to 6,000 m against helicopters and 8,000 m against aircraft. Missile Systems Quick Reaction SAM (QR SAM) system. The current system is OSA-AK which is a highly mobile system, acquired 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 had been issued twice. Hopefully the current RFP will be taken to its logical conclusion. Following systems are available globally:
Tor-M1 9M330 SHORAD system. The Tor-M1 SHORAD (SAM-15) designed by Almaz-Antey of Russia, is a classic mobile Russian system designed especially for air defence of armoured and other mobile formations. Tor is successor to OSA-AK SHORAD (SAM-8) system. It can engage targets from medium to very low-altitudes, against many types of aerial targets like helicopters, fighters, UAVs, guided/cruise missiles and precision guided weapon; in an intense jamming environment. The combat vehicle can operate autonomously and can also fire on
the move. The system can be brought into action in three minutes and typical reaction time, from target detection to missile launch, could range from 3.4 seconds for stationary positions to 10 seconds while on the move. Each fire unit can engage two separate targets. Tor-M1 can detect and track up to 48 targets at a maximum range of 25 km. It can engage two targets simultaneously at a range of 1 to 12 km and altitude of 10 to 6,000 m with a kill probability of 92-95 per cent.
Surface launched advanced medium-range air-to-air missile
(SLAMRAAM). SLAMRAAM is a key player in Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems’ state-of-the-art integrated air and missile defence systems which can counter current and future cruise missile threats, and a wide range of air breathing threats. SLAMRAAM is capable of defending manoeuvring land forces, high-value fixed assets and mass population centres. SLAMRAAM is the US Army’s domestic variant of the Norwegian advanced surface-to-air missile system (NASAMS). SLAMRAAM system uses the AMRAAM fire-and-forget missile, a surveillance radar, a fire distribution centre and AMRAAM launchers. The SLAMRAAM launcher mounts six AMRAAM missiles on a turreted high-mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicle which provides 360° coverage. The US Army uses the Raytheon AN/ MPQ-64 Sentinel radar to carry out the surveillance and target search, acquisition, identification and tracking functions. The electronically scanned phased array radar uses range gate pulse doppler operation at X-band, has a scan rate of 30 rpm and range of 75 km.
Hawk-AMRAAM air defence system. Raytheon and Kongsberg Defence have jointly developed the Hawk-AMRAAM air defence system, which combines the capabilities of Hawk and AMRAAM missiles by integrating the system with FDC. The system can include the Sentinel radar and the Hawk AN/MPQ-61 high power illuminator for target tracking and illumination, although it is possible to hook up with any number of radars and missile systems to the FDC. It has been reported that Hawk has been upgraded and named Hawk 21 with the FDC developed by Kongsberg as part of NASAM system.
Medium Range SAM (MRSAM) System Kvadrat.
Kvadrat is the current system which is more than 35 years old and has the technology of early 1960s thus an 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 has been contracted for semi-static role.
Joint venture (JV) of DRDO and
Israel Aerospace Industries. This JV is for the development of long/medium-range SAM. There are many name to the same system like Barak next-generation, longrange SAM (LRSAM) and MRSAM. The LRSAM is the naval version which has been successfully fired on December 30, 2015, from INS Kolkata. Land version is called MRSAM, is said to be a very advanced SAM that can track and shoot down incoming missiles and other flying objects with very high level of accuracy. While LRSAM is for Navy, the Air Force has already an order for MRSAM and the Army variant has been recently approved. The system includes a missile and multi-functional surveillance and Threat alert radar for detection, tracking and guidance of the missile. An Army version of the MRSAM for one regiment worth about 9,000 crore (about $1.4 billion) was agreed upon between Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his Israeli counterpart Moshe Ya’alon during his visit to India in February 2015. However, given the requirement this number is expected to go up. The missiles will be manufactured by the Bharat Dynamics Limited.
Shoulder-fired SAM Systems. The current system is Igla which is also in service with the Indian Navy and the Air Force. A tri-service RFP was issued and comparative trials have been carried out but there has been no further development.
Schilka Air Defence gun