An IDC Analysis with inputs from Sayan Majumdar


New Delhi, 13 November 2003

It appears as if by luck and some design this BJP Government and George Fernandes will go down as the vehicles that energised the hardware of India's defence and the DRDO is also beginning to deliver on projects during their time. We hope this trend will accelerate. There is more money available and COTS i.e. Computers Off The Self Technology is helping to fuel improvements to projects with better software while the experiences of Prithvi and Agni and ISRO are helping Indian missile technology.

The most promising results being shown (after the DRDO's sonars for the Navy steered by Dr V K Aatre), are of the BRAHMOS missile. On Sunday the 9th November the missile was test fired successfully once again for the fifth time, this time from a mobile launcher. The DRDO is steering the Brahmos project with Russian NPO Mach as a Company with co-investment with Russian funds lying in India. The missile is actually based on the very capable and proven Yokhant missile of Russia and with Indian inputs of inertial navigation it can be a future winner for all the three services. It has export potentiality too. The press statement below said 45 Russian scientists were present at the launch on 9th November at the Chandipur range, which is well fitted out for missile tests. Two tests had also been carried out from sea and one was from INS Rajput, which could be retro fitted. Larsen and Tubro had managed the stabilization of the Prithvi for sea trials and could do the same for the Brahmos. It is a challenging task but can be a winner.


Brahmos Test-fired Successfully . The Indo-Russian joint venture cruise missile Brahmos was successfully test-fired from the Chandipur defence base on Wednesday 29th October and again on 9th Nov. In addition to the Indian scientists, about 45 Russian scientists were involved in the test. The missile can be used for naval and air-operations. It works on the ‘fire and forget’ principle and can carry a warhead weighing up to 200 kg. The missile is 9.2 meters long, weighs about three tonnes and has a strike range of 290 km. Sources say it can travel at twice the speed of sound and can climb to 14 km. The missile, charged with solid propellant, has a sensor to track its target. Its course can be changed within 20 km of the target. These tests were part of trials being conducted before induction. Scientific advisor to the DRDO Chief VK Atre said, “Preparations are in full swing, but the tests will be carried out early next year.” Earlier, Defence Minister George Fernandes had said that the 3,000 km range Agni-III will be tested by this year-end. The army has already raised an artillery division, under the aegis of the Southern Command, for its missile regiments. While the Prithvi variants are being inducted, the Army will soon take in the 700km range Agni-I sources said. The regiments are expected to be operational by 2004 end.


We relate the prognosis and speculate on the future, as the Indian Navy already has the 200 plus km KLUB 54 ME land attack missiles in its inventory in the INS Talwar class and some submarines called the Harpoonski, the Russian diminutive for Harpoon. Brahmos has potential for the future with greater ranges.

The first Gulf War in 1991 saw the advent of LACMs (Land-Attack Cruise Missiles) in shape of United States Tomahawk. Previously it was known that ballistic missile submarines could effectively act as a nuclear deterrent and aircraft carriers were effective in force-projection on enemy homeland in both nuclear and conventional scenario. LACMs made it possible even for attack submarines and Cruisers and Destroyers to influence the battle on land. Presently the Tomahawk FCS (Fire Control Systems) on the United States ships is TWCS or ATWCS (AN/SWG-3). The FCS on submarines is the CCS (Combat Control System) Mk1, CCS Mk2, or AN/BSY-1.

The Tomahawk is an all-weather submarine or ship-launched LACM. After launch, a solid propellant propels the missile until a small turbofan engine takes over for the cruise portion of the flight. Radar detection is difficult because of the missile's small cross-section and low altitude flight. Similarly, infrared detection is difficult because the turbofan engine emits little heat. Systems include GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver, an upgrade of the optical DSMAC (Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation) system, TOA (Time of Arrival) control, and improved 402 turbo engines.

The onboard computer manages three guidance systems. The INS (Inertial Navigation System) keeps track of the smallest change in velocity of the missile from its launch. If the warhead is nuclear to cause wide-area destruction the degree of accuracy delivered by INS is sufficient.

However in case of a conventional payload to achieve greater accuracy and precision TERCOM (Terrain Contour Matching) system is used. Stored in the missiles computer memory is a set of digital altitude profiles of strips of landscapes at certain points of its intended flight path. Manipulating radar signals, TERCOM compares the height of the terrain passing below the missile to the digital altitude profiles stored inside. If a “drift” is noticed course correction is made to put the missile “back on path.” The process is repeated several times to check the “drift”. Thus a fair chance of obtaining an accuracy of even 10 metres in certain cases may be expected. Also a flight-path can be input into the onboard system to make the missile “fly around” and thus evade the enemy defences. The United States NIMA (National Imagery and Mapping Agency) provides the necessary databases for planning. Targets and maps are generated for TERCOM and DSMAC. The database used by TERCOM to maintain its course is based on topographical maps constructed through surveys by reconnaissance satellites.

From Block III development onwards GPS (Global Positioning System) is made to complement the navigational data computed by INS. Some deficiencies of TERCOM are also taken care of since TERCOM is somewhat less effective on say the flat Iraqi deserts where the average height of terrain does not vary over long stretches for proper identification. GPS is based on an array of low-earth NAVSTAR (NAVigation Satellite Targeting And Ranging) satellites. Computers onboard the missile, communicate with the satellites to accurately determine their instantaneous location. Enroute, some missiles may also execute a PST (Precision Strike Tomahawk Mission) transmitting its status back to a ground station via satellite communication.

As the missile closes to the target, DSMAC (Digital Scene Matching Area Correlator) using zoom lens collects images and matches them with the snaps of the approach to the target stored in the memory, and finally leads the missile to the exact target.

Since the 1991 Persian Gulf War about 1,100 Tomahawks have been fired, including up to 70 against Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan in late 2001. Tomahawk was used extensively during Desert Storm in 1991, in Iraq in January and June 1993, in Bosnia (Deliberate Force) in 1995 and in Iraq (Desert Strike) in 1996. Four hundred Block II and Block III missiles were fired on five separate occasions. They were again operational in the Gulf War II in 2003.

Navy Tomahawk land attack missiles also played a critical role in the 1999 Kosovo air campaign. Used selectively, they were sent to destroy over 50 percent of key headquarters and electrical power station targets. Initial attacks against Yugoslav C4I (Command, Communications, Control and Intelligence) infrastructure. This was accompanied by extensive electronic jamming of both military and public communications, remote targeting by long-range air launched cruise missiles, achievement of “information dominance” utilizing space-based sensors and satellites and air strikes launched from faraway bases in United States and Europe with assistance of IFR (In-Flight Refueling) tankers. A joint-operation on such a massive scale with cooperation among the services of a multi-national coalition is exemplary indeed.

The significance of LACMs was well appreciated by the Indian Navy planners. They obtained their first LACM from Russia in the shape of the LACM variant of the Klub (SS-N-27 Sizzler) ASCM (Anti-Ship Cruise Missile) designed to engage static and slow-moving targets, whose co-ordinates are known in advance, even if these targets are protected by active defences and electronic countermeasures. Since the “more accurate” navigation facilities from the GPS system was reserved for the United States and their allies while for others the signals are prone to “degradation”, Russian GLONASS series of satellites possibly provides the guidance. Whether the Indo-Russian supersonic PJ-10 BrahMos matures as an ASCM or LACM needs to be seen.

If media reports are correct the limited range (around 300 kilometres) of both Klub and BrahMos may be viewed as limitations. To strike deep inland of the enemy the Indian Navy ships and submarines will need to venture unacceptably close to enemy shores where they may be vulnerable to enemy strike fighters and coastal submarines. Thus a LACM of a range of nearly 1,000 km should be the objective.

The Indians are nevertheless working hard at it. The recent Israeli assistance on INS technology is welcome. Indians have also obtained gyroscopes and other related items from European nations and are said to have successfully reverse-engineered them. Also there is a persistant rumour over a “Super BrahMos” project that well exceeds the 1,000-kilometre range.

We wish DRDO all success –– to be great one has to dream and we dream for a true Indian Land Attack Long Range missile –– it could well be the Brahmos!

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