An IDC Analysis 

(With inputs from Sayan Majumdar)


New Delhi, 07 August 2003

India’s new Defence Secretary Mr Ajay Prasad was in Washington for a very important Defence Planning Group meeting with a large team, and he also was there just two months ago with the Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, so he knows the issues under discussion on the India–USA plate as far as the bigger picture and the  Indian troops to Iraq matter is concerned. Today PMO with the NSA and Dy PMO with large staff are the two power centers of India’s security establishment alongside MOD and MEA as National Security Council has become a secretariat and Intelligence handler. CCS is a concurrent body, which meets to clear issues. This is the unwritten set up now and huge funds are available to both Defence and Home, the former having surrendered $1.5b last year and unless large pending deals are signed soon this fate may recur. Hence this DPG is important.

Prasad was also the Addl Secretary in MOD just a year ago so he is current with the wish list of the Armed Forces and the many exercises and the closeness of the Indian Military and the US Pentagon that have been forged in the last two years. This DPG was arranged in Washington DC and the venue shifted there, on the pretext that the US will have all answers available on the table, and that holds water as now the Government has been free  to let all and sundry travel  freely, so why not the Armed Forces.

USA has just supplied the Army with two off the shelf Raytheon Thales ANTPQ 37 weapon locating radars and 10 more are to follow. Ambassador Blackwill highlighted this feature and  mentioned this sharply is in his farewell speech. Blackwill is going to join NSA Condelezza Rice, for Middle East affairs (his luggage destined for Harvard is now headed for DC) and he will be there to advise on India, along with his able Security Adviser Ashley Tellis who left to be Adviser on South Asia to President Bush’s office. Tellis as many may recall was given a free hand to see India’s inner nuclear workings to write a book, before he came as Security Adviser and interacted with India’s security establishment vigorously, till recently. Blackwill even managed to host a farewell dinner for all the three Chiefs and Vice Chiefs and that is signal enough to say how close US–India military relations have reached, considering that the  MEA a few years ago never allowed more than one Chief at a time to attend Diplomatic functions. USA is now all set to sell its military wares to India but under the FMS route, and India can gain greatly for modernization.

Israel just recently supplied ARC, which is RAW’s aerial surveillance Agency, an ASTRA snooping aircraft and though Raytheon lost out in the competition the plane has many US components including a Honeywell engine. Honeywell already has good presence in India and was slated to supply the ALTEC 800 engine for the Navy ALH, but lost out to Turbomecca due to sanctions. Sections of the Armed Forces are still for it, as the equivalent Shakti engine for Navy’s and Army’s high altitude ALH is still on the drawing board in HAL. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Bell, Honeywell and Grumman have all come to India with teams and presented their wares. Wish lists have been made. A US team met the Navy to present the PC3 Orions, which Indian Navy needs for Indian Ocean surveillance. There were many reports that the Phalcon system was also cleared and so the associated missile and vital subject of air defence is discussed here with connected  issues, since there is confusion on the DRDO’s Trishul and Akash are still some miles away. 

With the United States government providing the necessary clearance of sale of Israeli Phalcon AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) to Indian Air Force, the IAF's long standing requirement of an AWACS is nearing fulfillment. Phalcon AWACS will allow the IAF to exploit the full potential of its air defence fighters like Sukhoi-30s and MiG-29s by positioning them at advantageous "co-ordinates" before the enemy air platforms arrive at striking distance and further assisting them in pursuit of enemy aircraft. Wasteful practise of "standing patrols" need not be followed. Now, in accordance with current technological trends and breakthroughs IAF should ask the Israelis to modify the Phalcon AWACS platforms to MC2A (Multi-role Command and Control Aircraft) that also can perform ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) and ground surveillance and tracking roles in addition to its primary AWACS role.

IAF had correctly chosen the Russian Illyushin-76 airframe, which is to be fitted with the Israeli Phalcon AWACS system. Illyushin-76 is blessed with an excellent combination of lifting capacity in terms of weight with a voluminous freight hold and is already in their inventory. Thus the full lifting capacity can be exploited, thanks to its powerful engines and the relevant systems will not be constrained by shortage of space inside.
Details of Phalcon AWACS system are highly classified but they are stated to be considerably better than the standard Russian A-50 "Mainstay"(also based on Illyushin-76 airframe), two of which were taken by IAF on lease for exercises during summer of 2000. A-50 is equipped with Vega-M Research and Production Corporation’s three-dimensional pulse-Doppler radar with a MTI (Moving Target Indicator) for improved target detection and provides overland coverage against aircraft targets around 230 km and against large ships up to 400 km. It can handle up to 50 simultaneous targets. It was reported that the A-50 leased to IAF was equipped with more capable Shmel-2 radar rotodome, but failed to clinch a deal.

In contrast Phalcon could have three fixed plane arrays of EL/M-2075 L-band phased array radar to be mounted on the same location as A-50s Shmel radar rotodome, in a non-rotating configuration. Phased array radars with electronic beam-steering are more efficient, accurate and are blessed with greater ratio in terms of signal receipt to transmission. Moreover, the radar can be programmed to back check to "gather" a possible faint stealth contact. Multi-target tracking capability is greatly enhanced.

While it is reported in reliable media that the Phalcon system transferred to India will be equipped with even more efficient transmission and receiving modules, India should preferably opt for a Phalcon platform modified for MC2A role. Present technological levels have made such a dream a reality, that will be further aided by the power and space provided by Illyushin-76 airborne platform. USAF (United States Air Force) already plans to convert its E-8 J-STARS (Joint-Surveillance Target Attack Radar) platforms to MC2A, by providing them incrementally with AWACS and ELINT capability. MC2A represents a system of the future and IAF should not lag behiend.

Presently the best bet for terminal defence against theatre ballistic missiles appears to be the hypersonic (Mach 6) United States–Israeli Arrow 2 that is undergoing extensive testing and evaluation. It is at the same time operational under Israeli Defence force. Two of the systems are deployed in central Israel with a third shortly to join. They are deployed in such a manner that the coverage of the systems overlaps over vital military, commercial installations and concentrated civilian population.

Arrow 2 is launched vertically, giving each battery 360 degrees coverage. The missiles can be launched separately or in salvos with the Green Pine L-band, phased array, dual-mode detection and fire control radar determining the intercept point and uplinking very accurate data to the Arrow 2. After Arrow 2 is brought to the best engagement point on the theatre ballistic missile, its Electro-optical sensor acquires the target to allow very near pass and then activate the fragmentation warhead.

Green Pine is said to be capable of tracking ballistic missiles from a range of up to 500 km while intercept of the attacking missile may occur 140 km away at an altitude of 60 km. The long range of Green Pine radar system ensures that a second shot can be taken at the incoming ballistic missile if the first shot fails to secure the "kill". The ballistic missiles are again intercepted at a much higher altitude to prevent them from disintegrating as they approach lower altitude, thus "faking" multiple targets on radar screens.

The Citron Tree FCC (Fire Control Centre) is capable of conducting multiple, simultaneous interceptions and includes ten battle stations. Launches are controlled by Hazelnut Tree launcher control centre.
Contrary to numerous rumours, both The Arrow 2 ATBM (Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile) and Phalcon AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) appears to be "heading" towards India, India now being a valuable strategic partner of United States in the Asian continent along with Japan and Israel. Much more challenging will be the aspect of securing transfer of technology that will allow reverse engineering and upgradation of existing systems. Technology derived from Arrow 2 will facilitate development of a more potent version of "indigenous" dual-purpose Akash that will sport a fair ATBM capability and will complement the Arrow 2 system for lower altitudes. India should also keep a strong watch on ASIP (Arrow System Improvement Programme) being carried out jointly by Israel and United States.

While missile systems for terminal defence are good to posses, focus should be on boost-phase interception of ballistic missiles that ensures the highest percentage of success. On the global scale the most famous boost-phase interception system is mounted on YAL-1/747, which is a modified Boeing 747-400 carrying a 2.64 metre diametre nose turret housing beam steering optics for a chemical oxygen-iodine laser. The aircraft is projected to loiter around at 40,000 feet and shoot down theatre ballistic missiles in the boost phase from a distance of 600 km.

Of more interest in terms of affordability and accessibility to India is "Moab" a United States–Israeli boost-phase intercept UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). Its payload includes a sensor package and air-to-air missiles with multiple homing sensors to ensure destruction of attacking ballistic missiles in different phases of launch. Data fusion techniques will be used to detect the most threatening target and even in case of failure of SATCOM (Satellite Communications) the UAV is programmed to complete its mission and return to base.

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