By Sayan Majumdar


New Delhi, 13 January 2006

During the Republic Day Parade the Indian Navy is normally at “some disadvantage” as it obviously cannot display its ships and submarines in a realistic way. However, it may achieve a “breakthrough” if it chooses to display its Kamov-31 AEW/OTH helicopter and Heron UAV, aboard “moving giant trailers”. The IAF aircraft are routinely showcased similarly. The unusual configurations of the AEW helicopter and UAV may well steal the show.

During 2006–2007 the Navy eagerly awaits a repeat order of another “batch” of three Talwar (Krivak III) class of guided-missile armed frigates (FFG), designed as general purpose combatants with emphasis on anti-air warfare (AAW). The combination of powerful radar-sets for air-surveillance, tracking and missile guidance, Shtil-1 area-air-defence surface-to-air missile (SAM) system and the ability to carry a Kamov-31 airborne early warning/over-the-horizon targeting (AEW/OHT) helicopter makes the Talwar Class the most potent of AAW platforms of the current Indian fleet. In addition the Talwar class introduces the 3M-54E Klub-N (SS-N-27 Sizzler) anti-ship missile on a surface combatant to the Indian Navy.

More importantly, the first of the new stealth frigates, Project 17 Shivalik Class FFG, ‘Shivalik’ is likely to be commissioned in the coming financial year. Presently three vessels –– ‘Shivalik’, ’Satpura’ and ’Sahyadri’ are undergoing construction but ultimately numerous units may be commissioned, thus becoming numerically the standard type in the early present century. In appearance and layout, the Shivalik Class FFG is very similar to the concept of “stretched Talwar Class” frigate although the aft end is more like the Delhi Class DDG. It is possible that the superstructure may yet be altered to resemble the French Lafayette design depending upon DCN inputs.

Designed as a robust general-purpose FFG, as in Talwar Class, the Russian tried-and-tested Shtil SAM system with multiple engagement capability, provides medium-range AAW coverage. For the close-in-weapon-system (CIWS) role, two Kashtan gun/missile system may be fitted on either side of the helicopter hangar. The radar/electronics/missile fit may alter significantly in future if United States AEGIS-technology is made available in the long run. The anti-ship weaponry comprises of Klub-N ASCM or the BrahMos ASCM in eight vertical launch cells. Two naval helicopters will be embarked for ASW and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) or AEW duties.

As mentioned the year 2006 will witness the expansion of operational deployment of Indo-Russian PJ-10 BrahMos anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) in Navy service on various forms of surface vessels starting with Rajput (Kashin II) class guided-missile armed destroyers (DDG). A joint venture between Indian DRDO and Russian NPO Mashinostroyeniya, the missile with a low radar cross section (RCS) will sport an active radar homing (ARH) seeker to facilitate fire-and-forget launch while varieties of flight trajectories will complicate the task of the adversary. A 290-km long flight range with high supersonic Mach 2.9 speed will lead to lower target dispersion and quicker engagement and higher destructive capability aided by the large kinetic energy of impact. In most of the cases the target warship will be denied sufficient time to react.

Meanwhile to exploit the potential range of BrahMos ASCM and Klub anti-sShip missiles (AShM) the Navy marches ahead for satellite-based network-centric operations, to enhance its battle space awareness and strike capabilities in the entire Indian Ocean region and as an interim measure the Navy is opting for commercial satellites of foreign agencies with suitable security overlays. Thus the Indian Navy’s warships, submarines and aircraft will be networked with centralized Operational Centres and the entire fleet and command centres can then share information of a hostile action or target in real time.

The Sea Harriers meanwhile will undergo upgradation, reportedly with Israeli Elta EL/M-2032 multi-mode fire-control radar and Derby/Alto Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missiles (BVRAAM). The Derby design has much in common with the Python 4 close-combat AAM in addition to mid-body wings. The effective range is about 50-km and is presently serving Israeli Defence Force-Air Force (IDF-AF) well.

A deal with Israel was reported for the supply of a second batch of 50 Heron/Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), which will have wide-scale naval applications for deep-penetration, wide-area, real-time intelligence. The Heron/Eagle drone is a medium-altitude long-endurance type unmanned aerial vehicle that can operate at a distance of more than 1,000 km and at altitudes above 25,000 feet for more than 24-hours, providing real-time intelligence, according to Israeli Aircraft Industries. The system also features automatic takeoff and landing, integrated mission planning and sensor technology, and can simultaneously carry a wide range of payloads. To fulfill the role of a Maritime Patrol (MP) platform the Heron is capable of integrating a modified lighter version of the EL/M-2022 maritime patrol radar, becoming the first UAV to carry MP radar. There are indications that it may also be capable of carrying EL/M-2055 synthetic aperture/moving target indicator radar system.

The Indian Navy will perhaps receive the first of its leased P-3C Orion Long-Range Maritime Patrol/Anti-Submarine Warfare (LRMP/ASW) platform. In respect to emerging emphasis on littoral warfare scenarios the Indian Navy will do well to secure the Boeing AGM-84E Block1F SLAM-ER (Stand-off Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response) as a package and with some luck may be able to obtain additional numbers to retrofit them to the Scorpene Class submarines thus boosting them with land attack capabilities.

The IAF will select its Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA) from United States F-16 ‘Fighting Falcon’, F/A-18E/F ‘Super Hornet’, French Mirage 2000-5 Mk2, Russian MiG-35 (MiG-29OVT), Swedish Gripen and possibly Eurofighter Typhoon in the race. Recent reports indicate that the requirement has been increased to a total of 200 aircraft to be split into two candidates.

While the US machines are promising new technologies especially in terms of AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars (on Super Hornet) and the Russians offer their Thrust-Vectoring Control (TVC) engines (on MiG-35) the hitherto “unofficial frontrunner”, the French Mirage 2000-5 Mk2 will find it tough “to hold its own” unless lavishly offered with Rafale technology including the RBE 2 radar (subsequently to be replaced by AESA AMSAR), SPECTRA electronic warfare suite and modified M88 engines.

The indigenous production of Sukhoi-30MKI and Jaguars with DARIN 2 avionics along with the introduction of a fourth Sukhoi-30 squadron will be welcome.

From the Army point-of-view, they eagerly await the testing of Agni III Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) projected to cover a significant portion of Chinese landmass if nuclear deterrence breaks down. Meanwhile the Indian Army has consolidated its inventory of Agni I Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM), Agni II IRBM and Prithvi Short Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM).

Finally the bi-lateral military exercises will hold the key to enhance and assimilate technologies and tactics. The time is also ripe to move towards multi-national military exercises, involving more than three nations, from the bilateral exercises such as Malabar, Varuna, Indra, Konkan, Cope India, Garuda and Emerald Mercury. The Red Flag Exercises at Nellis Air Force Base at Nevada serves as a good example.

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