An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 01 June 2003  

Indian defence forces lack two major ingredients and these are force multipliers like AWACS Command and Control, and Jointness. The first is hardware specific and while the IAF had been clamouring for it, the Indian Navy cleverly got EW capable KA-31 helicopters and also fitted IW systems with ELTA EL/M 2022 radars with ESM, into their Dornier aircraft and hope to fit the same equipment into TU142 aircraft.

China had pitched to get the Phalcon AWACS system for fitment into their Russian IL-76s by ELTA of Israel, but since USA had some patents on it the Israeli request for this arrangement was denied. India has thus scored a sixer as media recently reported that the Phalcon had been cleared by USA for supply to India, just before the Israeli PM visits India and the Indian PM may meet Bush during the forthcoming G-8 Meet.

The timing is interesting and we see the clever hand of the National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra in this clearance. Let us hope he can attend to Jointness too and the AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) becomes a joint medium to provide Intelligence, Command, Control & Communications (C4I) to all the three services.

This is an IDC analysis of the much awaited clearance of the Indo-Israeli Phalcon AWACS deal that has come from US as promised by Richard Armitage. The system is defence oriented and will assist in keeping the Indian Ocean under surveillance and hence we harp on Jointness which is now proven to be a Principle of War.

The CDS system was the harbinger but it is clear that non appointment of an incumbent has led to Inter Service competition. We hope that the induction of this very advanced system will see the three services operate the AWACS facility like the NATO nations operate it with joint country crews. It will also be a boost to India's ballistic missile defences and Indian strategists must appreciate this technicality.

The clearance has come before the scheduled visit to India by the Israeli Prime Minister. Ariel Sharon certainly realises the sensitivity of the deal, after all during war with Syria over Beka'a Valley in 1982, the Israelis mercilessly decimated the Syrian Air Force in conjunction with their excellent battle management system. Then they had the E-2C "Hawkeye" AWACS platforms, static balloons, RF-4E reconnaissance fighters, OV-1 "Mohawk" battlefield surveillance platforms and specially equipped Boeing RC-707s. Additionally all the Israeli fighters had data-links to process real time information and also the excellent Shafrir and AIM-9L "all aspect" WVR (Within Visual Range) missiles.

The Syrian fighters were tracked as soon as they left the runaway and the Israelis enjoyed the vital tactical advantage of surprise. The result was the loss of over 80 Syrian aircraft as against 2 Israeli fighters. While presently the positive signals about the Phalcon radar system have caught the attention of the national media, India should approach the Israeli Prime Minister to secure the prestigious Israeli BPI (Boost-Phase Intercept) project, jointly developed with United States BMDO (Ballistic Missile Defence Organisation), to destroy attacking theatre ballistic missiles in the boost phase itself. Since it is a purely defence-oriented system one hopes that the United States will be co-operative.

During boost-phase the attacking ballistic missile is comparatively slower and at the same time a source of considerable IR (Infra-Red) radiation and thus visible and vulnerable with a very definite behaviour pattern and easily detectable by aerial sources or satellites. Decoys are yet to be fielded, making interception easier. Decoys are deployed when the attacking ballistic missile leaves the atmosphere and travels in vacuum in space. In vacuum the heavier warheads and lighter decoys move at similar speed and to confuse the enemy some decoys can be programmed to imitate the signals of real warheads. "Anti-simulation" measures are often adopted by shielding the real warheads in "decoy balloons". Again during the terminal phase although the decoys burn out in atmospheric friction, the warheads inherit great speed and in course of time will attain extensive manoeuvres to defeat anti-missile missiles.

The Israelis are reportedly working on high-altitude HA-10 UAVs (Unmanned Aerial
Vehicles) that will fire missile interceptors toward the attacking ballistic missiles during boost phase. They are directed by a command-and-control system developed by Tadiran Electronics Ltd. and the aircraft, in turn, feed a search and track system that can scan the area to determine whether the enemy is firing a real missile or a decoy. Their passive electro-optic sensors will have the capability to detect and track ballistic missiles during their boost phase. If the missile is fired towards Israel, the system decides which UAV will fire its interceptor. The UAV then fires missiles being developed by the Israel Armament Development Authority (Rafael), in a project called MOAB (Missile Optimised Anti-Ballistic Missile System), toward the enemy rocket at the boost phase. The attacking missile destroyed at that stage falls on the aggressor's territory along with its NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) payload. In this context the deterrent value of a Boost-Phase Intercept System is well apparent. The UAV is armed with extensive sensors for autonomous navigation and targeting and is able to successfully complete its mission and return to base even if the link from the controllers is cut off.

Recently, the Israelis have shifted their attention to target the enemy’s mobile missile launchers following the tactic of BLPI (Before Launch Phase Intercept). There will be far fewer launchers than missiles. Emphasis will be on developing a very high-speed, precise air-launched missile. To carry this new missile, Israel wants to refine the BPI concept. While MOAB/IBIS system is a combination of UAVs with two AAMs (Air-to-Air Missiles) for the BPI role, now Israeli planners envision a UAV that carries perhaps as many as 10 ASMs (Air-to-Surface Missiles) internally for a reduced radar signature. Such a design may also require retractable landing gear, stealth qualities and shaping and jet engines rather than propellers. A second long-range UAV, designed to loiter over enemy territory for up to 60 hours, would carry fused and multispectral sensors designed to pull additional and more precise identification and location information from the targets.

(With Inputs from Sayan Mazumdar)

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