An IDC Analysis

(On the eve of Condolezza Rice's Visit)

(With inputs from Sayan Majumdar)


New Delhi, 15 March 2005

US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice is due to visit India on March 16, 2005. The time is perhaps ripe to voice our serious concerns about proliferation of Tactical Ballistic Missile and Medium Range Ballistic Missile (TBM/MRBM) technology around our sub-continent in not so reliable Pakistani custody, which are “misused” from time-to-time for “nuclear blackmailing” and to sustain terrorist activities. India should seek to get proper “antidotes”, such as the Israeli Arrow 2 and US Patriot Advanced Capibility (PAC)-3 Surface-to-Air Missile/Anti-Tactical Ballistic Missile (SAM/ATBM) systems and related technologies for robust tackling of “nuclear blackmailing” and defence of our homeland in extreme circumstances. A robust two-tier network would also offer a considerable buffer for India when considering the nuclear asymmetry vs China.

Condolezza Rice herself has served as the National Security Adviser of the US Administration and she is likely to appreciate the matter better than the rest. With a political science academic background, she served in the Bush Administration as Director, and then Senior Director of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, during the critical period of German reunification and the final days of the Soviet Union, from 1989 to March 1991, and as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. An international affairs Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, she served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 1997, and she has served on the Federal Advisory Committee on Gender Integrated Training in the Military.

During the second-half of February 2005, a four-member high-level US defence team led by Edward Ross of the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), had met officials of the international security division of the Indian External Affairs and Defence ministries and presented "a technical brief" of the Patriot PAC-2. The US administration’s clearance for a classified technical presentation of PAC-2 system came as part of the Next Step in Strategic Partnership (NSSP) agreement initiated by the two countries during 2004. The NSSP envisages cooperation in what is known as the "quartet issues" –– civilian space and civilian nuclear fields, hi-tech trade and missile defence. Of equal importance was the team’s interaction with top brass of India's defence services and the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).

The Indian armed forces should focus on the advanced PAC-3 version seen in action during the US invasion of Iraq and is credited with a kill rate of over 95 percent. The Patriot PAC-3 SAM/ATBM system covers a “wide spectrum” to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft. The missile's range is 70-km and it can reach an altitude of greater than 24-km. More important from the technical point-of-view, the PAC-3 SAM/ATBM has increased effectiveness against tactical ballistic and cruise missiles, through the use of advanced “hit-to-kill” technology and Ka-band millimetre wave seekers. The missile guidance system enables target destruction through the kinetic energy released by hitting the target head-on.

Less known is the fact that apart from enhanced ranged variants of indigenous Akash SAM/ATBM, India is presently also working on development of solid-fuel SAM/ATBM missiles equipped with directional warheads. The SAM/ATBM system is projected to be superior to the Patriot PAC-2 and Russia’s S-300 PMU systems, and if developments proceed smoothly, flight trials will begin in mid-2006 and the yet unnamed system should be ready to enter service by 2008. The SAM/ATBM will have a mission control system to conduct target acquisition, classification and track estimation, among other functions. After operational deployment it will be integrated with other defence systems via satellite links and a secure digital data link that will enable it to track and transmit data up to a range of 1,000-km.

Here lies the importance of technology sharing of US Patriot PAC-3 system and their follow-on programs. Possibly in relation to the ambitious program, an active phased-array radar system called Sword Fish was purchased from Israel in early 2004 and is undergoing trials at Hasan in Karnataka state.

The United States Patriot system was initially designed as an anti-aircraft SAM system. In-spite of successive upgradation to an ATBM system, fundamental limitations in this system remain with respect to target engagement velocities and interception of TBM systems of a velocity of up to 3000-m/s corresponding approximately to the ballistic-missile extreme range of 1000-km. Moreover unlike its competitors, the Patriot does not have its own ballistic-missile acquisition aid. During the Gulf War, Patriot batteries were supported by Over-The-Horizon (OTH) radars deployed in Turkey, satellite surveillance systems and the Boeing E-8 Joint-Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (J-STARS) reconnoitring system.

The main advantage of the Israeli Arrow advanced ATBM system, jointly developed by United States and Israel with Raytheon patents, is its capability to engage tactical missiles up to 60-km altitudes and over 100-km ranges. Thus the interceptions are both exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric. The Arrow system is designed to engage Iraq's Scud missiles and Iran's TBMs targeted throughout Israel. Another major strength of the Arrow system lies in its superb EL/M-2090 "Green Pine" L-band, electronically scanned, solid state, phased array, dual-mode detection and fire control radar. Operating at a frequency of 500-MHz to 1,000-MHz it can detect missiles at ranges of up to 500-km and provides considerable warning time to alert defences. In addition data is also received from the US Defence Space Program (DSP) EW satellites and Boeing RC-135 Cobra Ball intelligence aircraft.

The Arrow's lower engagement level is 8-km and it will need additional weapon systems to be deployed for protecting it against aircraft attacks. This “void” is filled by a combination of the Israeli Patriot PAC-2 and PAC-3 batteries and United States ship-based AEGIS systems deployed in the Mediterranean. Thus, a combination of Arrow 2 and Patriot PAC-3 is critical to provide a reasonably effective defence against tactical ballistic missiles with ranges of up to 1000-km. Also the two-tier ATBM system will be capable of utilising the "Green Pine" missile tracking radar. As a result of its huge US input, the Arrow missile is subject to US approval and, despite Israel's willingness to supply the system to India, the United States Department of State have given no commitment to approve the sale of the system to India.

But approval of the Arrow 2 sale and transfer of Patriot PAC-3 technology is bound to precipitate in a major breakthrough, initiating close Indo–US cooperation not only in missile defence, but in larger regional security issues as well. In addition, arming India with the Arrow 2 in view of India’s deepening ties with Israel, could mark the start of just the international missile defense architecture on Asia–Pacific region, now increasingly assuming top priority among Pentagon planners.

Condolezza Rice along with US Vice-President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld are reported to be very keen in establishing deep strategic ties with India and cement them on permanent basis. The time has perhaps arrived for the acid-test of diplomatic skills of the Indian political and military leadership and the US willingness to enable India to construct a national ballistic missile shield to enhance peace and stability in the potentially volatile Asian Continent.

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