the futuristic scenario painted by Gen S Padmanabhan in his book
reviewed by us last week he missed out on one very pertinent and
potent future weapon for India in 2017 –– the use of submarines
both conventional and nuclear powered, with the stated ‘second
strike’ capability. It is quite likely that an Indian nuclear
submarine will be in operation by then with sister submarines, as
India’s second strike. The General discussed the ALH, Vajra a
laser based weapon, advanced Akash AA systems and others in the book
for the 2017 scenario but failed to include futuristic submarines
and their communications. Several reports have suggested that the
Indian Navy will have an operational nuclear powered submarine by
about 2006. In such a scenario it is pertinent to shift focus to
underwater VLF/ELF (Very Low Frequency/Extremely Low Frequency) and
laser communications for effective coordination of the submarines
with the National Command Authority.
exact type of submarine the Navy may get remains to be seen but it
could be a customized development of Russian Project 885 Yasen/Graney
Class also referred to as Severodvinsk Class, which is a further
derivative of the Project 971 Akula Class and features a significant
cruise missile capability with eight vertical launch tubes aft of
the sail. The hull is made of low magnetic steel, with spherical bow
sonar and canted torpedo tubes. Another option could be a variant of
Project 949A Antey Oscar II Class SSGN (Submarine, Nuclear powered,
Cruise missile armed). Interestingly the dimensions of Oscar are
greater than most variants of even ballistic missile armed
Indian Navy had anticipated the importance of VLF (Very Low
Frequency) underwater transmissions long ago. As part of an
ambitious naval modernisation program, during the mid-1980s the
Indian Navy had constructed a VLF (Very Low Frequency) broadcasting
station in Tamil Nadu. Although not publicly declared, it was
reported that the United States actively collaborated in the
project, which was completed in September 1986.
operational VLF facility can primarily be used by the Indian Navy to
communicate with its SSKs (Submarine, Conventional powered
hunter-killer). When nuclear submarines become operational, the VLF
facility will permit Indian National Command Authority to issue
launch orders to submerged subs at depths of several metres. VLF
waves propagate almost a quarter of the globe away and are generally
immune to atmospheric disturbances caused by nuclear detonations.
on the negative side, their small bandwidth limits the rate of
transmission of data, usually allowing only the operation of slow
Teletype messages. Moreover the large terrestrial and static VLF
facility would be vulnerable to enemy strikes and even if the VLF
facility is shifted deep underground in “hardened” shelters, the
communication antennae would be located above ground and will remain
vulnerable. Thus an airborne VLF transmitter similar to the US
Navy’s TACAMO (Take Charge And Move Out) should be seriously
considered for procurement.
powerful 200KW transmitter provides the VLF transmissions in TACAMO.
The United States Navy utilizes an EC-130A/Q Hercules with a
trailing wire antennae 10km long with a drogue parachute at the end.
During transmission the aircraft flies in a continuous tight circle,
which results in over 70 percent of the wire hanging straight down
and acting as a relatively efficient vertical antennae.
the E-6 Mercury is the airborne platform of the United States TACAMO
Communications System. It provides survivable communication links
between the United States NCA (National Command Authority) and
Strategic Forces. Long range, air refuelable E-6 is a derivative of
the commercial Boeing 707 aircraft equipped with four CFM-56-2A-2
high bypass ratio fan/jet engines with thrust reversers. The weapon
system is EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) hardened. Mission range is
over 6000 nautical miles. E-6B fulfils both TACAMO and ABNCP
(Airborne National Command Post) missions.
E-6 ABNCP modification program was established to upgrade TACAMO
operational capabilities by incorporating a subset of USSTRATCOMM
(United States Strategic Command) EC-135 ABNCP equipment into the
E-6 aircraft. The modified aircraft have the designation changed
from E-6A to E-6B. The E-6B modified an E-6A by adding battle staff
positions and other specialised equipment. The E-6B is a
dual-mission aircraft capable of fulfilling either the E-6A mission
or the airborne strategic command post mission and is equipped with
an ALCS (Airborne Launch Control System). The ALCS is capable of
launching United States ICBMs (Inter Continental Ballistic
Missiles). The E-6B is capable of performing both the TACAMO and
modification enables USSTRATCOM to perform current and projected
TACAMO and ABNCP operational tasking and the E-6B provides
survivable C3 (Command, Control and Communications) force management
communications for the NCA via multiple frequency band
communications. TACAMO role is fulfilled in Russian Navy by a
variant of Tupolev-142 Bear-J.
has now shifted to laser based underwater communications. There is
an optical window in the blue-green part of the laser spectrum,
which enables transmission to penetrate the ocean at substantial
distance. Power requirements are considerable and the system at
least presently cannot be installed in artificial satellites. Thus
as a tactical improvisation the laser is made to be ground based,
preferably mobile, in perfect conjunction with a space based mirror
with adaptive optics being used to produce a cohesive beam.
Significantly, data transfer rate will be 300 times greater than ELF
(Extremely Low Frequency) system although the “rerouted” laser
may not penetrate the same depth.
effective combination of nuclear submarines and underwater VLF/ELF
(Very Low Frequency/Extremely Low Frequency) and laser
communications will make our sea based nuclear deterrent optimally
effective. The challenge lies in front of our national leadership
and defence scientists to “secure” the proper system either
indigenously or import it from established powers.