India requires state of the art weaponry which would be capable of detecting, engaging and destroying a wide array of air targets. Additional protecting cities from air threats, is also a need of the hour. The author will analyse some of these systems.

Air Defence of cities has assumed great importance after the Nine Eleven attack on cities of the United States. Air Defence of capitals of various countries have often been discussed in the print and electronic media as also during seminars. The overall responsibility for Air Defence lies with the Indian Air Force and in the Tactical Battle Area the Army Air Defence has a critical role to play. Air Defence is based on Air threat which could be from aircraft, armed helicopters, missiles, Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) and in the modern context long range naval guns which have a range of 200 Km or more. The defence against these could be provided by a variety of system which could be aircraft, missiles, Guns and the Israeli system of the Iron Dome, David Sling and the Arrow system. Of late we have numerous means to provide Air Defence to our cities. It would be interesting to analyse these systems.

Systems in the Indian Environment

Currently India has numerous Air Defence Systems to guard our Vulnerable Areas and Vulnerable Points. For the purpose of this article we will focus primarily on cities and avoid the Tactical Battle Areas. The focus would be primarily on systems other than Air Defence fighters. Our main areas of discussion would the Anti Ballistic Missile Systems and other systems.

Anti Ballistic Missile Systems

To begin with India has successfully tested its two types of Anti Ballistic Missile Systems.  These systems provide India with a two layered shield exo and endo. Exo relates to outside the atmosphere and endo relates to inside the atmosphere. The high altitude interception is known as the Prithvi Air Defence System (PAD) and the Advance Air Defence (AAD) system for lower altitude interception. The Prithvi air defence missile named as Pradyumna Ballistic Missile Interceptor has a maximum interception altitude of 80 km and is capable of engaging ballistic missiles that range between 300 km to 2,000 km at a speed of Mach 5.0. Further work is on for a missile for intercepting weapon systems which range more than 5,000 km and fly at altitudes up to 150 km. The Advance Air Defence (AAD) known as the Ashwin Ballistic Missile Interceptor is designed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles at an altitude of 30 Km. Both these interceptors were successfully tested by the DRDO. Prithvi intercepted a hostile missile above 50 Km on 11 February 2017 and Ashwin intercepted a missile on 01 March 2017 at an altitude less than 30 km. Both the missiles are automatically fired on instructions from the Swordfish Long Range Tracking Radar. This is Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar which is a derivative of the Israeli Green Pine Long Range Radar used in the Arrow Missile System. The radar has a range of 600 Km currently which DRDO is upgrading to 1500 km. Both systems could gradually be deployed to counter Air Defence threats. The system is yet to be inducted and correctly fine tuned for its task.


The next missile to be considered is Akash which is a medium range mobile Surface to Air missile defence system developed by DRDO .The missile can target aircraft up to 30 km at a height of 18000m. The system is deployed in subunits of four launchers and one Rajendra 3D passive electronically scanned array radar. Each subunit can track 64 targets and attack up to 12 of them. The Akash Mk-II will have an intercept range of 30 to 35 Km and increased accuracy of guidance and fire control. The Akash forms a part of the Indian Air Force and Indian Army. Comptroller and Auditor General Report released in 2017 stated that 30 percent of the missiles have failed when test fired. Being an indigenous system it is possible to rectify the defects and have the missile perfom effectively. In any case Akash would be first used to protect our forward Air Fields and other installations. Once the system stabilises, it would be optimised in Air Defence of our cities.

S-400 Triumf

The next equipment to be discussed would be the S-400 Triumf which India is soon going to acquire from Russia. The system uses four missiles to undertake its task. The very long range at 400 Km, the long range at 250 Km, the medium range at 120 km and the short range at 40 Km. It has been described as state of the art Air Defence weapon system. Eight missile launchers form a part of one regiment. It can engage targets flying at a speed of Mach 14. The target can be engaged at a maximum range of 400 km and a minimum range of 2 Km. The maximum altitude for engagement is 185 Km and minimum is .01 Km. The targets that can be engaged are as under:-

  • Fighter jets and bombers including stealth jets.
  • Electronic warfare planes.
  • Cruise missiles such as the Tomahawk.
  • Ballistic missiles up to ranges of 3500 Km.
  • Drones up to a range of 400 Km.

India has signed an Inter Government Agreement for the acquisition of five S-400 systems from Russia. The deployment of the systems would be decided once the system is inducted.

Other system

Apart from these there are reports that the Air Force and the Navy are going for Surface to Air Missile with a range of 70 km. These are being co developed by DRDO and Israel. Further the Spyder Missile system with a range of 15 Km is being inducted for the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army is also possibly interested in the same.  DRDO is also co developing a Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile with MBDA from Europe with a range of 15 Km, This could be used on land and naval ships. The Army Air Defence is doing its utmost to procure the state of the art Swedish SAAB RBS 70 NG which has a capability to destroy targets at a maximum distance of 8000 metres and altitude of 5000 metres. It is capable of engaging targets in cluttered environments and is a laser beam riding missile with all weather day and night capability.  Apart from this we have Gun systems which have been suitably up graded.


While we are in a process of evolving how our Air Defence assets are to be deployed to protect our cities it is interesting to note details of National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS) .The NASAMS as elucidated by Raytheon Defence Industry is a highly adaptable mid range solution for Air defence. The system can quickly identify, engage and destroy aircraft, UAVs and Cruise Missiles. It is produced by Raytheon of United States with Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace of Norway. It guards the National Capital Region of the United States and is currently in service in Norway, Finland, Spain, Netherlands, Oman and Chile.

            The NASAMS is based primarily on the AIM  120 AMRAAM missile integrated to a United States built AN/MPQ-64 F1 Sentinel Air Defence Radar and a C4I system called the Fire distribution Centre. The range of the missile depends on the version of missile used. The various types are as under:-

  • AIM -120 A/B : 55-75 Km.
  • AIM 120 C-5: > 105 Km.
  • AIM - 120 D (C-8) : >180 Km.
  • Extended range being developed would increase the range by an additional 40 Km.

Each NASAMS battery has three to four Fire Distribution Centres, three to four radar systems, nine truck mounted missile launchers each carrying six missiles. Each launcher can be deployed at a distance of 25 Km from the Fire Direction Centre and can engage 54 targets simultaneously within a few seconds.

            The Missile system NASAMS is comparable to the Israeli David Sling and Arrow system. Of course both these systems including the Iron Dome have been developed by Raytheon of the United States with Rafael of Israel. Arrow flies at hypersonic speed of Mach 9 which enables destruction of any known Ballistic missiles. As regards David Sling the range is a little more than NASAMS. It is interesting to note that Raytheon Industries in the United States is the primary industry involved in Air Defence products in Israel.

Where Does India Stand? Need for Design and Make in India

It is pertinent to question where India stands regarding these equipment. India has an indigenous Anti Ballistic Missiles Programme which is supported by foreign assistance particularly with regard to its detection systems. Further the Akash Missile is an indigenous product. The Long Range Surface to Air Missile, the Medium Range Surface Missile and the Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile are being co developed by DRDO with foreign assistance. The Spyder and the S-400 Triumf and the VSHORAD are equipment which are being made abroad and if need be scope exists to 'Make in India'. The moot question is, “Do we need to induct NASAMS for Air Defence of our cities? The answer is simple. The equipment we are in the process of procuring are capable and systems like S-400 Triumf would in its current state appear to be superior to NASAMS. However, if the United States offers to undertake future developments with a private partner in India, it would need to be negotiated as it would open a new technology for design, development and manufacture of Air Defence Missiles in India. Of late the United States is making good offers for manufacture of F-16 and F-18 fighters in India in consortium with the private sector. This means that two of the great US Defence manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Boeing would be expanding the Defence Industrial Base in India. Similarly if Raytheon were to collaborate with one of our private partners to design develop and manufacture missiles in India it would be a great opportunity which India must seriously consider as it would lead to greater indigenisation.

How do we provide Air Defence to our cities?

Air Defence is based on the air threat. Currently our cities are threatened by missiles, aircraft, UVVs and UCAVs. Based on the importance of the installations there would be a need to deploy systems suitably to counter this threat. There are strategic installations in some cities and based on the priorities the authorities would do the needful. It is indeed creditable that a wide variety of equipment is being procured presenting an array of capabilities to protect against Air threat.

            While we have spoken about Kinetic weaponry to meet the threat, it is important to note that detection systems play an important part. Further Fire Direction Centres ensure that the hostile target is effectively dealt with by optimising the correct weapon to target matching and undertaking effective Post Strike Damage Assessment. To undertake Surveillance it would entail Satellites, Aerostats, Radars and other devices. For ensuring quick engagement Fire Direction Centres need to provide a real time automated response to these targets. All this requires Alacrity and Speed. Considering the developments taking place it is heartening to witness that all these issues are under consideration. However, we need to expedite the speed with which the procurement is being undertaken.


Air defence of vulnerable areas and vulnerable points in the current environment requires state of the art weaponry which would be capable of detecting, engaging and destroying a wide array of targets. The Indian Armed Forces are in the process of developing and acquiring a wide variety of systems to counter the broad spectrum of Air threat. Air threat to strategic locations in our cities merits importance and it is creditable that the authorities are preparing for this eventuality.


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