India requires Ballistic Missiles shield to protect itself from terror attacks. The author discuss its execution cycle and the multiple challenges ahead.

In order to counter the constantly growing threat of Surface-to-Surface Ballistic Missiles from Pakistan (range 80-3000 Km) and China (range 1770- 12900+ Km) a decision was taken in 2000-2001 to go in for an indigenous Ballistic Missiles Defence (BMD) system.

This system under the Project named, Programme AD was to be developed by the DRDO in two phases. Phase I was to build the BMD shield against an incoming missile threat of ranges up to 2000 km, while Phase 2 extended this capability to cover the missile threat from 2000 to 5000 km. The system was meant to have such interceptors in both the phases that will be effective both in the endo, as well as, exo atmospheric region. The timelines for completion of Phase I were 2012 and for Phase 2 by 2016.  As of now, the capability envisaged for completion in 2016 is about 2-3 years away from full operationalisation.

The strategy for interception follows a typical air defence engagement sequence. In that, the incoming missile is detected by Long Range Tracking Radar (LRTR) of range of 500-1000 km. Once classified as hostile and prioritized for engagement, the target information, based on its heading parameters and predicted point of impact (PPI) is designed to be passed to a Multi-Functional Radar (MFR). The MFR tracking the incoming threat is to continuously pass the target parameters to the missile via a secure Target Up-link Transmitter (TUT) and Target Uplink Receiver (TUR). At the opportune moment, the interceptor lifts from the launcher and is guided to the target on the TUT-TUR link. Once in the end-game, the target is picked up by the active seeker on board the missile, which closes the missile on to the target.

All the elements are designed to be interconnected through redundant communication links. Since the focus in Phase-I and Phase-2 was both endo and exo-atmospheric, interceptors were designed accordingly. For Phase 1, Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) is an interceptor for the exo-atmospheric interception up to altitudes of 50-80 kms, while Advanced Air Defence (AAD) is meant for interception in the endo-atmospheric region up to an altitude of 30 kms. PAD is a two-stage liquid fuelled interceptor. Its future version is Prithvi Development Vehicle (PDV), in which the liquid fuel propulsion stage is replaced by solid fuel stage.

Phase-2 was to have two interceptors AD-1 and AD-2. Roughly, the Phase 2 system was supposed to match the capability of THAAD type of missile deployed by the US. Such a missile can intercept target up to 200 km altitude and track targets at ranges in excess of 1000 km.

The entire system consisting of weapon and support systems in Phase-1 and mostly Phase-2 are fully configured and tested and are in the process of operationa -lisation. It is hoped that complete operationalisation of Phase 2 will be completed by 2019-20.

 As a part of the above sequence of operationalisation, DRDO on 28-Dec-17 launched a supersonic interceptor missile, (AAD) which achieved a direct hit on its intended target at a low altitude of 15 Km.  The launch not only validated the realisation of the capability of the interceptor but also marked the successful harnessing of certain niche technologies like, the Fibre Optic Gyro (FOG) based on Inertial Navigation System (INS), state-of-the-art guidance and actuation systems and the critical Radio frequency (RF) seeker for the end game. This launch event in the context of the overall system marks an important milestone in the nation's march to realising an indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) capability.

Challenges Ahead

The challenges in their totality are contained in the fact that BMD is not the launchers, missile and control systems alone, it is 'comprehensive capability' which is credible, deliverable and reliably in battle stations ready for use when required. To reach this status, a whole lot of associated actions and related capabilities need to be developed. That is the challenge ahead.  The contours of this challenge are briefly stated below.

  • At the outset there is an urgent need to quickly move the entire execution of the system from the core DRDO format to the user format, wherein, the end user (Strategic Forces Command or SFC) is fully confident to deploy, operate, maintain and sustain the system independent of the DRDO scientists.
  • Move from the testing to the serial production phase and link this activity with phased raising and equipping of the tri-service BMD unit under the banner of SFC.
  • Realise alongside an integrated command control and battle management system which will integrate multifarious 'sensors' and 'shooters' of air defence and anti-missile system into one seamless loop. This life-line system is to be responsible for optimising surveillance resources through multi-sensor fusion in detection of incoming threat and target designation and weapon selection so as to ensure successive punishment to the incoming threat
  • With the above in place, move forward to complete and operationalise a regime for codes, authorisations and decision formats. At the same time, bring up associated infrastructure for Missile storage, testing and maintenance.
  • Rehearse the user-scientist inter-phase (mating the weapons with special warheads where necessary) through regular practice.
  • Prepare the ground for future integration of the BMD system Fire Units (FUs) with the FUs of S-400 air defence and anti-missile system.
  • Attend to such issues like user training, building up stocks and spare support and related administrative aspects.

It is the hope of the author that the ongoing journey of realising the full-fledged capability of an indigenous BMD system will also take into its execution cycle the multiple challenges as stated above.

[Issue: 1, January-February 2018]

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