With the success of the DRDOs interceptor launch on November 23, India now has a defence shield capable of simultaneously destroying multiple long-range attacker missiles.
INDIA is gearing up to deploy, in 2013 or 2014, a ballistic missile defence (BMD) shield around the capital New Delhi and around strategic assets such as the commercial capital Mumbai and political targets such as residences of top political leaders. In Phase II of the project, long-range radars and more powerful interceptors will be developed to engage enemy missiles launched from more than 2,000 kilometres away. More importantly, Indias BMD shield can take care of multiple attacker missiles by launching multiple interceptor missiles simultaneously. A ship-based platform is also being planned to launch the interceptors.Enviable record
The Defence Research and Development Organisations (DRDO) top-brass, V.K. Saraswat and Avinash Chander, made these announcements within a couple of hours of the resounding success of the interceptor missile launch on November 23. The DRDO has an enviable record in its interceptor missile tests. Out of eight tests, beginning from November 27, 2006, to the latest one, seven have been unvarnished successes.
Soon after the success of the seventh test on February 10, 2012, Saraswat, Director General, DRDO, who is Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, asserted: The mission was done in deployment mode, close to the final user [the Army] configuration. Its success confirms that the country is ready to take it to the next phase of production and induction ( Frontline, March 9, 2012). Avinash Chander, Chief Controller R&D (Missiles and Strategic Systems), DRDO, was equally assertive on February 10: The entire operation was close to the deployment configuration, he said. D.S. Reddy, then Programme Director, Advanced Air Defence (AAD), said the test proved that India had graduated from experimental mode to deployment mode.Crucial test
The November 23 mission featured two attacker (target) missiles, one electronically simulated and launched from 1,500 km away and the other real and launched from 600 to 1,000 km away. The tests tried to reproduce a scenario where multiple enemy missiles could be raining on India, and the aim was to pulverise them in their tracks. Since Indian territory does not have the range and geometry to launch a target missile from a distance of 2,000 km, the DRDO used an electronically simulated target missile. The radars picked up the target missile and tracked it, and an electronic interceptor missile was launched. The attacker was electronically hit by the digital interceptor at a height of 120 km, in the exo-atmosphere.
The real target missile, a modified Prithvi, took off from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur on the Odisha coast and mimicked the trajectory of a ballistic missile coming from an enemy country. Within seconds of its blast-off, radars at Paradip, Konark and Cuttack began tracking its path. Five minutes later, the Launch Control Centre on Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast, gave the command to the interceptor to lift off from the island and destroy the incoming missile. The interceptor, an AAD system, featured a directional warhead, a proximity fuse and a radio frequency seeker.
Of these three, the most critical technology was the directional warhead. The seeker acted as the interceptors eye and calculated the velocity, position and direction of the enemy missile. The seeker conveyed all this information to on-board computers, which then directed the interceptor to manoeuvre itself close to the target. The AAD missile continuously received updates on the targets position from the radars. As the attacker came down in a free fall, the interceptors on-board computer guided it towards the target at an altitude of 15 km. The radio proximity fuse ignited the directional warhead and the target missile was reduced to burning wreckage.
What was outstanding about the mission was that both interceptions took place near simultaneously. More importantly, this was the first time that the interceptions took place both in the endo-atmosphere and in the exo-atmosphere. With this, we have demonstrated our confidence in deploying the system in full configuration where we can tackle multiple missiles coming together, Avinash Chander said.
Saraswat told Frontline: This kind of mission has been done only by the U.S. and Russia. This is an important development in our BMD shield development. With this launch, Phase I of the BMD shield is ready for deployment in 2013 or 2014. India is the sixth country to have developed the BMD system. The others are the U.S., Russia, France, China and Israel.
Avinash Chander, speaking separately, echoed Saraswats words: Simultaneously taking care of multiple missiles coming from different directions is part of any BMD system. We are happy that our confidence in our capability to do this has been demonstrated by this trial. G. Satheesh Reddy, Associate Director, Research Centre Imarat (RCI), Hyderabad, called it a memorable day for the countrys defence scientists and said it was fantastic to see on the monitors four missiles flying simultaneouslytwo interceptors attacking two targets with different ranges.
Satheesh Reddys team in the RCI developed the ring-laser gyroscope-based navigation system in the target missile (the modified Prithvi) and the fibre-optic gyroscope-based inertial navigation system in the interceptor (AAD missile), both of which performed well in this mission.
The team led by C.G. Balaji, Associate Director, RCI, was responsible for the development and integration of the radio frequency seeker in the AAD missile. Adalat Ali, the Programme Director, was proud that the two attackers were intercepted near simultaneously. Whatever has been electronically simulated now, that is, the electronic target missile with a range of 1,500 km and an interceptor attacking it at an altitude of 120 km, will be actually test-fired early next year, Ali said.Ready for deployment
Avinash Chander called the mission a major event for us because we are gearing up now to deploy the [BMD] system around the capital region of New Delhi. The DRDO was able to simulate the launch of multiple missiles and intercept them in real time. This was a real breakthrough in the run-up to the BMD shield deployment. The mission also demonstrated Indias capability to take care of ballistic missiles launched from 2,000 km away. Avinash Chander asserted: This missile [AAD interceptor] broadly covers all the missiles deployed by Pakistan on the west, and a large number of missiles deployed in the north-east and in the immediate neighbourhood. In Phase II, we will be able to cover up to 5,000 km and it can handle all the missiles that are being deployed around us. We will be able to take care of all of them in numbers too.
Many new technologies, too, were tested in the mission. The most critical one was the directional warhead which destroyed the target missile. The target missile was speeding towards India at a velocity of 3 to 4 km per second. The interceptor was going towards it at 1.5 to 2 km per second. The relative speeds were 4 to 5 km per second, where there was less than one-thousandth of a second for the interceptors directional warhead to explode.
The timing and accuracy of the warhead should be within that kind of time frame. The time for the warhead to explode in the kill zone is effectively less than 1/100th of a second. This is one of the key technologies demonstrated and established in this test, Avinash Chander said.
Besides, all the network elements were integrated with both the main and the standby systems, which were operated, tested and established fully in this test. The repeated interceptor tests [eight] have given a lot of confidence to the designer for freezing the systems configuration so that we can start planning for the production process, Avinash Chander said.
Surprisingly, if Indias Agni-V launch in April 2012 attracted a lot of comments from China, there was no reaction from it about Indias decision to go ahead with Phase I of its BMD shield deployment in 2013 or 2014. On November 28, Pakistan successfully test-fired Hatf V, a medium-range ballistic missile capable of reaching targets in India. Hatf V can hit targets up to 1,300 km away.
India felt the requirement for a BMD shield in the late 1990s when Pakistan test-fired Ghauri missiles with ranges that threatened Indian cities. Besides, the Hatf missiles too can reach India. So India conceived a two-layered air defence system, in the exo-atmosphere and the endo-atmosphere, to protect its vital assets.Possible threats
Rajaram Nagappa, Visiting Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore, said China was getting into multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), which could be integrated with its DF-31 and DF-41 missiles. These missiles are capable of firing multiple warheads. The DF-41 missile, it is claimed, has a range of 12,000 km. Pakistan is also interested in acquiring MIRVs. With the MIRVs, the efficacy of the missile defence shield becomes more challenging, said Prof. Nagappa.
China has a multilayered BMD shield. It has done interceptor tests in the exo-atmosphere, the endo-atmosphere and the mid-atmosphere. Knowing the missile exchanges that have taken place between China and Pakistan, there is always a possibility of these missiles being developed in Pakistan with Chinese assistance, Nagappa said. Besides its interceptor missile tests, China had carried out an anti-satellite test on January 11, 2007.
Israel is another country which boasts of interceptor missiles such as Arrow and Davids Sling. A new Israeli air shield against rockets more powerful than those intercepted by Iron Dome in the Gaza conflict passed its first field test last week after being rushed through development, said Reuters, quoting Israeli officials speaking on November 25. The officials, according to Reuters, said that Davids Sling, billed as Israels answer to the long-range missiles of Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas and Syria, shot down a target rocket in a secret November 20 desert trial that coincided with fierce shelling exchanges between the Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.