Swordfish radar: Key to India's multi-layered air defence system
New Delhi, Jan 8: Ability of a country to defend against incoming aerial attacks is as important as having a wide range of powerful missiles to strike back. Strategic assets like nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles serve as deterrents, and a formidable missile defence system further strenghthens it.
Air defence is complex because the air space cannot be separated by any fence. Despite military technology having made significant progress in the last few decades, no defence system can claim that it can provide 100% sure shot defence against all forms of incoming aerial attacks. For this reason, a multi-layered air defence system needs to be developed.
India is already working on two-tier Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program and also has Aakash Missiles to take on aerial attacks. The purchase of S-400 air defence systems from Russia would not only help India to thwart incoming aerial threats like cruise missiles, UAVs, helicopters etc, but it will allow India to combine it with existing defence mechanism and come up with a multi-layered air defence system.
The entire mechanism of the air defence battle commences with the eyes or the sensors which are the radars. Therefore, the Swordfish Long Range Tracking Radar developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is a key element in India's air defence system.
Unlike the most radars used by the Indian forces, the Swordfish is capable of successfully detect, track and stop inbound ballistic missile threats when effectively combined with other compenents of the air defence system.
Swordfish is an acknowledged derivative of the Israeli Green Pine long range radar, which is the critical component of that country's Arrow missile defence system. However, it differs from the Israeli system as it employs Indian Transmit Receive modules, signal processing, computers and power supplies. It is also more powerful than the base Green Pine system and was developed to meet India's specific BMD needs.
The Indian government has sought to purchase the complete Arrow system since 1999, but in early 2002 the U.S. vetoed Israel's request to sell the Arrow 2 missiles to India,exercising its right as a major funding contributor. U.S. officials argued that the sale would violate the Missile Technology Control Regime.
Other essential compenents of India's multi-layered air defence system:
Akash surface-to-air missile (SAM):
One of the notable systems that India has to thwart incoming aerial targets like fighter jets, cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles is Akash mid-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system built by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). It is medium range nuclear capable supersonic missile. The missile system can target aircraft up to 30 km away, at altitudes up to 18,000 mts. It is in operational service with the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force.
Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program:
Another system that India has been working on is Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program. A Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) is a system that is designed to intercept and destroy an incoming ballistic missile on its trajectory much before it approaches the target. India's ballistic missile defence system provides a two-layered shield - 'exo' and 'endo'. What this effectively means is that the system provides protection both against ballistic missiles that are outside (exo) as well as inside (endo) the earth's atmosphere.
Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) is supposed to tackle incoming missiles at ranges of 80-120 km (exo-atmospheric interception). On the other hand, the advanced air-defence (AAD) mainly consists of Akash Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM) that can intercept incoming missiles at ranges of 15-30 km (endo-atmospheric interception).
Role of Swordfish radar in BMD:
Swordfish has proven itself in over 10 successful missile interceptions including two exo-atmospheric hit-to-kill (H2K) interception. Existing variant of radar has a range of 600-800 km and can detect targets as small as cricket ball at a long distance. Maximum target speeds up to which it can be tracked by Swordfish is over Mach 12.
S-400 air defence system:
To add to its arsenal, India has purchased S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia. S-400 Triumf is one of the world's most advanced air defence systems that can simultaneously track numerous incoming objects - all kinds of aircraft, missiles and UAVs - in a radius of a few hundred kilometres and launch appropriate missiles to neutralise them.
The S-400 Triumf air defence system integrates a multifunction radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers, and command and control centre.