Sunday, December 16, 2007

India set to answer Pakistan's cruise missiles

Today is the 36th anniversary of India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 War. But the military threat from across the border is still very real in the wake of the recent cruise missile tests by Islamabad. India is now launching an unprecedented programme to defend itself from a cruise missile attack.

Clearly worried by a series of cruise missile tests by Pakistan, India’s new missile defence programme will perhaps be the world's first missile defence programme focused solely on intercepting cruise missiles.

The technological breakthrough has been created with an advanced air defence missile, which is India's fastest and the most maneuverable.

"Our studies have indicated that this will be able to handle a cruise missile intercept," says Dr VK Saraswat, Chief, Missile Programme

Pakistan's declaration that its cruise missiles will be nuclear capable have muddied the waters. Cruise missiles are more difficult to detect than ballistic missiles, which are the traditional delivery systems for nuclear weapons. Cruise missiles thus create the possibility of a stealth nuclear attack, which complicates the business of deterrence. India is acquiring airborne radars like AWACS to ensure detection of cruise missiles in order to stay on top of the threat.

"Cruise missiles fly at low altitudes. Ground-based radars are not able to detect it. So, you need airborne sensors," says Dr VK Saraswat, Chief, Missile Programme.

One of the biggest Confidence building measures (CBMs) of the Cold War was the agreement not to nuclear tip cruise missiles. With such an assurance unlikely in the sub-continental context, the next big thing in missiles is interception.

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