Wednesday, January 23, 2008

US Aeronautics major Lockheed Martin eager to join DRDO for missile tech

US Aeronautics major Lockheed Martin is in talks with India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to collaborate in the development of a ballistic missile defence (BMD) system in the country.

The latest move is in addition to the organisation’s ongoing programmes to develop an indigenous anti-missile system. Just about a month ago, India had successfully tested interceptor missiles.

“We are in touch with DRDO officials. New Delhi could be looking for Washington’s help and that of other nations in building up crucial sub-systems for the BMD,” Lockheed Martin (Air and Missile Defense Strategic Initiatives) vice-president, Dennis D Cavin told ET.

The company is developing the Patriot Advance Capability (PAC)-III anti-missile system for the US. Mr Cavin would fly to India next month to participate in the Defence Expo, and will meet V K Saraswat who is known as the father of Indian interceptor missile programme. “India could be looking at US help to develop ‘hit-to-kill’ technology for its interceptor missiles,” he said.

Dr Saraswat had said that India’s interceptor missiles had used proximity fragmentation in its missile interception programme while Mr Cavin said that US approach was to seek a direct ‘hit-to-kill’ method in destroying incoming missiles. It is possible that New Delhi might be looking at acquiring such a capability for its missile interception programme.

Lockheed Martin is working on the development of a multi-layered anti-missile defence system for the US, of which, PAC-II, III and Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) would form essential components. While, the PAC-II and III systems are being deployed to tackle the threat from air-breathing cruise missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle threats, the THAAD system will take care of threats from Eco and Endo atmospheric ballistic missiles.

The Americans, who have already deployed PAC-II and III systems, are likely to deploy the THAAD system between 2009-2010 to cover the US troops deployed overseas.

THAAD missile system was described by Lockheed officials as the top layer of the proposed US ballistic missile defence system. “So far, 24 flight tests have been carried out, both in Eco and Endo modes, of which 21 had hit the bull’s eye,” Mr Cavin said.

US Army has recently ordered induction of two firing units with the THAAD system, comprising six launchers (each carrying 24 missiles, equipped with battery controlled and a radar station). Though Washington is ready to sell PAC II and III BMD systems to India, it hasn’t yet offered THAAD for India.

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