Monday, March 30, 2009

BrahMos cruise missile hits 'bull's eye'

The Indian Army on Sunday successfully test fired the land attack version of the supersonic BrahMos cruise missile at the Pokhran test range in Rajasthan. The missile took off successfully and hit the "bull's eye", an official statement said. The missile, a joint venture of India and Russia, was fired at 11.15 am on Sunday.

"Today (Sunday) land attack version of BrahMos block-II was tested from a mobile autonomous launcher at Pokhran test range by the Indian Army. The missile took off successfully and hit the desired target at bull's eye meeting all mission parameters," a statement issued by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said.

This is the second launch this month and third this year for the block-II version for the army. In the first test, the missile failed to hit the target. The army kept the results of the second test under wraps even though DRDO termed it successful.

"With this launch, the requirement of army for the land attack version with block-II advanced seeker software with target discriminating capabilities has been fully met and this version is ready for induction," the statement said.

According to the DRDO officials, the missile will provide an enhanced capability to the army for selection of a particular land target among a group of targets.

The launch was witnessed by Director General Military Operations Lt. Gen. AS Sekhon, Commandant School of Artillery Lt. Gen. KR Rao and Additional Director General Artillery Maj. Gen. VK Tiwari along with other senior army officers.

The CEO of BrahMos A Sivathanu Pillai and other senior scientists were also present during the launch, the release added. Cruise missiles fly at low altitudes and have the ability to evade enemy radars and air-defence systems. They are also easier and cheaper to operate.

The Indian Army has already begun inducting the land-fired version of the BrahMos, with the first battery entering service in June 2007. Each battery is equipped with four mobile launchers mounted on heavy 12x12 Tatra transporters.

The army plans to induct three more such batteries. The anti-ship naval version has also been inducted into service with its integration on the destroyer INS Rajput, with two other ships of the same class to be similarly equipped. The missiles will also be mounted on the three 7,000 tonne Kolkata class destroyers currently being constructed at Mumbai's Mazagon docks.

The missile, which takes its name from the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers, has a 300-km range and carries a 300 kg conventional warhead. It can achieve speeds of up to 2.8 Mach or nearly three times the speed of sound.

Friday, March 27, 2009

India signs 1.4 US million air defence deal with Israel

India has signed a 1.4 million dollar air defence deal with Israel for the purchase and joint development of an air defence system.

The Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has officially acknowledged that the defence deal between the two nations was signed on February 27.

However, Indian Defence Ministry is yet to confirm the deal officially.

According to business daily ‘Globes’, under this deal, Israel will create and manufacture sea-borne and shore-based systems against missile attacks on India.

India itself has achieved success in developing a powerful missile in the same class. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has recently been successful in test firing Advance Air Defence (AAD) missile. India is currently Israel’s largest arms buyer.

The two sides have even discussed on the schedule of payments. It has been agreed that part of the payment for the systems will be made during the development period and the balance will be paid during the 66-month delivery period, which is slated to begin 90 months from the date the advance payment is received.

The IAI is also likely to obtain military or aviation products and services from India. It is said that Israel will invest an amount of almost 30 per cent of the contract in Indian defence companies.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Indian Missile Defense: Success Too Soon?

Two weeks ago, a ballistic missile blasted off from a warship sailing in the Bay of Bengal. Its target was Wheeler Island, a small enclave of land off the coast of India and home to one of India's most important missile testing facilities.

Within seconds of the launch, the Indian military's radars and computer banks began tracking the supersonic rocket. Several computations later, an alarm triggered another "hot" missile on the island that, once launched, began pursuing the aggressor warhead. Some 70 kilometers above the earth's surface, the two collided. The rocket's debris fell through the sky, most of it burned and vaporized. What little remained scattered like ash into the vast expanses of the Indian Ocean, marking India's third successful test of its nascent missile defense system.

Over the past few years, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the Indian military's scientific arm, has been trying to push India into a very exclusive club: countries that can boast of having a missile defense shield. The only other members so far are the United States, Russia and Israel. The recent success may not have generated the same level of national jubilation as the nuclear tests in 1998, but among strategic circles the satisfaction was clear. "The third consecutive interception of ballistic missile demonstrated the robustness of the Indian BMD system," remarked an overjoyed V. K. Saraswat, program director for India's Air Defense.

India hopes to unveil its missile umbrella in two phases. Stage one, which envisages the ability to intercept missiles of 2,000 km range, is expected to be completed by 2011. Stage two of the program, where scientists hope to take on intercontinental ballistic missiles with a range greater than 3,500 km, will be ready by 2014.

There are still several major barriers that need to be overcome before a fully functional missile shield can be deployed to protect major national cities and other important landmarks. But the Indians take this prospective development very seriously, as part of becoming a recognized global power. So seriously, in fact, that the DRDO has consistently brushed off questions about finances. According to officials closely associated with the project, the cost so far is roughly $1 billion dollars and counting. Saraswat, when asked about the program's budget, simply smiled and said, "We have enough," hinting that the government is willing to turn a blind eye to the project's monetary feasibility.

At the heart of India's nuclear strategy and missile defense program is the decades-old notion of deterrence. But India's own nuclear doctrines -- highlighted in a 1999 press release by the Cabinet Committee on Security, and the Draft Report by the National Security Advisory Board, also from 1999 -- underline the importance of the survivability of second-strike capability. Critics have pointed out that a shield would increase insecurity in the region by provoking an arms race and missile buildup involving Pakistan and China, which in turn would escalate the likelihood of war.

However, Ali Ahmed, a nuclear expert at New Delhi's prominent Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, disagrees. "We would like to preserve ourselves from a decapitating nuclear strike. So the reason why India is developing a missile defense system is not to defend the entire landmass as such, but rather the survivability of our second-strike capability. This is something that is helping our deterrence; this is not something that will provoke the Chinese or the Pakistanis to multiply their warheads."

Doctrines aside, there remains some pragmatic skepticism about the shield's viability. First, there is the question of technology, which has not yet matured. It is unclear, for instance, whether the Indian ABM program can take on a barrage of incoming missiles in the event of a full-scale attack. Then there is the issue of deception. Saraswat quietly skirted around the topic when asked if the interceptors could distinguish between decoys and actual warheads. Many people who are closely following the developments have charged that the tests were carried out in too sanitized an environment, one that does not reflect real-world scenarios.

Scientists at the DRDO have only been able to develop the program's missile technology -- meaning that other vital components, like radars and the mission control center, had to be acquired from overseas. Foreign companies from Israel, the United States and Russia have also been hawking their own military wares to the Ministry of Defense: the ready-to-go Arrow-2, PAC-3 and S300-V, respectively.

Yet Saraswat expressed confidence in India's program, saying that while foreign collaboration could not be ruled out completely, the indigenous character of the project is necessary to "customize [it] to the Indian threat profile." He even went on to claim that the homegrown missile architecture was "20 to 30 percent" better than the American-made PAC-3 system, although that is debatable.

Perhaps the most fundamental challenges for the missile shield, though, lie not in the missiles it might shoot down, but in the evolving complexities of deterrence. Despite the phenomenal sums of money spent on the program, for instance, it could do nothing to prevent the recent Mumbai attacks, part of what many in India believe amounts to a low-intensity war by Pakistan against India. Whether the DRDO can continue to maintain support for the costly effort in light of this changing threat environment remains to be seen.

New Delhi looks at new missile deal with Israel

India is believed to have reached a 1.9 billion dollar deal with an Israeli company for the supply and joint development of medium-range surface-to-air missiles. The defence ministry is yet to officially confirm the deal, but sources in the department of defence research and development (DRDO) said it was likely to go ahead.

The joint development of the 70-kilometre MR-SAM missile project would be carried out by India’s DRDO and the Israeli Aircraft Industries.

The Israeli company also manufactures Barak missile systems and the DRDO is hoping that collaboration with the IAI will help it develop these missiles within four to five years.

Indian left-wing parties have raised objections to the proposed deal.

Two prominent Communist leaders Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan sent a letter to the prime minister in February alleging bribes were paid to clinch the Barak surface-to-air missile interceptor deal in 2000 and that there is evidence of remittances paid by Israel Aircraft Industries.

The left leaders alleged that the MR-SAM deal had been signed despite the fact that the DRDO already had the capacity to make advanced air defence missiles.

In 2007, defence minister A.K. Antony told parliament that India had made defence purchases worth more than 5 billion dollars from Israel from 2002 to 2007.

Indian naval sources said that Israeli Barak missiles, Derby missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic warfare equipment are either already being used by the Indian navy or are in the process of being bought.

The Barak missiles are surface-to-air precision-guided missiles with a short range of about 10 kilometres and are very effective missile interceptors used as the last layer of defence to destroy an advancing missile.

The Indian military regards Israel as a reliable defence partner.

In August 2007 an Indian cabinet approved two arms deals worth 1.7 billion dollars with Israeli companies to upgrade the country's missile defence systems.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

India willing to work with US on anti-satellite weapons

India, which is one of the few countries in the world to have significant space capabilities, is willing to work with the US to develop anti-satellite weapons, a top diplomat has said.

"This is an area of convergence on which we would be happy to work together with the US and contribute to a multilateral agreement," Shyam Saran, Prime Minister's Special Envoy, said in his address to the Brookings Institution.

Saran was referring to the recent announcements made by the US President, Barack Obama, about his intention to join multilateral efforts to prevent military conflict in space and to negotiate an agreement to prohibit the testing of anti-satellite weapons.
India welcomes this, he said. "We have a large number of communications and resource survey satellites currently in orbit. Although this does not fall strictly within the nuclear domain, the need to ensure the peaceful uses of outer space, is important for nuclear stability and international security," Saran said.

In 2007, China had destroyed one of its own defunct satellites with a ballistic missile, sparking global concerns. In February last year, a US Navy ship too launched a missile that hit a dying spy satellite.

Friday, March 20, 2009

India buys Israeli spy satellite

India has bought a spy satellite from Israel with day-and-night viewing capability to boost surveillance capabilities in the aftermath of the Mumbai militant attacks, a report said Friday.

The satellite, which can see through clouds and carry out day-and-night all-weather imaging, has been one of the long-standing demands of the Indian military, the NDTV news channel said.

The 300 kilogram (650 pound) RISAT 2 will be launched by India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket in the next few weeks, the report said.

Indian scientists were in the process of integrating the satellite and the rocket at the Sriharikota space port in southern India, it said.

The acquisition was fast-tracked after the November 26-29 Mumbai siege in which 10 gunmen went on a shooting spree.

India says the attackers came by boat from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to Mumbai, based on its investigations and the confession of the lone gunman captured alive after the 60-hour siege, in which 165 people were killed.

India's existing satellites get blinded at night and in the monsoon season.

NDTV said the new acquisition would also provide New Delhi with the capability to track incoming hostile ballistic missiles.

India treated Israel like a pariah for decades, but has forged close military links with Tel Aviv in recent years with the Jewish state replacing France in 2007 as its second-largest arms supplier after Russia.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Phase One of Indian BMD programme on track for completion by 2011

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said Monday plans to develop the country's ballistic missile programme were on course and the first phase would be completed by 2011. Senior DRDO official, Dr VK Saraswat, said two more tests would be conducted to conclude this phase of the programme.

With the successful third ballistic missile interceptor flight-test already conducted on Friday at the integrated test range, chief controller (Missiles Strategic Systems) and Programme Director (Air Defence), Dr VK Saraswat said, ''The third consecutive interception of ballistic missile demonstrated the robustness of the Indian BMD system. The DRDO have already conducted two interception trials, first in exo-atmospheric region at 48 km altitude on 27 November 2006 and the second in endo-atmospheric region at 15 km using AAD missile on 6 December 2007,'' he said.

Briefing journalists, Dr. Saraswat said an integrated endo- and exo-atmospheric test was on the cards and very likely would be conducted by the end of this year.

Under the first phase of the programme the Indian BMD system would develop the capability to intercept incoming missiles with a range of 2000-km. Saraswat said, ''It will take five tests (three already conducted) to validate BMD capabilities to destroy ballistic missiles of 2,000 km range. We will then work on interceptor missiles that can engage aggressor missiles with longer ranges.''

The United States, Israel and Russia have already offered their equivalent systems to India. The American's are touting their Patriot air defence system, Israeli's the Arrow-2 BMD system and the Russian's the S-300V surface-to-air missiles.

These offers are yet to impress the DRDO, however. According to Dr Saraswat, ''BMD is a hi-tech and complex subject…it has to be indigenously developed. You cannot beg, borrow or steal it from someone. It won't be suitable for your country. The DRDO's BMD architecture has been customised to the Indian threat profile…The AAD is 20 per cent superior to PAC-3.''

He said the DRDO had sought foreign collaboration only for bridging technological gaps and accelerating technology development. The long-range tracking radars (LRTR) used for detecting targets for the interceptor missiles are modified Israeli Green Pine radars. The interceptor missiles use an indigenized Russian radio frequency seeker and the fire control radar is French. The LRTR currently has a range of 600 km, which the DRDO plans to upgrade to 1,500 km by 2011.

Under the second phase, capabilities would be enhanced to engage intercontinental ballistic missiles, with a range of over 3,500 km.

Responding to questions, Dr Saraswat said the interceptor used in the Friday test was guided by an Inertial Navigation System in mid course flight and used a radio frequency homing seeker in the terminal phase to destroy the incoming missile.

India Plans to Deploy Missile Launch Detection Satellites

India might deploy missile detection and tracking satellites as part of a next generation of missile defense technologies New Delhi hopes to begin fielding by 2014, the Times of India reported today .

New Delhi is planning to develop interceptors capable of striking longer-range missiles that fly considerably faster than the weapons India's current missile defense are designed to defend against. Last week, the nation successfully tested a two-stage interceptor that destroyed its target flying 80 kilometers above the Earth. Another test of that system is scheduled for September, the Times reported.

"What we are now perfecting are Phase-I interceptor missiles, which fly at 4.5 Mach high-supersonic speeds. We are already working on Phase-II interceptors, which will have hypersonic speeds of 6-7 Mach," said V.K. Saraswat of India's Defense Research and Development Organization.

The more capable systems could also give India an antisatellite capability

Monday, March 9, 2009

India kicks off work on advanced missile defence shield

Buoyed by the successful testing of its fledgling ballistic missile defence, India is pushing ahead with an ambitious version of the star wars project capable of shooting down incoming ICBMs in the 5,000 km range.

The phase-II of the BMD systems, likely to be deployed by 2014, will be an important part of India's defence as both China and Pakistan possess nuclear capable missiles. Once the BMD is in place it will place India in a fairly exclusive club alongside US, Russia and Israel.

India will be playing catch up with China which stunned the world by shooting down a weather satellite with a missile in January 2007. Putting in place a system capable of intercepting inter-continental ballistic missiles would enhance India's strategic prowess.

While a BMD system can be overwhelmed by a flurry of missiles or a low-flying cruise, it would be a important part of India's defence against the danger of ballistic missiles.

If the ongoing Phase-I BMD system is geared to tackling enemy missiles with a 2,000-km range, Phase-II is enhance capacities significantly. Plans are also afoot to have space-based surveillance systems to ensure a hostile threat can be detected even earlier than the present long-range tracking radars (LRTRs) used in the BMD system, which track the `enemy' missile as well as guide the `interceptor' missile in destroying it.

Sources said DRDO has told the government that while the Phase-I systems can be deployed from 2012 onwards, the Phase-II systems will come into operational play only from 2014 onwards at the earliest.

There will be another interesting spin-off from the indigenous two-tier BMD system, capable of tracking and destroying hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere. It will give India a potent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon since technology required for "neutralisation'' of a ballistic missile or a satellite is somewhat similar.

India, of course, has received presentations from the three countries which have operational BMD or anti-ballistic missile systems -- US (Patriot Advanced Capability-3), Russia (S-300V) and Israel (Arrow-2) -- as of now.

Though all three are hawking their systems to India, New Delhi has decided to go in for its own "home-grown'' BMD system specifically designed to meet its security needs. Moreover, there are financial and feasibility concerns about importing foreign systems.

"We are cooperating with countries to bridge our technology gaps. US, for instance, has a different threat profile. Its systems will not be suitable for us. Our system has to cater for our own threat profile,'' DRDO chief controller for missiles, Dr V K Saraswat, said on Monday.

Dismissing PAC-3 as "an outdated system'', the scientist said India's BMD system was "20-30% more capable'' than it. He, however, acknowledged the BMD system had received some help from countries like Israel (LRTRs), France (fire-control radars) and Russia (seekers).

DRDO, of course, often promises more than it can deliver. This time, however, it sounds quite confident, especially after the third test of the Phase-I BMD system on March 6, when a two-stage exo-atmospheric interceptor missile intercepted an `enemy' missile at an 80-km altitude.

In the earlier tests, in November 2006 and December 2007, the enemy missiles had been "killed'' at altitudes of 48-km and 15-km respectively. The next test, with both exo and endo interceptor missiles in an integrated mode, is slated for September.

"We will complete all our tests for Phase-I by 2010-2011. All BMD building blocks like long-range radars, communication network, mission control centre and launch control centre are in place,'' said Saraswat.

"What we are now perfecting are Phase-I interceptor missiles, which fly at 4.5 Mach high-supersonic speeds. We are already working on Phase-II interceptors, which will have hypersonic speeds of 6-7 Mach,'' he added.

Hypersonic missiles likely to be ready by 2013

Dr A Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Controller of Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), said that the Brahmos Aerospace is working on hypersonic missile project, Brahmos II, which is expected to be ready by 2013.

Talking on the sidelines after inaugurating a combat vehicles and engineering exhibition, organised as part of the DRDO’s golden jubilee celebrations, Pillai, who is also the CEO and the managing director of Brahmos Aerospace, Thiruvavanthapuram, said that the missile will have a speed between Mach 5 and Mach 7. He also claimed that the Brahmos cruise missile at Mach 2.8 is the fastest in the world.

Asked about the failure of the Brahmos missile’s land attack version, which was tested some time ago, he said the reasons for the failures have been identified and efforts on rectifying the “problem with the software” was on.

He revealed that work on the development of a universal missile launcher has started at the Brahmos Aerospace in Thiruvananthapuram.

Speaking at the inaugural function of the Exhibition, Sivathanu Pillai, while explaining the changing dimensions of war theatre, said that the future wars would be fought with minimum people, but with maximum weapons. “It will be network centric and will be fought with intelligent and autonomous systems,” he said, adding that the “cyber warfare and robotic systems will dominate the battlefield.” Pillai, who began his career with ISRO, said nanotechnology and biotechnology would change the perspective of future wars. “The Bio- Nano revolution will change every applications in the battlefield,” he said.

Sivathanu Pillai said the development of precision robotic systems and manipulators will help to use it in nuclear reactors and in heath care systems also.

The BrahMos chief executive said Helium 3 gas, available in Moon, could become the future energy source for the world.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New Version of BrahMos Missile Test Fired Successfully

A new version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile meant to attack a particular target out of a cluster on land was successfully tested at the Army’s range at Pokhran, Rajasthan, on Wednesday.

This was its 19th flight and the launch took place at 10.35 a.m. In its previous flight on January 20 it missed the target following a software glitch.

This variant is called the Block II version. BrahMos is essentially an anti-ship missile.

Informed sources described it as “a difficult mission” because the target was just 50 km away instead of the normal range of 290 km. Besides, the missile had to perform “a discriminatory role”: it had to hit the desired target out of a cluster of small targets, resembling “a factory-type situation.” The time given to the missile to perform manoeuvres and hit the target was much less than the normal flight. But these “constraints were overcome” with the Global Positioning System (GPS) update coming in correctly and the missile homed in on the desired target, sources said.

The missile flew at a velocity of Mach 2, twice the speed of sound. The normal version flies at Mach 3.

Last time the missile failed to hit the target as the GPS did not have time to correct the error in the inertial navigation system (INS). So the GPS update did not come in. This time, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) ensured that even if the GPS update did not flow in, the missile would hit the target. Modifications were made in the software and simulation runs conducted.

The launch met different mission requirements.

Monday, March 2, 2009

DRDO to test-fire BrahMos II on Wednesday

After failing to hit the target in the previous test, DRDO is planning to test-fire the Block II version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile on March 4.

"We are planning to conduct the second test of the BrahMos Block II version at the Army's test range in Pokharan on March 4 this week," Defence Ministry officials said here.

The earlier test of the Indo-Russian joint venture missile was carried out on January 20 where it took off successfully but deviated from its path and landed far away from its target.
Speaking about the earlier problems with the missile, officials claimed that there was a "small defect" in the software of the homing device of the missile, which they claimed to have rectified for the test this week.
Officials claimed that the technology in the Block II missiles was "unparallelled" and would help them hit even "insignificant targets" hidden in cluster of buildings.