India’s Indigenous Missile Defence System to Neutralize Pakistan’s Missile Threat
One could say that modern warfare has somewhat shifted from traditional land and air warfare to missile warfare as it is capable of inflicting massive damage deep in enemy territory. As a result of this, nations are not only focusing on developing better and more lethal missles but also on missile defence systems.
India has achieved success in creating such a missile defence system hence becoming only the fifth nation to do so after the US, Russia, Israel and France. The DRDO had conceived the programme in 1999.
India has also decided to install the indigenous ballistic missile defense systems at two villages in Rajasthan – Alwar and Pali – and both are less than 800 kilometers from Islamabad. This defense grid will protect the western and northern regions of India and will guard New Delhi and Mumbai.
The counter attack missiles will be able to provide double layered security with the capacity to shoot down enemy missiles both within the earth’s atmosphere (endo-atmospheric) and outside it (exo-atmospheric).
Shield against Pakistan
Avinash Chander, Former DRDO chief is of the view that the indigenous system will help India on the western front. “This is a huge achievement for India. This interceptor missile defence system gives us multi-layered capability, both for medium and short range missiles. For India, this means protection primarily on the western front, that is against Pakistan,” he told FE Online. Lauding Indian scientists, Chander said, “Some more tests need to be conducted to check the consistency and reliability of the system. But, the fact that we have hit the missile directly is a rare achievement.”
Avinash Chander also points to a big boost that the interceptor system will give. “This helps India create a credible defence system against rogue attacks. With the new interceptor missile defence system, India is set to get 24/7 vigilance, practically with no single person needed,” said Chander who is also the architect of India’s Agni missiles.
Colonel (Retd) KV Kuber, Independent Consultant Defence and Aerospace also believes that India has showcased its missile supremacy to the world. “There is little doubt that India has now entered an exclusive elite club. We have made a statement to the world by showcasing our supremacy in the missile space. It is a great step that will help counter any incoming threats,” Kuber told FE Online.
India is already in the process of buying Russia’s S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems – widely known to be one of the most modern defence systems in the world. This means that Russia would be giving India such a powerful deterrent that has already rattled the NATO countries. Russian experts proclaim that the S-400 system can shoot down fifth-generation fighter jets, like America’s most advanced F-35s!
With the S-400 Triumf coming to India, and the interceptor missile system being ready in the next few years, India is set to plug in a gaping hole in its air defence. “One of the basic weaknesses of India’s defence is the air defence system. We have not been doing enough procurements on that front. There are multiple vulnerable points and areas that have been identified by our security forces. Now, with the S-400 Triumf, our indigenous interceptor missile Advanced Area Defence, and the impending upgrade of AD – overall we will have a reasonable defence system against the enemy,” Colonel (Retd) KV Kuber believes.
In its current iteration, India’s BMD is a two-layered system. 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-defense (AAD) mainly consists of Akash Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM) that can intercept incoming missiles at ranges of 15-30 km (endo-atmospheric interception). If the PAD system is devised for mid-course interception, the AAD is a terminal phase interception system which can only counter incoming missiles after their entry into the atmosphere.
In their present configuration, these systems are designed to counter missiles with range close to 2,000 km traveling at speeds ranging from Mach 3 to Mach 8.
The long-range Swordfish radar is used to track and provide fire control to these missiles. This Israeli radar has a range of 800+ km and can be used for tracking enemy missile launches and trajectories. India is upgrading this radar to increase its range to 1500 km. This will be used along with upgraded variants of the PAD/AAD missiles which will have a longer range and a higher flight ceiling. It is said that the AAD missile can be used as a long-range SAM to shoot down enemy aircraft and cruise missiles as well. This would make India one of the few operators of 250+ km range SAMs. The PAD and AAD missiles working in tandem are said to have a hit probability of 99.8% against enemy ballistic missile
The BMD program provides India with the prospect, albeit still distant, of blocking or reducing an offensive missile strike, and also serves as an area where American and Indian defense scientists can collaborate – building important bridges between the two states that could later transfer over into other areas. However, these benefits need to be weighed against the likely negative regional reactions. At the same time, it also is likely to raise tension and perhaps have unintended second and third order consequences in India’s relations with China and Pakistan.
Many factors have motivated India’s quest for missile defense. First, Pakistan’s inclinations to pursue low intensity conflicts and foment terrorism under the shield of its nuclear arsenal have made India extremely uncomfortable with the strategic situation in the region. The Kargil War, 2002 attack on the Indian parliament and 2008 Mumbai attacks were symptomatic of this strategic imbroglio. Many in Delhi hope missile defense will provide India a space for limited wars against Pakistan.
Another motivating factor was the fear that there could be an unintended launch of a ballistic missile, especially given Pakistan’s vacillation between being ruled by a trigger happy military and being overrun by jihadi extremists. Lastly, India also realized that a limited BMD, especially to secure its political leadership and nuclear command and control against a first strike, would augment the credibility of its second-strike nuclear posture.
Brahmos Against China
While on this border a missile defence system is being incorporated to fend off Pakistani threats, on the opposite border with China, India is challenging Chinese might by placing regiments of the BrahMos missile. It has been decades since we’ve witnessed an India that is recognizing the threat of its two neighbours and is acting accordingly.
The Narendra Modi government has made it clear with its actions that it won’t be intimidated either by Pakistan’s vacuous threats or by China’s incessant saber-rattling.