March 31, 2011

'At Home and Abroad', India's Air Defence Planners Saddle Up to the SAM Procurement Challenge

http://www.defenceiq.com/land/articles/india-s-defence-manufacturing-base-saddles-up-to-t/&utm_source=defenceiq.com&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Prospect&utm_content=30_03_2011&utm_term=ISAD&mac=DFIQ_PR_2011

Contributor: Laurent Rathborn

India faces unique air security challenges. It suffers from a quasi-belligerent, nuclear-armed neighbour at its border and an increasingly outdated Cold War air-defence system.
Consequently, the last fifteen years have seen efforts by the Indian Ministry of Defence to either purchase upgraded systems or, increasingly, internally develop their own. SAM (surface-to-air missile) systems can be mounted on a number of delivery platforms at sea and on the ground.
Moving on from legacy solutions
The bulk of India’s Cold-War era SAM systems are of the OSA-AKM [SA-8 Gecko] and ZRK-BD MR/LR-SAM type, which are rapidly being surpassed by modern offerings from suppliers such as France and Israel. The Ministry of Defence has also partnered with both countries to co-develop a replacement system, taking advantage of India’s growing technical knowledge-base. Three systems under development are of interest.

The first of these is Akash, a replacement for old SA-3 systems in the hilly northeast of the country, and a wholly indigenous development. Akash’s missile has a reported range of up to 30km and an altitude ceiling of 18000m. While primarily meant as an anti-air system, it has also been tested in an ABM role. The Indian Air Force completed trials for the system in 2007.
Post-trial phase, a Ministry of Defence contract signed late last year valued at INR 42.79 billion (about $925 million) will buy 6 squadrons of Akash medium-range SAMs from state-run Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL). This 750 missile order follows an INR 12.21 billion (about $250 million) order for 2 initial squadrons with 250 missiles total, back in January 2009.

Akash represents the first fully internally developed anti-air system that India has deployed to date. By contrast, two other systems flagged for acquisition are either joint-development projects with another country or a straight purchase from foreign manufacturers. Barak is an example of the former.

Barak is a supersonic, vertically-launched short range air defence system, with an operational range of about 10 km (6 miles). That pushes it past the standard ranges of shoulder-launched options with naval counterparts, like the MBDA Mistral/SIMBAD or Saab Boofors’ RBS-70, but short of other small vertical launch options like the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow. India has ordered $300 million worth of these missiles as a substitute for the indigenous but long-delayed Trishul (“Trident”) missile project, and Barak systems now equip many of the ships in India’s Navy.
The Navy’s Barak-NG/ LR-SAM project aimed to give the missiles a much longer reach, with the intention of making it India’s primary naval SAM. Some variants of the Barak 8 missile reportedly extend its range to 60-70 km (approximately 41 miles), thanks to a dual-pulse solid rocket motor whose second “pulse” fires as the missile approaches its target.

The land-based version is under development by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which will be the ‘prime developer’ for the MR-SAM project, alongside Israel. This contract has a Rs 2,300 crore (INR 23 billion, $450 million) indigenous component within an estimated Rs 10,000 crore (INR 100 billion, about $1.93 billion) total.
Indian Air Force dividends
The Indian Air Force will be a major partner, and has revealed plans to raise at least two regiments that will use the MR-SAM, each with 40 launchers and support equipment. In India, the MR-SAM will progressively replace the IAF’s antiquated Soviet-vintage SA-3 Pechora and SA-8 OSA-AK SAM systems.
A straight purchase of production rights from Israel concerns its SPYDER SAM system, a replacement for the indigenous Trishul system which has so far not made progress past the development stage. SPYDER is a low-level, quick-reaction, surface-to-air missile (LLQRM) system capable of engaging aircraft, helicopters, unmanned air vehicles, drones and precision-guided munitions.
The system provides air defence for fixed assets and for point and area defence for mobile forces in combat areas. The kill range is specified as being less than 1km, with a maximum range of 15km. The altitudes range from a minimum of 20m to a maximum of 9,000m. The system is capable of multi-target simultaneous engagement and also single, multiple and ripple firing at all times and in all conditions.
The contract with the IAF, signed in 2008 for $260 million, involves the supply of 18 SPYDER systems, with deliveries running through early 2011 to August 2012. The medium range and long range surface-to-air system (MR/LR-SAM) is an Rs10,000 crore (approximately $2.5 billion) project for use by India's land forces. As with Barak, the production phase is expected to be carried out in India by Indian technical staff.

As seen with both Barak and SPYDER, India is focused on moving into production partnerships with heavyweight arms manufacturers. While the intellectual rights may come from overseas, India’s strategy of using a mixture of foreign-designed and indigenous systems means that local technicians get the widest possible exposure to technical standards and design frameworks.
This is important in terms of future design and maintenance; since indigenous production requires domestic investment in terms of manufacturing facilities and technical education programmes, it makes sense for India to partner with “blueprint producers” and produce components in-house. Technical expertise passed on during the manufacturing process then makes upgrades and maintenance easier and cheaper over the lifecycle of the system, which also reduces reliance on third-party contracts for life extension programmes should the need arise.

India’s paradigm shift towards domestic procurement is not just confined to its SAM systems. The IAF has recently completed a series of trials on its in-house HAL Tejas MiG-replacement fighter aircraft, which should be ready to fly within the next few years, and is currently in the process of reviving its Airavat project, which is an indigenous airborne electronic warfare platform effort, as well as a light combat helicopter platform.

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