The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) claimed on Monday that by 2011 it would have mastered the technology to kill any aggressor ballistic missile with a range of 2,000. It also went on to claim that its ballistic missile defence (BMD) architecture would outclass technologies offered by the United States, Russia and Israel. The organisation’s “homegrown” BMD architecture has some Russian, Israeli and French elements weaved into it.
Dr V.K. Saraswat, chief controller, R&D and programme director (air defence), DRDO, said exo and endo-atmospheric intercept systems (designed to destroy targets within and outside the atmospheric limits) for achieving hit-to-kill probability of 99.8 per cent would be ready within two years.
The DRDO claims to have laid the foundation of India's BMD architecture, having carried out three successful flight tests of its new interceptor missiles, named PAD for the exo-atmospheric version and AAD for the endo-atmospheric variant. In the latest test conducted on March 6, the PAD intercepted a Dhanush missile launched from a warship off the Orissa coast at an altitude of 80 km in 107 seconds of launch.
The PAD had earlier intercepted an incoming missile at an altitude of 48 km in November 2006 while the AAD destroyed a modified Prithvi simulating a hostile missile within the atmospheric limits at 15 kms. As part of a multi-layered defence approach, an integrated PAD-AAD test will be conducted towards the end of this year.
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.” As India prepares to beat off threats from ballistic missiles, the United States, Israel and Russia have offered to equip the Indian military with combat-proven surface-to-air guided missile systems designed to protect troops from ballistic missiles.
Nipping at the DRDO’s heels are the American Patriot air defence system, Israeli Arrow-2 BMD system and a variant of Russia's S-300 surface-to-air missiles. The US departments of defence officials have made two classified briefings to the Indian defence ministry detailing Patriot's capabilities. The PAC-3 missile incorporated in the upgraded Patriot system uses hit-to-kill technology to destroy ballistic missile targets.
But the DRDO does not want to seen as getting intimidated. Saraswat, the high-flying DRDO scientist steering India’s BMD programme, said, “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 happen to be modified Israeli Green Pine radar. Also, the DRDO’s BMD architecture uses a Russian radio frequency seeker, which it claims to have indigenised, and French fire control radar. The LRTR currently has a range of 600 km, which the DRDO plans to upgrade to 1,500 km by 2011.
India may have developed the basic building blocks for ballistic missile defence but it remains highly vulnerable to cruise missiles. Saraswat admitted that the country had no capability to intercept surface-hugging missiles.