With the advancement of missiles in terms of technology and range, many countries are developing anti-ballistic missiles to destroy incoming missiles before they cause damage on the ground. India has embarked on developing its own Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program to counter the threat of missile attack from countries like Pakistan and China. This article provides details of the Indian Ballistic Missile Defence program and Prithvi Air Defence and Advanced Air Defence projects that are a part of the BMD.
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What is Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Program?
The Indian Ballistic Missile Defence Program is an initiative for developing and deploying a multi-dimensional ballistic missile defence system to safeguard the country from ballistic missile strikes. This is a 2-tiered system composed of two sea and land based interceptor missiles i.e. the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) Missile for low altitude deflections, and the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile for higher altitude deflections. The ballistic missile threat, primarily from Pakistan led to the emergence of this defence system. This multi-layered shield is expected to obstruct any inbound missile triggered from 5,000 km away. It also entails an overlapping system of tracking radars and preliminary warning, together with control and command posts.
The test of PAD was carried out in November 2006, and this was followed by testing the AAD in December 2007. India became the fourth nation in the world to have effectively launched an anti-ballistic missile system with the test of the PAD, after USA, Russia and Israel. Several tests have been conducted since then, however, the system is still to be commissioned officially. The PAD system is slated to be replaced by the Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV).
Prithvi Air Defence and Advanced Air Defence Projects
The Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) is an interceptor designed to deflect inbound ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere. Based on the missile, PAD is a two-phase missile with the highest deflection height of 80 km. The first stage is a Solid fuelled motor while the second stage includes a Liquid fuelled motor. The missile has movement thrusters which produce a lateral acceleration of over 5gs at an altitude of 50 km. The maximum range of PAD is 2,000 km and deflection height of 50-80kms. LRTR (Swordfish Long Range Tracking Radar) is the fire control radar and target acquisition for the PAD missile. The improved versions use a gimbaled directional warhead, which is a technology that Israel, Russia and Russia also use to destroy target missile with a smaller warhead.
The Advanced Air Defence (AAD) is also an interceptor missile developed to deflect inbound missiles in the endo-atmospheric region at a height of 30 km. It is a single stage missile which is solid fuelled. The guidance is same as that of PAD: an inactive navigation mechanism, midcourse updates from radar based on ground and active radar homing in the terminal stage. As India carried out two successful missile tests, the DRDO stated that the AAD missile can be altered into a novel expanded range (up to 150 km) surface to air interceptor.
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Capability of BMD and Comparison with China
A decade ago, India hardly had any indigenous missile. Now, the country boasts of a broad segment of these interceptors, whether it is small range, medium or long. The main goal of most missiles is to defend the strategic assets. Then there are missiles like the Pinaka, Prithvi and BrahMos that have been designed for battlefields. They are capable of attacking deep within the opponent territory and disturb their war-fighting and communications capability. The Agni series of interceptors are proficient in carrying nuclear warheads and are hence strategic deterrents. In addition to this, India possesses cruise missiles and anti-tank missiles. DRDO is also working on a cruise missile named the Nirbhay which can fly close to the ground and hence could evade being sensed by the opponent’s radar. The Indian Ballistic Missile Program has been undertaking lot of action to build India’s missile capabilities and in the coming five to ten years, the country will be able to bridge more gaps.
However, as compared to China, India’s ballistic missile capabilities are not very formidable. India’s missile developments have been reasonably good, specifically as far as land based missiles are concerned. However, the country still lacks in the naval missile systems and needs to focus attention in this area. India requires long-range missiles that are submarine based and China is far ahead than India in this segment. The missile balance is inclined in China’s favour and with rising maritime dangers and the Indian Ocean part in focus, there is a dire need to develop strong missiles for the Navy.
Is BMD the Answer to Any Type of Enemy Attack?
The success of DRDO in the domain of interceptor missiles is indeed commendable. However, the BMD mechanism is very complex and several other elements are needed to make it fully operational. The strategic and financial costs ought to be computed to identify if the country has alternatives to BMD. Comparison with the American BMD program would also be helpful. The US has the most intricate system for BMD and it plans to further extend it into Europe. The American continental system cost around $100 billion. The Indian system is likely to cost relatively less but the figures involved will be somewhere between Rs.50,000cr to Rs.250,000cr. Nonetheless, even such staggering amount of expenditure will not assure total protection. A feasible alternative will be to enhance the country’s strategic nuclear attack proficiency, so that regardless of NFU, the nation will be able to absorb a nuclear strike and react to inflict unfathomable amount of damage on the opponent.
Though the BMD system is an immensely destabilising factor in any nuclear weapons contest, it is crucial to acknowledge that the recent test fires say very little about the actual potential of the system to obstruct inbound missiles during wartime. However, the recent tests are certain to result in consternation in Pakistan. Moreover, this is a positive step for the indigenous defence sector.