Given the adverse security concerns and the belligerence shown by our Islamic neighbour post abrogation of Article 370, its high time India enhanced its air defence capabilities

One of the greatest threats facing India today is the increasing proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction in the region. India’s nuclear-armed bellicose neighbours, namely Pakistan and China, have significant cruise and ballistic missile capabilities. China and North Korea continue to proliferate on a wide scale and could increase in the long run as the technology is transferred. A rogue nation like Pakistan make these investments because ballistic missiles provides it with the means to project power both in a regional and strategic context and a capability to launch an attack on India from a distance. However, there are several reasons to doubt that Pakistan will ever launch a ballistic missile at India. Perhaps the most important relates to attribution – a missile launch could be easily detected, and retaliation would be swift and brutal at least as far as the purpose of the Modi government in Delhi is concerned.

Enhancing Capabilities

India has initiated a demonstrable indigenous capability in Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence (THAAD) development, a step to predominantly protect India from hostile ballistic missile attacks. The Advanced Air Defence (AAD) "Ashwin" Missile defence technology being developed, tested by DRDO is designed to counter ballistic missiles of varying ranges namely short, medium, intermediate and long. Since ballistic missiles have different ranges, speeds, size and performance characteristics, the AAD system has an integrated, “layered” architecture that provides multiple opportunities to destroy missiles and their warheads before they can reach their targets. Due to a realistic threat perception from its chief adversaries Pakistan and China, the need for a comprehensive and convincing protective cover became imperative.

Experts also believe that an effective missile defence infrastructure will provide India space for limited wars against China and Pakistan. China is superior in its ballistic missiles force level while on the other hand Pakistan's ritual flaunting of its nuclear capability and a belligerent 'First Use' policy has left India but with no choice to develop a deterring shield to defuse such a dangerous situation. The program consists of a two-tiered architecture consisting of the Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) missile for Exo-atmospheric (Outside the atmospheric regime) interception and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) Missile for Endo-atmospheric (within the atmospheric regime) interception. The two-tier system is intended to intercept ballistic missiles at distances of over 600 km. In the Phase-1 Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program development, interceptors fly at 4.5 Mach supersonic speeds to tackle hostile missiles with a 2,000 km strike range. The Phase-2 BMD program will intercept Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) with 5,000 plus Km range with interceptors flying at Mach 6-7 hypersonic speeds. The third and the final layer is planned to tackle low-flying cruise missiles, artillery projectiles and rockets in line with the overall aim to achieve “near 100% kill or interception probability”.

Recent Developments

In a recent development, Lockheed Martin's Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system successfully intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) target in a missile defence test led by the US Missile Defence Agency with critical support provided by the US Army.

During the test, designated Flight Test THAAD (FTT-23), the THAAD system located at Marshall Islands successfully detected, tracked and intercepted a threat representative target using a THAAD launcher that was positioned at distance from the other THAAD end items.

The THAAD radar detected, acquired and tracked the target. The THAAD system then developed a fire control solution and launched an interceptor from a remotely-located THAAD launcher that destroyed the target's reentry vehicle.

What Does This Mean?

The American THAAD system now has the capability to physically un-tether a THAAD launcher from the battle manager and launch interceptors remotely, greatly enhancing launcher emplacement options and increasing the defended area.

Development and acquisition of these technologies by India paves the way for delivery of an urgent need capability that will enhance AAD's emplacement options resulting in greater asset protection. It will benefit AAD to effectively defending against a host of ballistic missile threats to include mass raid scenarios. The system will use hit-to-kill technology to destroy a threat with direct impact neutralising lethal payloads before they reach protected assets on the ground. The system would be rapidly deployable, mobile and interoperable with all other Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMDS) elements, including both in the Exo and Endo-Atmospheric regimes.

Therefore, it is imperative that the government should explore the viability to develop such a system in lieu with the difficult terrain the armed forces have to operate along our hostile borders.

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