India's ballistic missile shield comprising both Endo/Exo regimes is a technological tour-de-force

India is working towards making its national Capital more impregnable against military or 9/11-like terror attacks from aircraft, missiles and drones. The measures underway include getting a new missile shield to replace older air defence systems, re-configuring the VIP no-fly zone and refining the protocol to shoot down rogue planes.

Simultaneously, as part of the overall Delhi Area Air Defence Plan, work is on to further realign the "VIP-89 area" over New Delhi, which includes Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament, North and South Blocks, as well as shorten the decision-making loop to shoot down planes that may have been hijacked or commandeered for use as "missiles against strategic targets", say sources.

Home-Grown Anti-Missile System

India’s indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) program is complete, and the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) are now working on a proposal to seek the government’s nod to install the missile shield for the national capital as reported by ThePrint. The BMD, along with the Russian S-400 Triumf air defence system, aims to secure the country from all kinds of incoming missiles, including nuclear, and flying objects.

DRDO is in the final stages of developing its two-tier ballistic missile defence (BMD) shield, which is designed to track and destroy nuclear missiles both inside (Endo) by Ashwin Ballistic Missile Interceptor/Advanced Air Defence and outside (Exo) the earth's atmosphere by the Prithvi Defence Vehicle. India is only the fourth country to have developed a functioning ballistic missile defence system, ahead even of China.

It may be recalled that the defence acquisitions council (DAC), chaired by then defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, had approved the "acceptance of necessity (AoN) for the acquisition of the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II) worth around $1 billion from the US in July 2018.

Once the Phase-I of the BMD system is operational, it will be deployed to protect cities like Delhi and Mumbai from long-range missiles with a 2,000-km strike range. The NASAMS, in turn, is geared towards intercepting cruise missiles, aircraft and drones, said a source.

BMD Ramifications

Critics fear that the existence of ballistic missile defences may simply prompt Pakistan and China to devise even deadlier nuclear missiles employing decoys, evasive trajectories and multiple reentry vehicles (MIRVs) to shower warheads over several targets reports .

An article in the Dawn newspaper implies that India’s growing defences will indeed engender such a reaction in Islamabad. Fearing that the system will “negate” Pakistani strategic strike abilities, the columnist concludes India’s ABM interceptors will “force the armed forces to counter it, a solution which would prove to be both costly and time consuming.” Indeed, in January 2017 the Pakistani military tested an Ababeel medium-range ballistic missile its claim can deploy MIRVs. A doubtful claim expressed by several defence experts given Pakistan's lack of a credible industrial base to achieve this complex technological feat.

This highlights the tendency of adversaries to perceive ballistic missile defences as a means to enable offensive schemes, rather than simply to preserve the lives of the populace. There is indeed concern that BMD systems may embolden national leaders to pursue military options based on an inaccurate perception that their nation will be impervious to nuclear retaliation. In truth, no BMD system anywhere is a hundred percent reliable; for example, the United States’ SM-3 and GMD interceptors have averaged 50–60 percent success rates in tests. India’s system will only protect a few major cities in the coming decade, and does not counter all possible vectors of nuclear attack.

India’s rapid development of an indigenous BMD system remains a remarkable technical achievement. As the PDV and AAD batteries are installed and expanded, they may serve to protect major Indian cities against a limited nuclear strike, or discourage attempts to launch one in the first place. However, it remains to be seen whether the defensive benefits afforded by the missile interceptors will not be rapidly counterbalanced by improvements to offensive capabilities they spur in India’s adversaries writes Sebastien Roblin in NI.

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