Since lending arms to Ukraine, America’s venerable AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) has become a new standard for the best tactical, air-to-surface anti-radiation missile (ARM) that has reliably intercepted electronic transmissions of Russian radars and then took them out. The rocket is just one of the many munitions the US and its allies have provided Ukraine since the war broke out in February.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) sought the same system after recognizing its effectiveness on the battlefield, but instead of buying the American ARMs, it is looking to acquire its homegrown Rudram anti-radiation missile.

According to reports, the IAF recently submitted the budget proposal for procuring India’s next-generation anti-radiation missiles for Rs 1,400 crore (around $1.7 billion) in a continuing effort to induct more indigenously-made weapons into its defence systems.

Defence officials also noted IAF’s plan to equip the procured Rudram to its fleet of Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets, allowing the service branch to boost its search-and-destroy capabilities against enemy radar systems.

The design and development of Rudram were led by India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in the early 2010s as part of New Delhi’s ambition of creating its own tactical, anti-radiation missile having the American AGM-88 as one of its models. After years of trial and error, the now-called Rudram-1 was officially unveiled as the country’s first-ever ARM in August.

The project stalled for two years but soon resumed, where it successfully live-tested the next-generation ARM in October 2020 using a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet and showed a promising performance of pinpoint accuracy. The missile has a reported launch speed of up to Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound, and a range of 100-250 km, depending on the fighter jet’s altitude. It measures about 5.5 m (18 ft) and weighs around 600 kg (1,300 lbs) with a pre-fragmented warhead weight of 55 kg (121 lbs). It also has a dual-pulsed rocket motor, a passive homing head that tracks radiation sources across a wide frequency range, and a shutdown capability that allows it to hit its target even if the enemy’s radar is turned off before or after the missile is launched. Besides the Sukhoi-30MKI, Rudram-1 can use other combat jets, such as MiG-29, Dassault Mirage 2000, and SEPECAT Jaguar, as its launch platform.

Rudram-1’s prominent feature focuses on Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD/DEAD) missions that would allow the IAF to strike enemy targets without detection, as well as take down surveillance radar installations and disrupt communication systems.

Clearly, the Indian Defence Ministry has been taking notes on the lessons learned as the Russia-Ukraine war unfolds. But upgrading its military equipment and the force itself has been an ongoing mission since the Modi administration took over in 2014. The war catapulted New Delhi into inducting more “made in India” weapons and reducing its arms imports from other superpowers, particularly from Russia.

Russia has been India’s “most preferred” arms supplier since at least the 2000s, accounting for more than 46 percent of the latter’s arsenals, but the performance of this equipment in Ukraine against even 30yr old Western weapons tech has been so dismal that India has good reason to wonder if they are really getting their money’s worth.

The AGM-88’s Pivotal Role In Russia-Ukraine War

In August, the US began sending AGM-88 HARMs to Ukrainian troops to counter Russia’s fire control radars for their surface-to-air missiles. The mere presence of these missiles on Ukrainian fighters has frustrated the Russian claims that they enjoy air superiority over Ukraine. As best we can tell, Russian jets do not venture far beyond the front lines of the conflict.

The AGM-88, like the Rudram-1, is a supersonic tactical air-to-surface ARM designed specifically to intercept electronic signals emitted by enemy surface-to-air radar systems. It was originally developed by Texas Instruments in the 1980s to replace AGM-45 Shrike and AGM-78 Standard ARM system and has proven itself a reliable weapon since. Previous wars it played a pivotal role include the Gulf Wars, Kosovo Wars, Iraq War, and the 2011 Military Intervention in Libya where it served to suppress enemy air defences.