The need for Air-Defense is paramount in an active war zone, not only to deny enemy aircraft from striking key points but also to provide cover for friendly aircraft. High valued and strategically placed assets often have Air-Defense systems employed to provide them with the necessary cover. These range from the small Anti-Aircraft guns to the sophisticated missile defence systems. In this article, we take a look into India’s Air Defense capabilities.
INDIAN AIR-DEFENSE SYSTEMS
Indian forces have a wide array of Air Defense systems capable of providing cover to friendly airspace. The systems are operated by both the Indian Army and Indian Air Force.
SYSTEMS IN USE
Akash SAM: A Low-to-Medium level Medium Range Surface to Air Missile in service with both the Indian Army and Air Force. With maximum speed up to 2.5 Mach and altitude ranging from 0.5 to 18Km, it can successfully shoot down enemy drones, helicopters, fighters and even missiles. Guidance is through the ground-based ‘Rajendra’ radar which can track targets from 80km and engage from 60km. It is not vulnerable against Electronic Counter-Measures as the aircraft has to jam the high power ‘Rajendra’ radar to avoid getting git by Akash. It has clocked in high success rates in recent firing trials and would soon be inducted in more numbers.
SA-6 or 2K12 ‘Kub’: A Soviet-Era Low-to-Medium level SAM. This system has become nearly obsolete and would be soon phased out by Inducting more Akash systems. Capable of hitting targets up to 24km and effective altitude of 14km. the system can only guide one of two missiles at a time to a target whereas the Akash is capable of multiple missile guidance at the same time.
SA-3 or S-125 ‘Pechora’: Another piece of Soviet-era military tech which has become nearly obsolete in the current war scenario. The minimum range is 3.5 km, and the maximum is 35 km (with the Pechora 2A). The intercept altitudes are between 100 m and 18 km. It is in service with Indian Air force primarily for guarding Air bases until Akash systems are fully employed.
SA-5 or S-200: Is a Medium-to-High level very long range SAM employed to take out high flying bombers. It has a range from 150km to 300km and max speed of Mach 8. Guided mid-course by radio illumination and has a terminal radar homing phase. It has a very high single shot kill probability of 0.85 and is very effective against long-range bombers.
SA-8 ‘Gecko Mod-1’ or 9K33 ‘OSA-AKM’: Highly mobile, short range, low-level SAM of Soviet origin. The missile is mounted on an amphibious vehicle having its own radar and can act with or without the regimental surveillance radars. The range is about 15km and a maximum altitude of 12km.
SA-13 ‘Gopher’ or 9K35 ‘Strela 10M3’: Highly mobile, low-level, short range SAM. The range of target destruction from 0.8km to 5km. Altitude ranging from 25m to 3500m.
SA-19 ‘Grison’ or 2K22 ‘Tunguska’: The very famous ‘Tunguska’ is a mix of two different modes of air defense. It employs the 9M311 for engaging targets from 10km and the dual 2A38M cannons for engaging targets at close range (0.2 to 4km). The guns give out a combined rate of fire of about 4000-5000 rounds per minute. Indian Army has about 20-90 units in service.
ZSU-23-2 & ZSU-23-4 ‘Shilka’: The former is a twin cannon Anti Air gun and the latter a Light armoured, Self-propelled, Anti-Aircraft gun. The number after 23 denotes the number of gun barrels. With 4x 3 mm 2A7 autocannons firing at 2000round per minute each, Shilka is used for low-level area defence. Effective against low flying drones and helicopters and is used to provide cover for infantry units. It is however ineffective as a modern short-range Air-Defense system but can be employed as a supporting system for infantry units.
FIM-92 ‘Stinger’: Is a Man-Portable Air-Defense System (MANPADS) SAM. Employs an Infrared seeker and can hit targets at 8km.
9K38 Igla: Russian equivalent to the American Stinger missiles. It too employs an Infrared seeker and can hit targets at 5.2km.
BARAK-8: Is an advanced Indo-Israeli SAM capable of intercepting aircraft, helicopters, anti-ship missiles and cruise missiles. It was initially developed for use in Indian and Israeli ships against anti-ship missiles. It is one of the best Short-Medium range SAM systems in use now. There exists both naval and the land variant of these missiles. Operational range varies from 0.5km to 100km. An ER (Extended Range) variant is now developed and can hit targets up to 150km away. MRSAM version is under development and will provide a tiered airspace protection.
SPYDER (Surface to Air PYthon and DERby): Is a low-level, quick-reaction surface-to-air missile system capable of engaging aircraft, helicopters, unmanned air vehicles, drones, and precision-guided munitions. It provides air defence for fixed assets and for point and area defence for mobile forces in combat areas. It employs the use of AAM (Air-to-Air Missiles) like Python and Derby to be fired from ground stations to provide air defence. SPYDER-MR engages targets at 35km and SPYDER-SR engages targets at 15km.
Prithvi Air Defense/Pradhyumna: Air-defense is not just to counter aircrafts but in this modern age of warfare, ballistic missiles pose a huge threat. It is a two stage missile with a maximum interception range of 80km. It is capable of attaining speeds over mach 5 and can successfully intercept ballistic missiles of 300-2000km range before it enters the atmosphere (Exospheric Interception).
Advanced Air Defense: Is an Endospheric anti-ballistic missile system capable of interception of targets at an altitude of 30km and can attain speeds over Mach 4.5. The PAD(Prithvi Air Defense) and AAD form the two tiers of India’s Ballistic Missile Defense system. The development is underway and India has already entered the elite club of nations capable of intercepting Ballistic missiles after multiple success.