Thursday, January 17, 2008

DRDO Looks Abroad To Mature ABM System

DRDO's Dr VK Saraswat has held a few rounds of preliminary discussions with officials from Lockheed-Martin about rapidly bringing the indigenous anti-ballistic missile system to maturity. Funny how he forgot to mention this at the chest-thumping press conferences he's been holding about the home-grown ABM programme. The Lockheed-Martin Missiles & Fire Control Division based at Dallas, TX has been asked to come forward with a roadmap on how to quickly mature the AAD programme.

The folks here are impressed, but they still have that sometimes irritatingly patronising air about assessing anything that they haven't made themselves from the ground up. So Lt Gen Dennis Cavin, a retired US Army man who now holds a key post in Lockheed's air defence technology division, laughs off Saraswat's somewhat ill-advised sobriquet for the AAD -- that it's 30 per cent better than the Patriot-3 system. Now the Patriot-3 is itself a fairly dubious system -- the 99 per cent kill probability that Lockheed-Martin trumpets is definitely not accurate -- or at least true under very restricted and benevolent test conditions. On the other hand, Lt Gen Cavin is of the view that the AAD's hit-to-kill capability is at best suspect, and it's kill probability is unproven. I told him that you obviously had to wait a few more tests to take a call on that.

Either way, Saraswat and Lockheed seem to concur on one point -- that a few successful tests of a complex technology is only the beginning. The real work actually starts now. Therefore Lt Gen Cavin's team is heading down to hold technical level dialogue with Saraswat and his team to chart out a possible partnership that, if successful, will see an infusion of PAC-3 type technology into the AAD to catalyse its progress to operational clearance. By now, the Americans are pretty clear that they're not going to be able to push the PAC-3 pitch to India with any credibility anymore, what with the successful AAD tests looked at as deep Indian milestones in missile research.

Lockheed-Martin's gameplan was to offer the endo-atmospheric PAC-3 and the exo-atmospheric THAADS (terminal high altitude air defence system) as a layered BMD system, though the MoD is of the view (as far as back as Pranab Mukherjee's time, actually), that if the US is really interested in seeing India well-protected against a missile threat, it should help India's own programme. Somehow, I find that much more gratifying than being forced to cough up billions for a bunch of PAC-3 systems.


Buraidiah said...

What happened to Mr.Better than PAC-3 Saraswat??, I thought Lockheed and BAe will make a beeline in front of Saraswat, not the other way round!!

Coming back to the reality, if they wanted to go from PAC, why this tamasha of AAD and PAD, to get discount??? The Bania mentality is still clinging on after Klub and Gorvashkov!! You get what you pay.

I think the DRDO should learn from past mistakes and stick to one supplier and stop being cunning. We have seen what happened with LCA, instead of sticking with France or Bae, DRDO went looking for each part with different country, in their cunning way of not to share the success with any one.

Now what we have a is frankiestan which has thrust problem, coz intake was designed by someone, engine provided by some one. The list goes on..

Just hope they stick with one, instead of readar Amrika, missile-russia, control the great friend Israel... and TEL from ukrain. Best of both worlds!!!

Abhiman said...

Mr. Aroor, Dr. Saraswat is entirely accurate in mentioning that the AAD is indeed superior to the PAC-3 in terms of range.

The following is the reply he gave in a special interview to Vivek Raghuvanshi :-

Q. What is Phase II?

Dr. Saraswat The same missile interceptors cannot cover all threats. Threat targets of longer ranges — 2,000 kilometers — will make our phase-II development.

During Phase I: Endo-atmospheric interceptor is AAD. This interceptor will engage targets at 25 kilometers. AAD is superior in terms of coverage area compared to PAC-3, which is 15 kilometers. You can see the difference. AAD’s equivalent is the Israeli Arrow, which intercepts at 40 kilometers. PAD is 50 to 80 kilometers. America is building a missile, THAAD — Terminal High Altitude Area Defense — that intercepts out to 120 kilometers, but it is still in development. However, a lot of failures have taken place during THAAD development.

Thus, as India's system is already superior to the PAC-3 in terms of range as well as interception,as per DRDO sources. Thus, the question of criticizing something they haven't made may not arise.

Mr. Aroor, you may have asked Lt. Gen Cavin about the higher range of Idnia's AAD as compared to the PAC-3. His response would have been much appreciated.

On the other hand, Mr. Cavin's remark about the Indian AAD's hit-to-kill probability too, may also be viewed as a "myopic critique based on predetermined illusions of technological superiority". It is disappointing that you did not "chide" Lt. Gen. Cavin in your article, they way you did to Dr. Saraswat (even though your reply to him that more tests are awaited was very appropriate, and corrected his opinion).

Now having discussed that, DRDO's interest in collaboration with Lockheed Martin is likely to be in the development of the active seekers for the AAD. Currently, AAD/PAD use radar seekers that allow for only proximity fuses (i.e. the interceptor exploding in the vicinity of the target). All major BMD systems like Aegis, Arrow and Patriot-3 have active infrared seekers that instead track the target's heat plumes. This ensures a direct "bullet-hitting-bullet" kill (instead of AAD's proximity kill), that leaves no probability for failure.

The same technological collaboration is being followed vis-a-vis other passively guided missiles like Trishul and Akash. Israeli collaboration for Trishul shall be in seeker-technology only, as currently the Trishul missile by itself is "blind", i.e. it is guided by commands from a far-off ground radar. Trishul is what is called a beam-riding missile. The ground radar first 'injects' Trishul into a wide beam that tells the general direction of the target. Later, it is injected into a narrower beam to converge upon the target, and finally into a pencil beam that tracks only the target. The 'challenge' with the Trishul was to prevent the inertia of the missile from oscillating in and out of the narrower beams from the wide beams. Its task is to not leave the beam zone and continuously predict the direction of its motion (as the beam follows the moving target) to remain centered on it, while propelling towards the target.

In 14 tests of the 20 tests between 2003 and 2006, it hit slower targets accurately, but in remaining 6 tests, its vicinity from the targets was larger.
Thus, the IAF was meant to negotiate the testing parameters with DRDO on the Trishul, which it has not yet done now since it promised to do so in 2006.

An active seeker instead will make make the Trishul similar to the Barak :- the missile is fired in the direction as instructed by the TEL just prior to launch. The missile keeps moving in that general direction based on the last known co-ordinates, speed and direction of the target. Whilst in flight, it keeps "hunting" for the target with its seeker : once within range, it homes in.

The Akash instead has granted some decision-making in the missile : the in-flight missile is guided by commands from the ground-radar for most of its flight. However, in the final 3-4 seconds, the in-flight Akash uses a semi-active seeker that "listens" for radar emissions from the target to home in accurately and minimize vicinity as much as possible.

In the US, beam-riding missiles (like Trishul) were replaced by semi-active missiles (like Akash) and now only active seeker missiles are used. The beam-riding missiles were mostly used to target slower targets like airplanes, whereas "nimbler" targets like cruise-missiles were tackled by semi-active and later active-seeking missiles like PAC-3.

The Nag's IIR seeker has been very successful, as since 1997 it has had numerous successful tests. Only its next generation millimeter wave seeker (possessed only by 3-4 nations) has had problems in development; however currently the Army is expecting user-trials of the IIR version Nag only. In contrast, Pak's anti-tank missiles are the 2nd gen wire guided ones, procured from China.

Thus, it is only seeker technologies that DRDO seeks from foreign countries; in all other aspects of missiles like radar, guidance software, launchers (from L&T), and propulsion, it matches or exceeds western nations. For example, the so-called "Maitri" missile project as described by a domain-b news report has the following reported inputs from France's MBDA :-
"Defence ministry sources indicate that the joint development plan would see the MBDA developing the active homing-head and thrust vector control systems for the missile, while the software, command-and-control system and system integration work would be carried out by the DRDL.

As per the news report, Maitri is said to be a follow-on to the Trishul project, whose status is unclear as yet. The same news report mentions collaboration with MBDA to provide active-seekers for the Astra missile also :-
"According to DRDL sources, India may also sign another pact with MBDA to develop a dedicated active seeker-head system for the indigenous Astra beyond-visual-range missile, which too has been a long time under development.

Thus, the recent conclusion of the IGDMP was to firstly announce the successful completion of the missiles (Trishul had been declared completed back in 2006, during the Barak missile scam). The announcement regarding collaboration with foreign nations is in the integration of miniaturized seekers only, as in the undecided "Maitri", seeker for the AAD and possibly, the Astra.

Thank you.

References :-

1) Interview with Vijay Kumar Saraswat :


3) Beam-riding missiles

4) Paper from the beam-riding page of wikipedia

5) Missile guidance

6) DRDO to co-develop Maitri with MBDA.

Abhiman said...

Buraidiah, DRDo has developed an indigenous BMD system as not only would it be far cheaper and cost-effective than foreign systems, but such critical systems must not be relied upon from foreign countries.


Reference :-
1) "A missile shield for Delhi alone would cost Rs 5,200 crore."

Buraidiah said...

DRDo has developed an indigenous BMD system as not only would it be far cheaper and cost-effective than foreign systems, but such critical systems must not be relied upon from foreign

Huhn, Is it not the same argument for all the DRDO mis-adventures?? Ultimately all the critical components is imported in each systems and relied upon freign suppliers. This resulted in cost of the DRDO system much more than actual imported system. Have you heard for war lost for want of Nail???

Looking at the DRDO Abhimanis here, I belive DRDO has outsourced the PR and Marketing.

Abhiman said...

Buraidiah, your comments are inaccurate. All systems of the PAD-AAD have been developed indigenously, with possible exception of the tracking radar (that is reportedly imported from Israel). As per Dr. Saraswat, all softwares and critical systems for the same have been developed indigenously.

It maybe similar to purchasing a PC hardware without an operating system (like Windows) installed. The latter's analogue was developed indigenously by DRDO.

In case of Trishul, the Flycatcher fire control radar is a very standard radar used globally from India's Trishul, to the French-Israeli "Defender" LRQM, that launches Barak missiles. This radar was originally manufactured by the Dutch firm, Signaal, and has been highly customized by the French MBDA and India's BEL for the 'Defender' and Trishul systems respectively.

DRDO indigenously designed and developed the mid-band antenna for the Flycatcher indigenously and gave the ToT for the same to BEL. The low and high band antennas were procured from Signaal, Holland.

The Signaal company has been bought by Thales, which has now adopted the same radar for the French-Israeli 'Defender' Air Defence system.

Again, I am not from DRDO. There are numerous military enthusiasts, hobbyists and also professionals on Bharat-Rakshak and Key Publishing fora. I was banned from the former.

Thank you.

References :-

1)DRDO newsletter

2) French-Israeli 'Defender' Air Defence system

Ajay said...

Buraidiah, Its not possible to import anything for something like ABM Project. should i remind u, India is fourth only nation achieve ABM Capability. Even Uncle Sam is not going to just donate tchnology to India.

what do you think LM officials came to meet Saraswat and will sell whatever we want like Hit to Kill technology.

Buraidiah said...

How naive can one get!! You have conducted a test, declared it successful and planned to have full fledged system in 3 years time. This is coming from a organisation who have history of testing Missile, for 20 years to operationalise. Next we hear is the Knight coming in his white horse (Lokheed Martin) to help and develop.

I don't know what you guys belive, Mr.BETTER THAN PAC-3 Saraswat or Mr.PAC-3 is 20 years old Tech Prhlad.

Anonymous said...

I am just passing by and seen ur comment .This is how a normal person can think .Can u please come out of ur tranquil mind which is plucking the foreign greatness and stuff.Try to believe in reality.

Just go back to the past and get an estimate abt the development of PAC right from the begining.U can suffice that...

Stop thinking crazy abt knights and american stuff.This is the missile era.U can hardly c any knights.If u r seeing one means u r dreaming on....

SO far i am pretty happy with wot ever DRDO as an Indian R&D achieved ,ofcourse starting late and swallowed all the critics with the successes.