EXCLUSIVE: Navy to network-target test Derby AAM from upgraded Sea Harrier

As part of the Limited Upgrade Sea Harrier (LUSH), the Indian Navy will shortly conduct its second live firing test of the Israeli Derby beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM), a weapon system that has been integrated to the last of the Navy's Sea Harriers as part of the upgrade programme. While the first live firing of the Derby active-radar seeker missile was conducted using the aircraft's primary sensor, the next test will be from one of the Navy's upgraded Sea Harriers with its radar switched off. Guidance will be provided from another platform, either on the ground or in the air.

According to Navy sources in South Block, the LUSH programme has made the Sea Harriers fully new aircraft. The heart of the upgrade is of course the replacement of the venerable old Ferranti Blue Fox monopulse airborne intercept radar with the time-tested EL/M-2032 multimode advanced pulse doppler radar. The new radar, in the words of one of the pilots, has put the aircraft in "a different league". While sea clutter proved to be the bane of look-down missions with the Blue Fox radar (the sweep would be swamped), the Elta sensor has none of those issues.

Of the nine Sea Harriers involved in the LUSH programme, seven have been upgraded and delivered back to the Navy, while two are currently being upgraded by HAL. The INS Viraat, currently undergoing a mini-refit in Kochi, will be back in service by September-October, and will have the LUSH Harriers on board.

Photo by Shiv Aroor

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