Military & Aerospace

Modernisation of Army Air Defence
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Issue Vol. 29.3 Jul-Sep 2014 | Date : 05 Jan , 2015

Akash SAM on T-72

Upgrade of Existing Weapon Systems

The challenges to AAD can be met by a twin approach; the first and the cost-effective approach is sustaining and maintaining the existing weapon systems and revamping them by qualitative upgrade to cater for existing air threat. Some of the existing weapon systems in AAD are at various stages of upgradation that is being done by incorporating the latest in technology and enhancing all-weather capability. A contract for Schilka upgrade was signed in the FY 2010-2011. Upgrades of L/70 guns and ZU-23mm (Twin) guns are also being carried out by BEL. The efforts to remove night blindness in the AAD equipment are in progress. The deficiency of ammunition is being addressed. Qualitative improvements have taken place in various training systems with the induction of simulators, FRP models, Class Room Variants (CRV), 3D ACR training aids and Jammers.

The proliferation of ballistic missiles in India’s neighborhood merits the possession of BMD…

Modernisation Plan

The second approach is modernisation by induction of successor, state-of-the-art weapons to counter futuristic air threat. A well-thought out transition plan to transfer the AAD from current state to higher level force structure and from balanced in guns and missiles systems to leaning towards the missiles systems has been put in place. The weapons would shift from gun-centric to missile-centric defence. Gun regiments are planned to be reorganised to Gun-Missile (GM) regiments. The philosophy of GM mix is to make optimum use of the characteristic of both guns and missiles. However, the progress of this plan is not very satisfactory though a beginning has been made.

Phasing out of current missile inventory and bringing in the hierarchy of modern missile systems is in progress. The contract for Akash SAM was signed during the FY 2010-2011. Induction is likely to start shortly. Akash is capable of multi-target and multi-direction engagements. Trials for VSHORADS have been completed. Trials for SRSAMS are likely to start shortly. The Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) is being developed by the DRDO in collaboration with Israel. The development is at an advanced stage. Contracts for Low Level Light-Weight Radars (LLLR) and Three Dimensional Tactical Control Radars (3D TCR) were signed during the FY 2010-2011. Delivery is in progress. Response to RFP for GM (SP) System is being technically evaluated. The target systems for training firing by GBADWS in the form of better air models, basic and advanced PTA are being inducted/procured.

UAVs have increased exponentially in the inventory of both our adversaries…

Control and Reporting (C&R) System

For quite some time, C&R system has been ignored at the cost of more visible hardware such as radars, guns and missiles. The importance and the force multiplying ability of C&R have now been understood and a concerted effort to get an efficient, effective, automated and real time AD C&R System are on. The system would use satellite communication and automated realtime data transmission. The system has been developed by BEL and is likely to be fielded shortly.

Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD)

The proliferation of ballistic missiles in the neighborhood merits the possession of BMD by India. This is a complex system that involves high-level technology and is resource intensive. The DRDO has made significant progress in the BMD field in the form of Advance Air Defence (for interception at endo-atmospheric altitudes) and Prithvi Air Defence Missiles (for exo-atmospheric altitudes). This needs to be taken forward and made functional at the earliest.

Anti UAV Systems

UAVs have increased exponentially in the inventory of both our adversaries. UAVs are now capable of executing almost all tasks that were done by conventional aircraft. Miniaturisation, increased lethality and precision strike with stealth are the current developments in this field. Effective counters to this threat are still elusive; urgent steps are needed to counter this threat. A study of anti-UAV systems has been completed by the Army and recommendations of the same must be progressed on priority. Various soft and hard kill options must be explored.

In areas where the DRDO has not met with success, there is a need for joint collaboration or involvement of private firms…


  • Simplify Procurement Procedures

There is a need to simplify the procurement procedures and make them more pragmatic. At the cost of being safe and corruption free arms deal, the modernisation of the Army is suffering. This cannot be permitted for long. Also whenever the procedure is modified, it should not be applicable to the procurement processes, which have already reached advanced stages. Integration of the MOD and the Defence forces may help.

  • Limited Vendors

Blacklisting of firms reduces the choice of suitable vendors. The blacklisted vendors need to be permitted to participate in the procurement procedure and a final call can be taken at an appropriate stage. The vendors alleged to be defaulters can be imposed suitable penalty.

  • Reduce Period of Trials

Trials by multiple agencies, in different types of terrain and seasons make the process long and expensive resulting in reluctant participation by vendors. Trial must be permitted abroad for selected weapon systems especially where the shortlisted vendors are small.

  • Suitable Waivers

Need to focus on essential and important parameters of the weapons. If a weapon meets battle essential parameters such as range, SSKP, speed, effective target tracking/engagements, it can be given a waiver by the appropriate authority if the user feels that by suitable modifying tactical drills such deficiency can be overcome. The organisation must have faith in the integrity of the considered recommendations on the subject.

The AD of the country is an expensive necessity and will have to be catered for despite the high costs involved…

  • Accountability of DRDO

In areas where the DRDO has not met with success, there is a need for joint collaboration or involvement of private firms. DRDO and import route must be followed simultaneously i.e. a proportion of order can be placed on both. Whichever route succeeds, that can be exploited. DRDO must be made more accountable. To do so, the DRDO Chief must be an individual other than the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister.

  • Government to Government Contract

When we are struck with single vendor situation and that vendor has the best of weapon system, which meets operational requirements, there should be a Government-to-Government negotiation/contract, as voids cannot be allowed to continue. Modernisation cannot be held to ransom by the long and complex procurement procedures.

  • Plan for the Emerging Technologies

New air threats such as Direct Energy Weapons, stealth, electro-magnetic bombs and airborne cyber threat need to be studied. DRDO should work in these specialised fields to develop suitable counter for these emerging technologies. Both hard/soft kill capabilities may be needed.

There is a need for continued sincere efforts, perseverance and pursuance by the concerned authorities…

  • GBADWS with the IA

All the GBADWS must be handled by the Army. This would ensure optimum utilisation of these weapons as well as economy of effort. The IAF must focus on their core strength, which are aircraft, surveillance and air space management. By being relieved from holding and manning GBADWS, the IAF can concentrate on offensive air tasks and effective management of air space. The coordination between the IAF and Corps of AAD manning GBADWS can be done using effective and common/matching C&R system.


Though technologically, a large number of AAD weapons are obsolete, they are NOT non-functional. With the best of efforts put in by all ranks of Corps of AAD, most of these weapons are functional and would be able to carry out their primary operational tasks effectively. All out efforts for upgrade/modernisation of these weapon systems are being made with excellent progress on multiple fronts. However, there may be a slip between the cup and the lip. At any stage, any of this procurement may be halted due to any unpredictable reasons and the present state may continue.

There is a need for continued sincere efforts, perseverance and pursuance by the concerned authorities on various issues. The AD of the country is an expensive necessity and will have to be catered for despite the high costs involved. There is no option but to match the ever evolving technological advancements of enemy’s aerial platforms. One hopes that the new government would be able to expedite the procurement of GBADWS by giving it due priority.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Ram Pratap

Former Director General and Senior Colonel Commandant of Corps of Army Air Defence.

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One thought on “Modernisation of Army Air Defence

  1. General you have said the obvious. General what we need is an Air Defence and Aero-Space Command. We need a command center located in the center of the country away from threats that may arise. We need systems that will scan and keep under observation 24×7 potential threat environments. We need to lay out tiers in our defensive system which will give us the weapon systems to be used at each tier. Peace time tracking of potential threats is necessary. Tracking of missile launches and counter measures will also be part of the gambit of such an organisation. Outer space platforms will form an important part of the whole system. What we need is to wake up and secure our air space. – Your views please?

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