This year’s expo showcased two new-generation weapon systems that are expected to enter service by 2020 at best, these being the QR-SAM for the Indian Army’s Corps of Air-Defence Artillery (CADA), and the MPATGM for the Indian Army’s infantry battalions.
The QR-SAM will use a surface-launched version of the Astra-1 BVRAAM and it will use a Ku-band seeker developed by the DRDO’s Research Centre Imarat (RCI) and produced by VEM Technologies. The target detection and engagement radars are being developed by the DRDO’s LRDE laboratory, while overall systems integration is the responsibility of Bharat Electronics Ltd.
LRDE is also developing a new-generation target acquisition/fire-control system, called ATULYA, for the L-70 and ZU-23 anti-aircraft artillery guns used by CADA.
Another indigenous field artillery-specific solution developed by the DRDO’s LRDE lab is the L-band ‘Swathi’ weapon locating radar (WLR) at a cost of US$49 million.
Under development since April 2002, this WLR was ready for series-production by Bharat Electronics Ltd by late 2011 and deliveries of 30 units are presently underway.
The IA had in September 2004 awarded a $300 million contract to Bharat Electronics Ltd to develop the Shakti ACCCS. Production deliveries commenced in 2008 and the system was commissioned on June 12, 2009. The ACCCS is a network of military grade tactical computers that automates and facilitates decision support for all the operational aspects of artillery functions from the Corps down to a Battery-level in a networked environment. It was jointly developed by the DRDO’s Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics (CAIR), Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE) and IA HQ’s Directorate General of Information Systems (DGIS). ACCCS is the artillery component of the IA’s TAC-C3I grid. Shakti’s three main electronic devices are the enhanced tactical computer, gun display unit and the hand-held computer. With these, five critical functions are performed, including ‘Technical Fire Control’ for trajectory computations, and ‘Tactical Fire Control’ involving the processing of fire-assault requests and ammunition usage/supply management. It also ensures ‘Deployment Management’ for field howitzers and forward observation/fire direction posts for defensive and offensive operations, ‘Operational Logistics’ for assisting in the timely provisioning of ammunition and logistics support, and ‘Fire Planning’ to facilitate the production of interleaved fire-assault plans, tasking tables and automatic generation of gun engagement programmes.
Most of the bureaucratic decks have already been cleared for a landmark, long-awaited agreement between India and the US that calls for the joint development and production of the Indian Army’s next-generation manportable ATGM (MPATGM) that will use thermobaric-HEDP and tandem shaped-charge warheads optimised for high-altitude warfare and anti-armour engagements. This ATGM has been the subject of much speculation, like it being the SAMHO, or a derivative of Raytheon’s third-generation FGM-148 Javelin fire-and-forget ATGM.
In reality, the MPATGM has been under development since 2009 by the DRDL, with VEM Technologies being responsible for product engineering development. Raytheon has already secured US approval for 97% transfer-of-technology (ToT) for licence-producing the missile’s cooled mid-wave imaging infra-red (MWIIR) seeker, and will withhold only the target acquisition algorithms. Both Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) and Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) will be responsible for the joint development of thermobaric-HEDP and HE/FRAG penetration-cum-blast warheads, while the re-usuable launchers and missiles will be built by both VEM Technologies and BDL. A cooled MWIIR sensor can passively lock-on to targets at up to 50% farther range than an uncooled sensor, thus allowing the firing crew greater and safer standoff distance, and less likely to be exposed to counter-fire. An uncooled long-wave infra-red (LWIR) sensor on the other hand brings increased repairs, decreased operational availability, and dangerous vulnerabilities, while a cooled IIR sensor saves lives, lessens fratricide, minimises collateral damage, lowers risk, and protects its firing platforms/crew. Present plans call for equipping the Indian Army’s existing 356 infantry battalions of the 1.13 million-strong Indian Army and the projected 30 infantry battalions to be raised in the 13th five-year defence plan (2018-2022) with some 6,000 MPATGM launchers and up to 26,000 missile-rounds (including war wastage reserves).
A similar practice had earlier led to the development of the 4km-range Nag ATGM and its air-launched HELINA variant. Back in 2005, the IA had ordered 443 Nag missiles and 13 NAMICA tracked carrier/launch vehicles, and is expected to order another 7,000 Nag missiles and around 200 NAMICAs. The 4km-range Nag uses a RCI-developed uncooled LWIR sensor containing an IR-CCD supplied by France-based ULIS/Sofradir. For the 6km-range HELINA, the DRDO has developed a two-way RF command-video data-link. The missile-to-helicopter down-link used to pass the LWIR seeker video works in the S band and the helicopter-to-missile up-link to pass steering commands works in the C band. In addition, a DS-SS modulation scheme is used for the command up-link while a conventional FM technique is used for video down-link, respectively.
Despite the fact that the LCA AF Mk.2’s (the term Tejas Mk.2 has now been discarded) final design has yet to be frozen, ADA nevertheless went ahead and released conceptual illustrations of this MRCA that can only serve to create further ill-informed confusion and false assumptions.