Following a nine-year wait, both the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Army (IA) are now poised to replace their existing inventories of OSA-AKM and ZRK-BD Strela-10M SHORADS with the RAFAEL of Israel’s Spyder-SR system. The IAF refers to the Spyder-SR as a low-level quick reaction missile (LL-QRM), while the Army calls it quick-reaction surface-to-air missile (QR-SAM). First to deploy them will be the IAF, which will use the SpyDer-SRs to defend its six air bases spread throughout Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Haryana.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had approved the IAF’s requirement in July 2008, and a US$293 million contract for the supply of an initial 18 launchers (making up one squadron) was signed in December 2008. Deliveries were to begin in early 2012 and were to be concluded by August 2012. However, the deliveries could not begin due to a last-minute decision by both the IAF and IA to use high-mobility trucks supplied by TATA Motors, instead of the BEML-supplied TATRA high-mobility trucks.
The IA had received the green light to procure four regiments of the Spyder-SR in August 2009, and a $900 million contract was inked later that year. The Spyder-SR is the culmination of joint R & D efforts undertaken by RAFAEL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). It is a short-range (15km range), low-level (from 20 metres through to 9,000 metres altitude) integrated, all-weather air-defence system that makes use of the ground-launched Python 5 imaging infra-red guided and Derby radar-guided missiles, which complement each other in their target detection, tracking and pursuit profile . Both missiles are equipped with lock-on before launch (LOBL) and lock-on after launch (LOAL) modes for faster response time and improved engagement flexibility.
A Spyder-SR battery includes up to six missile launch vehicles (each equipped with four missile launchers), missile reloaders and a command-and-control Unit that also accommodates the IAI/ELTA Systems-built EL/M-2106NG ATAR 3-D surveillance radar and two operating consoles. The radar can simultaneously track and engage up to 60 targets at a range beyond 35km (depending on the terrain). The command-and-control unit interfaces with the missile launch vehicles via wireless data-link (for up to as distance of 100km) to enable optimal unit dispersion for effective area coverage, mutual protection and survivability. The system's high cross-country mobility offers quick deployment and operational agility. The Spyder-SR also has VHF/HF communications networks for internal squadron-level communication and to upper-tier commands. Once the operator decides to launch a missile, an automatic procedure begins.
The command-and-control centre assigns the target to the appropriate launch vehicle and the selected missile will start to search for the target. If the target is within acquisition range the missile will be launched in LOBL mode. If the target is beyond seeker acquisition range the missile will be launched in LOAL mode. The seeker searches for the target and when it acquires the target it begins the terminal homing phase. Both LOAL and LOBL modes are available for the Derby and Python 5. Destruction of the target is achieved either by the warhead blasting upon impact or by proximity fuze.
Providing early-warning cues for the IAF’s plains-deployed SpyDer-SRs will be the DRDO-developed and BEL-built Ashwini LMRSRs.
To be delivered later this year will be six aerostats (supplied by Russia’s Rosoboronexport State Corp and procured by Reliance Defence Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Infrastructure Ltd) that will all be fitted with IAI-supplied EL/M-2083 early-warning radars. The IAF already operates two such aerostat-mounted radars that were ordered in 2005 and were delivered in 2007.