Indo-Israeli LR-SAM Naval Test This Year

By SP's Special Correspondent

February 08, 2014: Delayed by over four years, but this one is truly better late than never. In what will be a significant boost to the Indian Navy’s quest for a credible air defence system deployable on its frontline vessels and aircraft carriers, the Indo-Israeli long-range surface-to-air missile (LR-SAM) system will be tested in a naval configuration towards the end of this year, reveals the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chief Dr Avinash Chander. The missile underwent a first test from a land launcher in 2010, and has since been tested an unspecified number of times. The collaborative programme, involving Israeil Aerospace Industries Limited (IAI), DRDO and the navies of India and Israel is criticial to modernisation of the surface fleet.

The LR-SAM test will take place at the integrated test range (ITR) off Odisha’s coast. Exactly a year ago, the ITR announced interest in procuring a wide band telemetry receiver specifically for the LR-SAM test schedule. The test is expected to be conducted at ceiling range against an aerial target. The trial schedule in India may include at least three tests in the November 2014-March 2015 period.

The LR-SAM, designated Barak 8 by IAI, when inducted, will be housed in four vertical launch units (VLUs), each housing eight missiles, on each of the three Project-15A destroyers, seven Project-17A stealth frigates and aircraft carrier Vikrant, i.e, each of India’s next-generation warships will carry at least 32 LR-SAMs. The combat suites of both vessel classes will be built around the Elta EL/M-2248 MF-STAR. Scientists and engineers from DRDO have visited Israel regularly to gauge progress on the system, that the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) have also expressed interest in. The dual-pulse smokeless solid rocket motor propelled missile is being built with an effective range of 70 km and a ceiling of 16 km. The missile’s high agility is being provided by a tungsten jet vane system for thrust vector control and a highly evolved electro-pneumatic control actuation system. Following fresh interest evinced by IAF and the Indian Army, the dual-mode guided weapon (GPS + data link for mid-course guidance/seeker for terminal homing) will be deployable on mobile launchers as well. The weapon system can engage 12 targets with 24 missiles.

From short- to long-range, from supersonic sea-skimmers to high-altitude targets in all-weather conditions, the LR-SAM is capable of multiple simultaneous engagements in severe saturation scenarios. The system boasts a stand-alone data link for optimised task forces and missiles coordination.

The missile system’s flexible dual pulse motor system provides high manoeuvre capability at target interception range throughout its wide envelope.

Its low weight and small size (about half of similar systems, claims IAI) makes for a small footprint on any frontline ship. Low signatures (carry, launch & flight) makes for high ship survivability. Robust multi-missile coexistence and multi-target capability (supported by seeker, DL & WCS) enables operation in highly saturated operational scenarios. Finally it sports a high performance warhead with a robust kill mechanism.

A senior Indian Navy officer said, “The LR-SAM programme has been somewhat delayed by a few years. This has been a cause for concern. But the end product looks promising. The ships that will deploy this missile will begin to enter service this year, in fact very shortly. It is therefore imperative that IAI and DRDO expedite the test programme so that final integration and user trials can commence on time and on plan. The significance of point defence and air defence capability for our fleet cannot be overstated, given the myriad threats available in our area of operations.”

The DRDO entered into a contract with IAI in January 2006 to jointly develop the LR-SAM system for the Indian and Israeli navies. The Rs. 2,606-crore programme is envisaged to be completed by December 2015.