According to the Ministry of Defence, recent developments along the Northern borders requires a focus on effective Air Defence weapon systems which are man portable and can be deployed quickly
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
On January 10, 2023, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh approved procurements worth 4,274 crore worth missile systems to strengthen air defence against China. In wake of heightened tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) particularly in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, the following procurements were approved:
Anti-tank missile Helina is the helicopter-launched third generation missile and can defeat battle tanks with conventional armour as well as with explosive reactive armour
The approval for the DRDO-made very short range air defence system (VSHORAD) with infrared-homing technology came three months after the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted two successful test flights of the man-portable short-range missile from a ground-based portable launcher at the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur. A statement issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said, “In view of the recent developments along the Northern borders there is a need to focus on effective Air Defence weapon systems which are man portable and can be deployed quickly in rugged terrain and maritime domain. Procurement of VSHORAD, as a robust and quickly deployable system, will strengthen the Air Defence capabilities.”
Anti-tank missile Helina is the helicopter-launched third generation Nag missile. In April 2022, the missile was successfully flight tested in the high altitude for two consecutive days as a part of user validation trials. Earlier, validation trials of the ‘Helina’ were conducted at Pokhran in Rajasthan, which proved the efficacy of the missile in desert ranges. Helina is the fire and forget Anti-Tank Guided Missile that can engage targets both in direct hit mode as well as top attack mode. The system has all-weather day and night capability and can defeat battle tanks with conventional armour as well as with explosive reactive armour. The MoD has stated that “since this missile is an essential part of weaponisation of advanced lightweight helicopters for countering enemy threat, its induction would strengthen the offensive capability of the Indian Army”.
The first type of Very Short Air Defence System will be shoulder-fired and will be made under the ‘Make in India’ initiative where foreign companies are likely to partner with Indian firms
The VSHORAD missile, meant for neutralising low altitude aerial threats like UAVs at short ranges is propelled by a dual thrust solid motor. The design of the missile including launcher has been highly optimised to ensure easy portability. Under this procurement, the Indian Army will be adding two different types of very short range air defence systems to bolster itself against China in the high-altitude and mountains.
The first type of Very Short Air Defence System will be shoulder-fired and will be made under the ‘Make in India’ initiative where foreign companies are likely to partner with Indian firms. This contest could see the participation by French firm Thales and Bharat Dynamics Limited along with Saab from Sweden.The second type of system will be tripod-based and developed by DRDO, which has developed this system in partnership with its development-cum-production partner model and will likely see the involvement of the private sector in a big way.
The Indian Army has been using Igla-M shoulder fired air defence missiles since the 1980s. In 2018, Russia’s Rosoboronexport came winner to supply the Igla-S missile system to the India Army. The 9K338 Igla-S (SA-24 Grinch) system under the Very Short Range Air Defence System (VSHORADS) deal is still pending and under review by the (MoD) in backdrop of the policy of reducing arm imports and promoting ‘Make in India’. However, the Indian Army has inducted a small number of Igla-S systems bought from Russia under emergency procurement.
The second type of system developed by DRDO will likely see the involvement of the private sector in a big way
The DRDO used the above opportunity to started working on its own very short-range air defence or VSHORADS programme. The VSHORAD man portable air defence system (MANPAD) or man portable surface-to-air missile is developed by the Hyderabad-located Research Centre Imarat (RCI) of the DRDO and multiple DRDO laboratories along with Indian Industry Partners are participating in the project. It is designed for anti-aircraft and neutralising low altitude aerial threats at short ranges.
The VSHORAD missile incorporates miniaturised Reaction Control System (RCS) to increase mid-air maneuverability and integrated avionics. On January 11, 2023, the MoD accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) to VSHORAD (IR Homing) missile variant. These will further boost the Army’s capability to combat enemy aircraft and drones.