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The Long and Short of It

To meet future challenges, Army Air Defence has to be well equipped

Brigadier MKK Iyer, SM

Antey 2500 air defence missile system is on offer to the Indian Army In today’s scenario, wars are expected to be short, swift and intensive. The air is going to be used extensively and relentlessly. Air power and the nature of aerial threat is undergoing a dynamic change. Today, the air power no longer connotes manned combat aircraft alone, but is shifting towards the realm of unmanned platforms. The air threat matrix, wherein the use of Beyond Visual Range (BVR) weapons have become a rule rather than exception and is now defined by players like attack helicopters, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), cruise and ballistic missiles, Electronic Warfare, Anti-Radiation Missiles, smart, intelligent and precision guided munitions; and in times to come space-based weapon platforms will dominate the battlefield. Therefore, safety of own assets and their survivability, especially during the initial days of operations, has to be ensured. To ensure their survivability, the ground-based air defence has an unenviable role to play in future operations. Although, the ground-based air defence is part of the army as well as the air force and need to be deployed in a fashion that will complement each other, the nature of ground war and deployment forces of the Army Air Defence to be in more mobile role and operate independently, albeit under the operational control of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Uniqueness of Army Air Defence: Air Defence and Army Air Defence in particular, has certain uniqueness. To ensure that multiple aerial threats in a particular geographical area is taken care of, in seconds, there is a requirement of shifting layers, mobile equipment with capability of providing varying ranges of engagement for flexibility in the equipment being utilised for air defence. These layers will also have to provide multiple punishment at area and point defence levels with a mix of guns and missiles with added capability of handling multiple targets. Hence, one system cannot be suitable or even capable of catering to this need. That is the reason that the Army Air Defence has different types of equipment and consequently becomes expensive to have and maintain. World over, making an air defence equipment to work till it can only be placed on a pedestal in a museum is the norm and Indian Army also follows the same norm. To have all equipment of latest technology in the inventory of any country’s armed forces is cost prohibitive. It has to be a judicious mix of mature or legacy, current and state-of-the-art technologies that addresses the operational needs of any force. And, therefore, all the armed forces have to exist with the legacy system which in turn adds the need for sustaining, supporting, maintaining and exploiting the equipment. To do this, every country makes the equipment go through the stages of updating, upgrading and eventually phasing out the equipment. Therefore, every country has its quota or share of legacy systems. Every country, therefore, goes through the stages of updating, upgrade and eventually phasing out of the equipment. The Army Air Defence is also in the cyclic process of shedding its old skin and into the dynamic activity of acquiring new teeth. The need for capability development is well understood by the Army Air Defence and is now progressing towards an integrated family of ground-based air defence weapon system. This is being planned as a two-pronged approach by consolidating the existing capability through upgrades and build futuristic capability with global procurement and indigenous development. Surface to air weapons used by the Army Air Defence consist of surface-to-air missiles (SAM), radars and guns.

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