A Shot in the Arm

Modernisation of Army Air Defence gathers speed with acquisition cases being on track

Brig. MKK Iyer (retd)

It was in the year 1939, at the start of World War II, that the air defence branch then known as air defence artillery was first established in India starting with a 3-inch Ack-Ack guns and in the later stages of the conflict, with Bofors 40 mm L/60 guns.

Akash missile system at Republic Day parade

In the aftermath of India’s war of 1971, the air defence artillery was substantially modernised. The induction of modern air defence technology commenced with the deployment of the Tiger Cat Missile System in 1972. But the backbone of the army’s air defence arm continued to be the 40 mm L/70 gun systems with radars.

Subsequently, various weapons systems of Soviet origin were introduced between 1972 and 1978 and thereafter in the early Eighties. In fact, in the early Eighties, the air defence artillery was an arm of choice for many cadets in the Indian Military Academy (IMA) due to the fact that it had the most modern weapon systems. It was the period of 1987–94, that refashioned the identity of air defence in India and recorded several momentous events like shifting its school from Deolali to the eastern coast. By the end of 1989, the Air Defence and Guided Missile School was established at Gopalpur in Orissa. Subsequently, it was upgraded to Army Air Defence College and Centre, and is today, a premier institution par excellence.

In 1993, the Regiment of Artillery was bifurcated and the Corps of Air Defence Artillery came into existence on 10 January 1994. Today, as it enters into its 24th year of existence as a young arm of the Indian Army, as the Corps of Army Air Defence (AAD), a look into its present and future would be in order.

 

Air Defence in TBA

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 weapons have become a rule rather than exception and is now defined by players like attack helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, 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 equipment is part of the army as well as the Indian Air Force (IAF) and need to be deployed in a fashion that will complement each other, the nature of ground war and deployment, forces the AAD to be in more mobile role and operate independently albeit under the operational control of the IAF.

Air defence has certain uniqueness. To ensure that multiple aerial threats in a particular geographical area are taken care of, in seconds, there is a prerequisite of shifting layers, mobility with capability of providing varying ranges of engagement in the equipment being utilised for air defence. These layers will also have to provide multiple punishments at area and point defence levels with a mix of guns and missiles with added capability of handling multiple targets.

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