Integrated Air Defence

Greater efforts need to be made to synergise the air defence requirements of all three services

Atul Chandra

The Indian armed forces operate a wide and disparate network of Air Defence (AD) systems and future requirements across the three services should ideally be coalesced into a single requirement to achieve greater economies of scale during production and reduced maintenance costs across the lifecycle of these systems.

The Akash PRIME SAM system is being designed to meet therequirements of the IAF and Army
The Akash PRIME SAM system is being designed to meet the requirements of the IAF and Army

India has one of the largest requirements anywhere in the world for AD systems and a common requirement (where possible) for missile and gun-based AD systems, must be incorporated as the services modernise their AD platforms.

Joint tri-service procurements for indigenously developed AD systems could reduce development timelines for these systems, as the weapon systems will be designed with the needs of all three services in mind, with customisations for individual requirements progressing alongside.


Need for Integration

For example, a future tri-service requirement for future variants of the Akash Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system could be considered. The Akash SAM system is now proven in service with the army and air force, for them to be well informed on their future joint requirements for such systems. The Akash AD missile system was formally inducted into service by the army in 2014, followed by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in July 2015.

The Akash SAM is the made-in-India missile system to be inducted into the IAF. A tri-service requirement with greater commonality between the three services will also increase the interoperability of these systems in an operational environment. At present, the army and air force are pursuing their individual requirements for Akash SAMs. Army and IAF orders for the Akash SAM system have now crossed Rs 30,000 crore.

The newest version of this indigenous SAM system is the Akash-NG (New Generation) SAM whose maiden test launch took place in January 2021. The Akash-NG is being designed for a IAF requirement of intercepting high manoeuvring low Radar Cross Section (RCS) aerial threats.

According to the ministry of defence (MoD), the Akash-NG system features a canisterised launcher and offers a much smaller ground system footprint for better deployability in an operational environment. Successful flight trials of Akash-NG have been conducted from a land-based platform with all weapon system elements such as Multifunction Radar, Command, Control & Communication System and launcher participating in deployment configuration.

Another version of the Akash SAM, ‘Akash Prime’, is also in development, which features an indigenous active Radio Frequency (RF) seeker for improved accuracy along with other improvements that have ensured greater reliability while operating under low temperature environments at higher altitudes. At present, a requirement for Akash Prime has been expressed by the Indian Army and the IAF.

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