Target Acquired

The emerging technologies have made radars omniscient

Smruti Deshpande

When the Chinese presence at India’s eastern border began looking like a threat that could soon turn into a conflict, the Indian government, among other defence equipment, procured additional radars for the Army. The weapon locating radar Swathi helps in the detection of the location from where enemy weapons like mortars, shells and rockets are being fired up to a distance of 50 kilometres. The Army decided to buy 12 such Swathi radar systems. It is a mobile artillery-locating phased array radar developed within India. This counter-battery radar is designed to detect and track incoming artillery and rocket fire to determine the point of origin for counter-battery fire.

Weapon Locating Radar (Swathi) passes through Rajpath during the Republic Day Parade
Weapon Locating Radar (Swathi) passes through Rajpath during the Republic Day Parade

Last year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) extended a contract to the Bengaluru-based Alpha Design Technologies to supply six Very High Frequency (VHF) radars in a more than Rs 200 crore deal. This procurement aimed at replacing the Soviet-era P-18 early radar mounted on Ural-4320 truck chassis. These radars of the IAF are in addition to the medium AESA-powered radar Arudhra (EL/M-2084), a medium power radar (MPR) developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI). The EL/M-2080 IAI Greenpine radar was procured from Israel as a part of the Ballistic Missile Defence System. It is an AESA radar operating in the L Band with detection ranges of over 500km.

The Ashwini 4D medium Range Surveillance radar is AESA based S band rotating array radar. It is an LLTR indigenous rotating active phased array multifunction 4D radar capable of automatic detection and tracking of aerial targets ranging from fighter aircraft to slow-moving targets. The IAF decided to procure 18 of these radars as a follow-on order of the Rohini radars. The Air Defence Tactical Control Radar (ADTCR) is the Army version of the Indian Air Force’s Ashwini LLTR. The ADTCR is used for volumetric surveillance, detection, tracking and friend/foe identification of aerial targets of different types, and transmission of prioritised target data to multiple command posts/ weapon systems. The Rohini Radar is a 3D multi-function medium-range air surveillance radar mounted on a modified heavy Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML) Tatra truck and supported by a mobile auxiliary power unit. The Rohini radar system has been developed by LRDE Lab of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and engineered as well as produced by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). Rohini can detect and track multiple targets flying simultaneously and determine their position. While the air force version is called Rohini, the naval variant of this radar is known as Revathi. These 3D Central Acquisition Radars (CAR) were originally developed as part of a programme between Indian DRDO and Poland’s PIT as a family of mobile S-Band 3D radars. The areas of cooperation were developing the Planar Array and general architecture.

The IAF also operates the 3D Low Level Light Weight Radar (LLLWR), christened Ashlesha Mk-I developed by the DRDO. This radar detects and tracks heterogeneous air targets, including helicopters, fighters and UAVs at low and medium altitudes. The quadripod-mounted radar is built to operate in networked or stand-alone mode to support joint or independent operations. Back in 2014, a Franco-Indian joint venture between Thales and Bharat Electronics (BEL) was created in order to fulfil the IAF’s need of 19 Ground Smarter GS-100 radars. The significance of the radar is that it has Gallium Nitride based T/R modules while most radars on the market use Gallium Arsenide-based technology. Gallium Nitride based T/R modules are smaller, lighter and consume less power compared to the alternatives.

Most recently, the MoD signed a contract with Nova Integrated Systems Ltd (NISL), a subsidiary of Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL), to execute the Navy’s Surface Surveillance Radar (SSR) project. As per reports, this was the first procurement by the Ministry under the ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ category of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). The project will enable delivery, installation and commissioning of radar systems on Navy vessels.

Apart from these recent procurements, the Indian military possesses radars such as the Rajendra, a multifunction electronically scanned phased array Radar which is a part of the Aakash Air Defence System. It is a passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar which ensures the missile’s trajectory towards its target.

The Aerostat radars, which are large fabric envelopes filled with helium, can rise up to an altitude of 15,000 feet tethered by a single cable. The Indian Doppler Radar (INDRA) is a series of 2D radars developed by the DRDO. While the INDRA-I is a mobile surveillance radar for low-level target detection, the INDRA-II is for ground-controlled interception of targets.

Militaries around the world use radars for all sorts of uses such as air defence, battlefield, missile control, ground surveillance, navigation, military air traffic control, identification of moving target, ship navigation and safety, pulse compression, tracking, search and rescue and fire control radars.


Global Players in the Market

Much like all other equipment, radar technology has been ever evolving, with the change in warfare. With the battlefield more focused on nanotechnology and semiconductors, the radar used by militaries all over the world is seeing a technological shift. The research on these radar systems now involves more focus on the miniaturisation of the radars. This shift is evident even in the Indian defence forces, which are now consciously moving away from 2D radar systems to 3D and 4D. While the 4D radars can create high-resolution, 3D radars ‘are able to record spatial coordinates with respect to time but are not as quick to capture momentary variations of position and velocity of objects in an environment.’

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