Seek, Track and Destroy

Missiles makers can now choose from a host of desi and foreign missile seeker technologies available in the market

Mihir Paul

Seekers are essential to a missile’s effectiveness and make it possible to acquire and track land, air, and sea targets. A plethora of seekers varying in technology and use-case scenarios exist today. Different missile systems require different seeker systems to be effective. Just as missile systems have developed through the decades, so has missile seeker technology. Since a missile’s target accuracy is a critical factor for its effectiveness, seekers improve missile accuracy by improving its ‘Single Shot Kill Probability’ (SSKP). This makes seeker technology as important as the missiles being developed alongside.

DRDO’s RF seeker has been successfully tested on the Akash missile system

Current Technologies

Retransmission Seeker: Used in the Akash Mk1 missile, the Retransmission seeker, also called Track via Missile or TVM, combines command guidance, semi-active radar seeking and active radar seeking. The missile picks up radiation broadcast by the tracking radar which bounces off the target and relays it to the tracking station, which relays commands back to the missile.

Active Imaging Infrared Seeker (IIR): Used in the third generation indigenous NAG ‘fire-and-forget’ anti-tank guided missile, the IIR seeker utilises an infrared (IR) seeker along with a millimetric wave (MMW) seeker. While the IR seeker looks for heat signatures, the MMW seeker looks for specific high-frequency electromagnetic signatures. The combination of the two seekers makes it possible for guided-missiles like NAG to be a hundred per cent ‘fire-and-forget’.

Under Development
Ku-band Seeker (RF): Used in the Astra Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM), the previously used Russian Agat 9B1103M active radar seeker has been recently replaced with an Indian Ku-band seeker developed by the DRDO’s Research Centre Imarat (RCI). The Ku-band seeker is a significant upgrade over traditional active radar seekers since it allows for locking onto targets emitting high-frequency electromagnetic signatures and these missile systems do not require target illumination. This allows for more precision and improved tracking.

Electro-Optical Seeker: Already being used by countries like the United States and Israel, these seekers are used in Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missiles (QRSAMs). India is developing its own electro-optical sensor for its QRSAM like the Maitri Project that is currently in development and has gone through its first round of testing in 2017. An electro-optical seeker scans a designated area for targets via optical imaging. Once a target is acquired, the missiles will lock-on to it for the kill.

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