Home Protection of Cities In India from Aircraft, Missiles and Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs)

Protection of Cities In India from Aircraft, Missiles and Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs)

Pertinent issues

Nine Eleven was a wakeup call to the United States and the entire world. Cities became easy targets for non state actors. Responsibility for Air Defence lies with the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army. Air Defence is based on Air threat which could be from aircraft, armed helicopters, missiles, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAVs) and in the modern context long range naval guns which have a range of 200 Km or more.

The current set up

Currently, India has numerous Air Defence Systems to guard our Vulnerable Areas and Vulnerable Points. For the purpose of this article, we will focus primarily on cities. The focus would be primarily on systems other than Air Defence fighters.

India has successfully tested its Anti Ballistic Missile Systems.  These systems provide India with a two layered shield exo and endo. Exo relates to outside the atmosphere and endo relates to inside the atmosphere. The high altitude interception is known as the Prithvi Air Defence System (PAD) and the Advance Air Defence (AAD) system for lower altitude interception. The Prithvi air defence missile named as Pradyumna has a maximum interception altitude of 80 km and is capable of engaging ballistic missiles that range between 300 km to 2,000 km at a speed of Mach 5.0. Further work is on for a missile for intercepting weapon systems which range more than 5,000 km and fly at altitudes up to 150 km. The Advance Air Defence (AAD) known as the Ashwin is designed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles at an altitude of 30 Km. Both these interceptors were successfully tested by the DRDO. Prithvi intercepted a hostile missile above 50 Km on 11 February 2017 and Ashwin intercepted a missile on 01 March 2017 at an altitude less than 30 km. They are automatically fired on instructions from the Swordfish Long Range Tracking Radar. This is Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar which is a derivative of the Israeli Green Pine Long Range Radar used in the Arrow Missile System. The radar has a range of 600 Km currently which DRDO is upgrading to 1500 km.

Akash which is a medium range mobile Surface to Air Missile defence system is developed by DRDO and is in service with the Indian Army and Air Force. The missile can target aircraft up to 30 km at a height of 18000m. The system is deployed in subunits of four launchers and one Rajendra 3D passive electronically scanned array radar. Each subunit can track 64 targets and attack up to 12 of them. The Akash Mk-II will have an intercept range of 30 to 35 Km and increased accuracy of guidance and fire control. Comptroller and Auditor General Report released in 2017 stated that 30 percent of the missiles have failed when test fired. Being an indigenous system it is possible to rectify the defects and have the missile perform effectively.

The next equipment to be discussed would be the S 400 Triumf which India is going to acquire from Russia. The system uses four missiles to undertake its task. The very long range at 400 Km, the long range at 250 Km, the medium range at 120 km and the short range at 40 Km. It has been described as state of the art Air Defence weapon system. Eight missile launchers form a part of one regiment. It can engage targets flying at a speed of Mach 14. The target can be engaged at a maximum range of 400 km and a minimum range of 2 Km. The maximum altitude for engagement is 185 Km and a minimum is .01 Km. The targets that can be engaged are as under:-

  • Fighter jets and bombers including stealth jets.
  • Electronic warfare planes.
  • Cruise missiles such as the Tomahawk.
  • Ballistic missiles up to ranges of 3500 Km.
  • Drones up to a range of 400 Km.

India has signed an Inter Government Agreement for the acquisition of five S-400 systems from Russia. The deployment of the systems would be decided once the system is inducted.

Apart from these, there are reports that the Army, Air Force and the Navy are going for Surface to Air Missile in the long and medium range. These are being co-developed by DRDO and Israel.

National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS)

     The Defence Acquisition Council has accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for acquisition of NASAMS.  While we are in a process of evolving how our Air Defence assets are to be deployed to protect our cities it is interesting to note details of NASAMS. The NASAMS as elucidated by Raytheon Defence Industry is a highly adaptable mid range solution for Air Defence. The system can quickly identify, engage and destroy aircraft, UAVs and Cruise Missiles. It is produced by Raytheon of United States with Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace of Norway. It guards the National Capital Region of the United States and is currently in service in Norway, Finland, Spain, Netherlands, Oman and Chile.

      The NASAMS is based primarily on the AIM – 120 AMRAAM missile integrated to a United States built AN/MPQ-64 F1 Sentinel Air Defence Radar and a C4I system called the Fire distribution Centre. The range of the missile depends on the version of missile used. The various types are as under:-

  • AIM -120 A/ B: 55-75 Km.
  • AIM – 120 C-5: > 105 Km.
  • AIM  - 120 D (C-8) : >180 Km.
  • Extended range being developed would increase the range by an additional 40 Km.

Each NASAMS battery has three to four Fire Distribution Centres, three to four radar systems, nine truck mounted missile launchers each carrying six missiles. Each launcher can be deployed at a distance of 25 Km from the Fire Direction Centre and can engage 54 targets simultaneously within a few seconds. The Missile system NASAMS is comparable to the Israeli Missile systems.

 How do we provide Air Defence to our cities?

Currently, our cities are threatened by missiles, aircraft, UAVs and UCAVs. Based on the importance of the installations there would be a need to deploy systems suitably to counter this threat. There are strategic installations in some cities and based on the priorities the authorities would do the needful.

While we have spoken about Kinetic weaponry to meet the threat, it is important to note that detection systems play an important part. Further Fire Direction Centres ensure that the hostile target is effectively dealt with by optimising the correct weapon to target matching and undertaking effective Post Strike Damage Assessment. To undertake Surveillance it would entail Satellites, Aerostats, Radars and other devices. For ensuring quick engagement Fire Direction Centres need to provide a real time automated response to these targets. Considering the developments taking place it is heartening to witness that all these issues are under consideration. However, we need to expedite the speed with which the procurement is being undertaken.


Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of CLAWS or of the Government of India.




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Maj Gen (Dr) P K Chakravorty
Senior Fellow (Veteran)
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