December 5, 2022

Pandav – Securing India’s Present and Future

India’s quest for self-dependence in various fields including weapons has never been easy and witnessed several setbacks. But at the end, the success has started taken a glorious flight

By Sankalan Chattopadhyay

“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.” The first Prime Minister of independent India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru remarked the auspicious moment such rhetorically in his famous “A Tryst with Destiny” which is often considered as one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century. Since its Independence on August 15, 1947 India has gone through tribulations but faced every challenge courageously and currently stands proudly as World’s third largest economic power (in Purchasing Power Parity-PPP).

India’s quest for self-dependence in various fields including weapons has never been easy and witnessed several setbacks. But at the end, the success has started taken a glorious flight.

The August 15, 2022 marks the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence. “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” is an initiative of the Government of India to celebrate and commemorate the glorious history. As Indians around the world are participating in the grand celebration of the auspicious day, we will look into the top five modern weapons of India developed indigenously.

Tejas

It is a single engine advanced fourth generation fighter jet. Started as a ‘Light Combat Aircraft’ (LCA) project in 1983 to replace then ageing fleet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and MiG-21 witnessed vicissitudes as ever-changing combat environment and necessary requirements kept hurling obstacles at it.

The first technology demonstrator (TD-1) ultimately rolled out on November 17, 1995, followed by TD-2 in 1998. Finally, only on January 4, 2001, it created history by conducting the first flight. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee christened LCA as ‘Tejas’. Tejas got Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) in December 2013 and achieved the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) in 2019. The Indian Air Force, as of August 2022, will procure a total 123 LCA including 16 Mk 1 IOC, 16 Mk 2 FOC, 18 Mk 1 trainer and 73 Mk 1A. Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal VR Choudhary reiterated commitment for procurement of six squadrons of LCA Mk 2.

The Mk 1A version to have 43 improvements to the predecessor. It will feature Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, Open Architecture Mission Systems, Digital Wideband Radar Warning Receiver, New Generation Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) and many more. The Mk 2 will be a further development with longer fuselage, addition of canards, Leading Edge Root Extension (LERX), Smart Large Area Display (LAD), Digital Flight Control Computer (DFCC), Indigenous Actuators, a Smart Cockpit, Internal Unified Electronic Warfare Suite (UEWS), On Board Oxygen Generated System (OBOGS), Infrared Search and Track (IRST), Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) and a newer and powerful GE F414-INS6 engine.

Arjun

India realised the need of an advanced indigenous Main Battle Tank (MBT) taking lessons from the two back-to-back wars against Pakistan (1965 and 1971). The Indian MBT programme faced several hurdles but the first significant success was achieved by the Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) which had developed the Kanchan armour, an advanced composite armour equivalent to Burlington armour (a variant of Chobham armour) developed by Army Research Laboratory, UK. Meanwhile, the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) developed an indigenous gun, firstly a 105 mm rifled-gun but later the bigger and powerful 120 mm rifled gun.

Agni-5 is an Indian nuclear capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of up to 5,000 km. This has become a necessary means to thwart any Chinese nuclear misadventure. It was test fired for the first time on April 19, 2012 followed by back-to-back several successful tests including canisterised one

Although the prototypes were ready by the late 80s, it was not until 2010 when, after extensive trials, the Indian Army placed an initial order, the 43rd Armoured Regiment receiving the first some examples in limited numbers in the late 90s. In late 80s it was named Arjun, and in 2012 an improved variant Mk 2 was conceived renamed as the ‘Mk 1A’ later.

Arjun Mk 1A features 93 improvements over its predecessor. It has improved Kanchan Armour, indigenous Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA), containerised ammunition bin with individual shutter (CABIS), blow-off panels, track width mine plough (TWMP), better battlefield awareness, an improved gunner’s main sight integrated with automatic target tracking, computer controlled integrated fire control system incorporating day-cum night stabilised sighting system, improved commander’s panoramic sight, new Remote Controlled Weapon Station (NSV 12.7 mm), laser warning and counter measure system, roof-mounted driver’s seat and many more. The platform features hydro-pneumatic suspension for excellent mobility and is powered by an MTU-1400 hp liquid-cooled turbocharged diesel engine, while an indigenous 1500 hp one is under development.

Agni 5

Agni-5 is an Indian nuclear capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of up to 5,000 km. This has become a necessary means to thwart any Chinese nuclear misadventure. It was test fired for the first time on April 19, 2012 followed by back-to-back several successful tests including canisterised one.

The Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) was initiated in early 80s under leadership of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, then the director of Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) to meet India’s requirement to challenge various land and air threats with indigenous missile technology. Agni program, initially just a technology demonstrator as a form of re-entry platform was quickly conceived as a ballistic missile programme. After successful development of Agni-3, work on an upgraded model initiated resulting the Agni-5. Currently it is not known if a follow-on project exists.

The platform three-stage solid fueled intercontinental ballistic missile with ring laser gyroscope based inertial navigation system (RLG-INS) and micro inertial navigation system (MINGS). According to reports it can be equipped with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRVs). MIRVs will ensure a credible second-strike capability. With a reported terminal speed of Mach 24 it possesses grave threat to the adversaries as it will be almost impossible to be intercepted by enemy defence. Agni-V guarantees India’s credible minimum deterrence policy with the commitment to ‘No First Use’.

BMDS & ASAT

The security of a nation against nuclear threats are based on two things; one is the offensive capability to maintain deterrence and another one is a defensive mechanism against enemy’s offensive capability. As nuclear threats from India’s two adversaries intensified along with offensive capabilities, India geared up for a defensive system as well.

The programme reportedly started post 1999 Kargil War, however, it was not until in 2002 when Indian bid to procure Israeli origin Arrow 2 was vetoed by the U.S. Since, Indian BMDS programme has witnessed a fast progress. And in 2006 India saw first success when the interceptor successfully neutralised a modified Prithvi-II mimicking Chinese M-11 (DF-11). There will be more successful tests in following years with newer and better variants.

Here only a few of the achievements were discussed which is like just a chapter from the entire book! India has progressed impressively in the field of artillery, light and medium protected mobility, helicopter, metallurgy, propellant, warheads, optics, radar and sonar, transport mobility, electronics, missiles, composites, stealth technology, small to medium recon and transport unmanned aerial system, electronic warfare, naval ships, personal protective items and many more

The first system developed consists of two interceptors. The Prithvi Air Defence (PAD/Pradyumna) intercepts in exo-atmospheric region at an altitude of 80 km while the Advanced Air Defence (AAD/Ashwin) has a flight ceiling of 40 km, i.e. its endo-atmospheric. Later a modified interceptor, Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) was developed with a flight altitude of more than 180 km to complement and augment existing system.

The technology convinced was further developed to demonstrate Anti-satellite (ASAT) capability by successfully shooting down a live satellite in Low Earth Orbit at an altitude of around 300 km on March 27, 2019. The successful mission demonstrated India’s technical prowess and ability to defend country’s assets in space.

The Phase-I was developed to protect New Delhi and Mumbai from attacks of missiles with a range of around 2,500 km. But upon completion of Phase-II the capability will be increased to defend against missiles of 5.000 km range. The BMDS takes India to the selective club of nations with similar capabilities.

INS Vikrant

With the procurement of HMS Hercules (renamed INS Vikrant), a British Majestic-class aircraft carrier, in late 50s India became the first carrier power of Asia post World War 2 and only a few nation to have so outside of NATO club. Since then India has procured two more carriers, HMS Hermes (INS Viraat ) and Admiral Gorshkov (INS Vikramadity). But India’s quest for indigenous carrier dates back to late 80s when an initial study was initiated which later would give birth to Project-71, Indian Aircraft Carrier (IAC).

The construction commenced in 2005 and the keel was laid down in 2009. It was launched in 2013 and work was declared completed in 2020.

The 262 meters long INS Vikrant is a conventionally powered platform with a displacement of 45,000 metric tons. It is configured to short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) and features a ski-jump. As multiple Indian aviation project is going on, soon it will feature mainly indigenous fighter jets and rotorcrafts. The air defence of the ship will be managed by advanced LRSAM. Thus the ‘sword and shield’ will ensure its dominance in sea. India is reported to work on a larger indigenous carrier with CATOBAR feature as well.

Bonus – INS Arihant and K-4

Nuclear security of a nation is incomplete without a second-strike capability and India too doesn’t want to be lagged behind. With the successful development of Arihant class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine India made an entry into a prestigious club of a few nations (only five others than India) capable of having own SSBN. The programme dates back to 80s when the secretive Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project was initiated.

INS Arihant features four vertical launch tubes to carry four K-4 long range submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missile. K-4 SLBM is also another glorious achievement further guarantees security against nuclear blackmail and also ensures much needed second strike capability. Currently work on much larger SSBN and SLBM with longer range is going on.

The technology is changing rapidly, so is India. On August 15, 2047 when we will gather to celebrate the centenary of India’s Independence, we will be proud to see prosperous India among world’s one of the three most powerful nation leading the world in various fields, steering weaker nations towards their betterment and pioneering new inventions bringing new evolution to “life and freedom”.

These are only a few of the achievements we have discussed which is like just a chapter from the entire book! India has progressed impressively in the field of artillery, light and medium protected mobility, helicopter, metallurgy, propellant, warheads, optics, radar and sonar, transport mobility, electronics, missiles, composites, stealth technology, small to medium recon and transport unmanned aerial system, electronic warfare, naval ships, personal protective items and many more.

There are some highly complex programmes India is currently working on- AMCA, TEDBF, hypersonic cruise and glide platforms, FRCV, FICV, SFDR-AAM, XRSAM, IMRH, various stealth unmanned aerial system, nuclear attack submarine and new generation naval ships are a few to be named.

The technology is changing rapidly, so is India. On August 15, 2047 when we will gather to celebrate the centenary of India’s Independence, we will be proud to see prosperous India among world’s one of the three most powerful nation leading the world in various fields, steering weaker nations towards their betterment and pioneering new inventions bringing new evolution to “life and freedom”. And to ascertain a prosperous India, the security of India must be guaranteed. The future of India is secured with the might of indigenous technology.

Jai Hind!

Sankalan Chattopadhyay is a defence and strategic affairs analyst. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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