India's Missiles Fly Up the Learning Curve

Discussion in 'Strategic Forces' started by Sridhar, Jun 26, 2009.

  1. Sridhar

    Sridhar House keeper Moderator

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    India's Missiles Fly Up the Learning Curve
    Recent strategic missile tests in India demonstrate the country's evolution in the field. Richard B Gasparre reports.

    Date: 03 Jun 2009


    A truism in many sports holds that offence gets headlines, but defence wins championships. Although it is only roughly analogous to sport, war and military technology exhibits the same skew in media coverage, as the evolution of India's strategic missile capability shows. Judging by recent test results, the second half of the equation may hold as well.

    The defence doesn't rest: programmatic outperformance

    Sandwiched between successful 2009 trials of the BrahMos cruise missile on 5 March and the Prithvi II nuclear-capable SRBM in mid-April, the 7 March test of an indigenous ABM missile was equally successful in terms of test objectives (although it received a fraction of the coverage, judging from Google hit statistics). Taken in programmatic context, however, the ABM test is much more impressive in three ways: success rate, development speed and technical challenge.

    Success rate

    So far India has gone three for three in ABM interceptor flight trials, each of which had a different test profile. In the first trial, a two-stage interceptor missile later named the Pradyumna incapacitated the target, an incoming Prithvi-II missile, at the upper edge of the stratosphere, 48km up. A year later, a single-stage missile developed under the advanced air defence (AAD) programme defeated another Prithvi-II 15km up (the altitude of many transcontinental plane flights). In the most recent test, another Pradyumna sporting improvements such as a gimballed directional warhead achieved an explosive kill of its target at an altitude of 75km, well into the mesosphere.
    "India's ABM test is impressive in three ways: success rate, development speed and technical challenge."

    In contrast, the Prithvi SRBM itself failed three of its first six trials, and the newer Agni-III MRBM failed its first test. Failure rates of 50% in the first few tests of new weapons are neither unusual nor portents of ultimate futility, but this makes the Indian BMD track record even more impressive.

    Development speed

    India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) publicly revealed its BMD programme right after the first test in November 2006, less than three years ago.

    At that time, Indian programme managers conceded that BMD research had been underway 'for years', but given that DRDO had tried diligently to make the Trishul SAM work in ABM mode for years, as well, the Pradyumna programme couldn't have been DRDO's primary initiative. In any event, ABM weapon testing could be completed by 2010 given current rates of progress, according to VK Saraswat, head of missile development at DRDO.

    In contrast, DRDO has pursued offensive ballistic missile development since 1983, when it initiated the integrated guided missile development programme (IGMDP). Even now, according to one Indian commentator, the Agni-I is the only fully operational nuclear-capable ballistic missile in India's arsenal. Most of this protracted development cycle has consisted of post-testing production and field integration delays, which should quell undue optimism about the young BMD programme, but even so, both ABM interceptors are ahead of all previous IGMDP timetables.

    Technical challenge

    Judging technical difficulty of a mission by the number of nations that can execute it, BMD is the most challenging military task, as only the US and Russia have independently fielded fully indigenous BMD systems (the Israeli Arrow is a US-Israel joint venture). The anti-satellite task is actually second (US, Russia, and China), and long-range ballistic missiles currently run third, although this club seems to be in the process of doubling.

    If any nation can benefit from BMD, it's India

    Indeed, ballistic missile proliferation in Asia makes India's BMD programme even more significant in the long term than its offensive nuclear ballistic missile programmes.
    "So far India has gone three for three in anti-ballistic missile interceptor flight trials, each of which had a different test profile."

    First and foremost, the November 2008 Mumbai attack and the current spread of Taliban influence in Pakistan have raised the spectre of Pakistani missiles and/or nuclear warheads falling into the hands of terrorists, against whom traditional deterrence is at best uncertain.

    Beyond the Pakistani threat, whether national or subnational, India's offensive ballistic missile programme lags behind that of its main regional rival, China. Although DRDO has improved its success rate for offensive tests recently, China has just as much momentum and occupies a more advanced position, especially in terms of long-range ICBMs either operational or in the pipeline.

    BMD is therefore India's most likely countervailing asset in the foreseeable future. China's high-altitude SAMs can engage some ballistic missiles, but only to a 30km ceiling, and evidently China has no R&D effort comparable to India's BMD programme at this time. In this respect, China's ASAT capability doesn't really count, as ballistic missiles are to satellites as fighter aircraft are to armoured personnel carriers. Last but not least, India is significantly better than China at software development and programming, which are critical to BMD system effectiveness.

    Finally, India itself lags in deploying submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad. Should India's naval missile programme follow the same timetable as India's other strategic naval and missile programmes, a BMD capability could add significant survivability to India's nuclear deterrent.

    Can failure breed success?

    To be fair, India's offensive ballistic missiles don't deserve direct managerial comparison to the BMD programme. As noted previously, the BMD programme hasn't yet reached the point where Indian R&D usually derails; as Saraswat himself cautioned, deployment rates are 'not in [DRDO's] hands'.
    "Failure rates of 50% in the first few tests of new weapons are neither unusual nor portents of ultimate futility."

    More important, early failures pave the way to ultimate success: as Thomas Edison said in response to derision at the thousandth failure of the prototype light bulb: 'now we know a thousand ways that it won't work'. Current BMD development benefits from the advances and setbacks of IGMDP, which included the Akash and Prithul SAM projects as well as the Agni and Prithvi. In fact, the Pradyumna ABM was originally called the Prithvi air defence (PAD) missile because it used the generic Prithvi missile design. Conversely, the DRDO strenuously attempted to give the Prithul ABM capability before ultimately admitting failure.

    However, other factors may underpin programmatic BMD outperformance. In no particular order:

    * The one way in which interceptor missiles are less complex than offensive ballistic missiles is that modern versions of the former don't carry nuclear warheads.
    * The BMD was not developed under the auspices of IGMPD, suggesting that the latter may have been (or would become) too bureaucratic.
    * The BMD programme not only post-dated the IGMPD, but also probably started during, and quite possibly because of, the ramping up of Pakistan's missile capability. In this regard, the 1999 Kargil conflict occurred just a year after Pakistan detonated its first nuclear munition.

    Is true danger the mother of efficiency?

    There is in fact an exact historical precedent for the correlation of serious perceived threat and speedy weapons development: the first generation of US strategic nuclear missiles.

    By 1952, nuclear warheads had become small enough to put on missiles, but the US missile programmes did not really kick into high gear until 1957, when the Sputnik launch, along with faster-than-expected Soviet development of its first ICBM (the SS-6), created fears of a Soviet-US 'missile gap'. Consequently, the USAF and USN made development of ICBM and SLBM systems their top priority, creating all-star teams of scientists and engineers with essentially unlimited resources.

    The effect of concentrating talent, subordinating bureaucratic processes to a tight deadline, enabled by top-level political support and underpinned by strong psychological fear, produced results. A 1958 US catch-up plan called for full operational deployment of nine Atlas squadrons and four Titan squadrons by March 1963. By October 1961, the Strategic Air Command subsequently activated 13 Atlas and six Titan squadrons – 18 months early. The Polaris SLBM project was similarly successful: the first successful test launch was in 1960, just four years from project initiation, and IOC occurred in 1961.
    "India's ballistic missile programme lags behind that of its main regional rival – China."

    In contrast, the second generation of US strategic nuclear weapons systems came in behind schedule, over budget, and arguably under promised capability – at a time when nuclear weapons had become much more survivable and effective in their deterrent role.

    If past is prologue, then India's long record of military procurement frustration might be ending – at least in the strategic nuclear weapons space. Indeed, the DRDO is on a roll with its recent tests of offensive missiles; even the January 2009 BrahMos test failure was rectified within weeks.

    In the end, the best military procurement principle may have come from essayist Samuel Johnson: 'nothing so wonderfully concentrates the mind as the prospect of hanging in the morning'.
    India?s Missiles Head up the Learning Curve - Air Force Technology
     
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  3. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    Impressive. In light of the ballistic missile proliferation in the continent, India's BMD programme becomes even more significant. I'm glad that that is on track.

    Edit: I'm working on a compendium of several disclosed developments in the missile sphere in India in the recent past. I'll try and hit ya'll up with that when I'm done.
     
  4. Pintu

    Pintu New Member

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    True Rage, I also agree you on this , truly our BMD program is coming out of the age and is on track though still a long way to go, I am very happy on this.

    Regards
     
  5. MMuthu

    MMuthu Regular Member

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    Some where I read that Pakistan Missiles are more accurate than the Indian missiles, What is the reason?

    How much true is the above statement?
     
  6. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Source of such statements will help.
    Pakistani missiles are based on North Koreas. No one knows of Pakistani capabilities in guidance system.
     
  7. K Factor

    K Factor A Concerned Indian Senior Member

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    'Missile woman' to handle ambitious Agni-V project - India - The Times of India

    'Missile woman' to handle ambitious Agni-V project
    1 Jul 2009, 0031 hrs IST, Rajat Pandit, TNN


    NEW DELHI: It's indeed rocket science. And Tessy Thomas is going great guns at unravelling all its complexities. Though women and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles usually don't go together, Thomas is systematically breaking all glass ceilings in the avowedly male bastion of `strategic weapons'.

    Thomas has now been appointed the project director (mission) of India's most ambitious missile, Agni-V, with a strike range of 5,000-km, which is slated to be tested for the first time next year.

    Thomas, 46, was made the project director of the new advanced version of the 2,500-km Agni-II missile last year after she played a crucial role in the successful firing of the 3,500-km range Agni-III missile as an associate project director, as reported by TOI earlier.

    Now, she has added another feather to her cap by being assigned to Agni-V, the test-firing of which will propel India towards having potent ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) capabilities, largely the preserve of the Big-5 countries till now.

    Thomas, contacted by TOI on Tuesday, was reluctant to talk till she `had clearance from the top'. Overall Agni programme director, Avinash Chander, however, was full of praise for her. "She is one of the key members of the entire Agni programme,'' he said.

    "The designer for the missile guidance systems, among other things, she is one of the most dedicated scientists in our team. She finds solutions to problems,'' he added.

    A B.Tech from Thrissur Engineering College, Calicut, and M.Tech from Pune-based Defence Institute of Advanced Technologies, Thomas is an expert on `solid system propellants' which fuel the Agni missiles.

    Based at the Advanced Systems Laboratory in Hyderabad, Thomas has been associated with the Agni programme for around two decades now. Her fascination for `rockets' began with the Apollo moon missions when she was in school at Alappuzha in Kerala.

    The dream turned to reality when this `missile woman' was assigned to the Agni programme soon after joining DRDO in 1988 by the original `missile man', former President APJ Abdul Kalam. There are around 20 other women scientists working on the Agni programme but Thomas is the first to become a project director of an Agni system.

    The work on the solid-fuelled Agni-V basically revolves around incorporating a third composite stage in the two-stage Agni-III, along with some advanced technologies like ring laser gyroscope and accelerator for navigation and guidance.

    The endeavour is to ensure that Agni-V, for which the government has sanctioned around Rs 2,500 crore, is also a canister-launch missile system to ensure it has the requisite operational flexibility to be fired from any part of the country. It will be slightly short of true ICBMs, which have ranges in excess of 5,500 km, but enough to take care of existing `threat perceptions'.
     
  8. 1.44

    1.44 Member of The Month SEPTEMBER 2009 Senior Member

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    Damn Indian women in every field nowadays.Good going:)

    Agni 5 will cement India's deterrent.BMD,BVRAAM,ICBM,ATGM. India is surely getting self-sufficient in it's missile production.Hope to see some exports when induction begins.
    Btw: Scientists say the BMD is superior than PAC-3 how?
     
  9. s_bman

    s_bman Regular Member

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    .Hope to see some exports when induction begins.

    i would not worry about exports .......self reliance is what we are looking for,every effort our scientist make is either late ....or our forces are not intersted in product being offered(in name of change in requirements.......arjun ,kaveri/lca,akash sam).
     
  10. Vladimir79

    Vladimir79 Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    I doubt any truth to that statement. We have seen how far the Pakistani military goes to cover up its failings. If they are considering the poor reproduction unit HQ-9 then we know it is less than.
     
  11. MitMeister

    MitMeister New Member

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    I don't give a damn about Pakistan's missile.. but sure they ve some bite in it.. But our BMD has passed three times out of 3.. i would like to use a real simulation rather than launch a missile on a calculated track and check if the AM hits it.. for more accuracy missile should be launched by a diffrerent team then, another team tracks it and hits. that would be real test.

    And if Pak launches a NUKE missile, how are we to distinguish btw normal cruise and nuke one's [:(]
     
  12. John

    John Guest

    Thats the main problem of war with China or PAk, in the event of which when they employ their long range cruise missiles, we'll have no clue as to whether they are conventional or nuke loaded and hence any war could quickly turn nuclear. Its the same for them if we fire one of our brahmos in anger they have no idea whether its nuke or conventional load and thus they will retaliate thinking our missile is a nuke. The AAD and PAD have been tested and 2 more tests are required for them to be considered ready for induction an this will happen sometime end of this year and next year. They are effective and indeed hit targets very well. But we do lack good defenses for cruise missiles and currently the only platform known to have the ability to counter terrain hugging cruise missiles is the SH. Cruise missiles fly at much lower altitude and hence we'll have no problem idying whether an incoming threat is a cruise or ballistic missile. Ballistic missiles can also be detected as soon as they are launched by our Swordfish radars but cruise missiles will be detected a bit later since they are usually smaller, stealthier and slower, flying anywhere between a 10m to 300m above surface. off-course our brahmos flies a lot of its flight to max. range at high altitude but dips down to less than 10m before it is detected by enemy radars. But terrain huggers are the ones to watch out for.
     
  13. venom

    venom DFI Technocrat

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    And if Pak launches a NUKE missile, how are we to distinguish btw normal cruise and nuke one's [:(][/QUOTE]


    It does'nt matter as the missile will b destroyed...
     
  14. John

    John Guest


    It does'nt matter as the missile will b destroyed...[/QUOTE]

    right now the military itself says it has no effective counter measures against terrain hugging cruise missiles and as of now we are not as shielded as we can be, hence the Navy's interest in the Super Hornet.
     
  15. sayareakd

    sayareakd Moderator Moderator

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    atually we have effective counter measure against cruise missiles, what we dont have is network of sensors for detection of cruise missile.

    Akash missle can take out most of the cruise missile of China and all of the cruise missiles of pakistan.
     
  16. Koji

    Koji New Member

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    It does'nt matter as the missile will b destroyed...[/QUOTE]

    The problem is that if you are not able to distinguish which kind of warhead the missile is carrying, then you're not prioritizing your missiles to take out nuclear warheads. I don't know about Pakistan, but I do know that against China it is very likely that their missiles which saturate your defense (assuming that your system is 100% fail safe) based on the fact that they can throw more at India that India can protect against (Missile # wise)
     
  17. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    India may not get all the Chinese missiles some may possibly get thru but the Indian hypersonic missiles will all get thru 100% against any Chinese defense. one BMD unit can handle 60 missiles in a 3 minute time frame so even saturation may not work it would be a primitive tactic like the human wave tactics employed in the Korean war.
     
  18. Koji

    Koji New Member

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    Can you post a source for the BMD claims?Can you post a source for the BMD claims? B/c I am fairly positive that the defense system your talking about is still (characteristically India) under development and there are zero operational units.

    Also your claim about the Indian hypersonic missiles, do you know what the Chinese field for missile defense?

    The Bhramos version that India has is not hypersonic. That system is still under development and there are no operational units again
     
  19. kuku

    kuku Respected Member

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    S-300 versions, copies and modifications.

    Nothing that has good record in dealing with ICBMs.

    But then again not many ICBMs in the region (outside PRC)
     
  20. LETHALFORCE

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

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    look it up, it's all here in the forum, brahmos is just one of the hypersonic missiles. Currently it is 2 layers in the future it will be 3 layers so it will be even harder to penetrate.
     
  21. Koji

    Koji New Member

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    I have tried. There are no legitimate sources that I found that have backed your claim.

    Brahmos hypersonic missile doesn't exist yet, right now it's only the 2.5 mach one. This one I looked up.
     

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