Phase-1 of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) layered, hardened and in-depth air defence command, control and communications network, called integrated air command, control and communications system (IACCCS), is all set to achieve full operational capability by June 2012 once the IAF-owned, -operated and -managed fully secure and reliable network and gigabyte digital information grid—known as AFNet, is fully operationalised. The IACCCS—being established under a two-phase programme costing Rs16,000 crore has been designed as a robust, survivable network-centric C4I3 infrastructure that will receive direct real-time feeds from existing space-based overhead reconnaissance satellites, ground-based and aerostat-mounted ballistic missile early warning radars and high-altitude-long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles, and manned airborne early warning & control (AEW & C) platforms. The IACCCS will also coordinate the early warning and response aspects of a layered, ground-based, two-tier ballistic missile defence (BMD) network that is now at an advanced stage of development. The fibre-optic network-based AFNet, on the other hand, replaces the IAF’s troposcatter-based communications network. Developed at a cost of Rs10.77 billion in collaboration with US-based Cisco Systems Inc, HCL Infosystems Ltd and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), the AFNet incorporates the latest traffic transportation technology in form of internet protocol (IP) packets over the network using multi-protocol label switching (MPLS). A large voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) layer with stringent quality of service enforcement will facilitate robust, high quality voice, video and conferencing solutions. With these two critical elements now in place, the way ahead is now clear for plugging into the IACCCS a large number of new-generation ground-based radars that are now in the process of being delivered, be it for airspace surveillance in search of airborne targets (like manned aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles, attack helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles), or coastal surveillance or ground surveillance.
For ensuring all-weather low- and medium-level airspace surveillance, the IAF by 2016 will be receiving 67 new low-level air transportable radars (LLTR), including 19 180km-range, three-dimensional THALES-built Ground Smarter GS-100 radars (ordered in November 2009), each of which will be accompanied by operational and communication shelters, an energy sub-system, a mobility sub-system and personnel living quarters. While the first six GS-100s have been supplied off-the-shelf by THALES, the remaining is being licence-assembled by BEL. Under underway now are deliveries of 24 active phased-array EL/M-2084 medium-power radars (MPR). Homegrown products to be delivered include the DRDO-developed and Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL)-built the S-band Aslesha three-dimensional micro-radar, the Army-specific Bharani manportable radar, and thirty (20 more to be ordered) 180km-range Rohini S-band central acquisition radars. The Aslesha, which weighs 250kg, uses low-probability-of-intercept frequencies to look out for terrain-hugging tactical UAVs over mountainous terrain out to 50km. The IAF has to date ordered 21 of them, and first deliveries took place in January 2008. On the other hand, the Bharani is a two-dimensional L-band gapfiller system now in series-production for the Army. It has a range of 40km and can track up to 100 airborne targets. To date, 16 Bharanis—meant to be used in conjunction with VSHORADS/MANPADS—have been ordered, with deliveries beginning this March. Also under delivery are 29 THALES Nederland-developed motorised Reporter tactical control radars for the Army’s upgraded ZU-23 air-defence guns.
The IAF is now gearing up to induct new-generation S-band long-range surveillance radars (LRSR), an additional nine ELTA Systems-built L-band EL/M-2083 ‘Airstar’ aerostat-mounted high-power radars (HPR) to add to the two already in service, and 18 L-band EL/M-2082 ADAR 3-D active phased-array airspace surveillance radars. For the LRSR requirement, a competition is presently underway between the ELTA Systems-built EL/M-2288 AD-STAR, THALES-built Ground Master 400, and SELEX Sistemi Integrati’s RAT-31SL.
These new radars will be deployed with the IAF’s existing 32 new mobile control and reporting centres (MCRC), 12 air defence control centres (ADCC), 24 air defence direction centres (ADDC) and some 40 terminal weapons control centres (TWCC) along India’s western and north-eastern borders, and will progressively replace the existing ST-68U gapfiller radars and related 19ZH6 command-and-control consoles, P-18/NRS-12 and P-19 gapfiller radars, THALES-built THD-1955 (GRS-400) 3-D long-range airspace surveillance radars, and the P-30/NRS-20, P-37 and P-40 gapfiller/target engagement radars, and THALES-built TRS-2215D and BEL-built PSM-33 Mk2 airspace surveillance radars, all of which were acquired in the 1970s and early 1980s. The Indian Army too is likely to procure up to six aerostat-mounted EL/M-2083s for detecting and tracking both ballistic missiles and terrain-hugging cruise missiles launched from Pakistan, while the Indian Navy is reportedly asking for two EL/M-2083s. The 1,700kg EL/M-2083 ‘Airstar’ is mounted inside 240 feet-long aerostat that is perched at altitudes of up to 4,000 feet, use electronically-steered multi-beam techniques to detect terrain hugging airborne targets—combat aircraft, helicopters, cruise missiles and UAVs—at ranges of up to 300km, while the trajectories of ballistic missiles can be accurately plotted up to 500km away.
The most challenging and contentious part of the IACCCS’ implementation roadmap, however, remains the two-tier BMD component. While the ground-based, airborne and space-based tools required for giving early warning of inbound hostile ballistic/cruise missiles are already being acquired from both indigenous sources and abroad (primarily Israel), acquisition of the active ‘hard-kill’ component—anti-ballistic missiles and their fire-control systems—looks set to be a long drawn-out affair due to the differing perceptions of BMD among the three armed services. The initial components of such a two-tier BMD network, comprising both endo-atmospheric and exo-atmospheric missile interceptors, are not likely to be commissioned until 2015. For fire-control purposes the BMD system sues ELTA Systems-built EL/M-2080 ‘Green Pine’ ground-based active phased-array L-band long-range tracking radar (LRTR), an initial two of which were supplied in late 2001 under the US$50 million ‘Project Sword Fish’ to the DRDO by the ELTA Systems Group subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries. Three million lines of software code were written in India for the Battle Management/Command, Control, Communications & Intelligence (BM/C³I) centre, the hub of software and hardware systems. Transmission links to the interceptor missile are based on jam-proof CDMA technology and multiple data transmission links have been set up so that if one is jammed the others could function. Israeli inputs were sought and received for designing and fabricating the BM/C³I centre, which not only acts as the DRDO’s primary BMD engagement simulator, but is also being used for evolving BM/C³I concepts, for defining BMD goals and developing BMD doctrine, for evaluating candidate systems architectures, for serving as the principal prototyping-cum-validation tool for the BMD’s BM/C³I algorithms, and for defining the human role in the BMD battle. The BMD’s endo-atmospheric element makes use of the THALESRaytheon-supplied S-band Master-A engagement radar.
In order to enhance its airspace management-cum-surveillance capabilities in both peacetime and wartime, the IAF has initiated a multi-phase $1.3 billion programme under which a state-of-the-art joint civil/military sub-continental airspace control system is being developed using the following fundamentals: unity of effort, common procedures, and simplicity. Also being upgraded are the IAF’s terminal area air traffic services and airfield management expertise, and en route airspace/air corridor management. The net result of all this will be the creation of a vastly expanded air defence identification zone (ADIZ) and provision of a real-time recognised air picture (RAP). The upgraded ADIZ will extend the IAF’s airspace management and surveillance coverage (using ground-based sensors) up to 500 nautical miles away from India’s territorial boundaries. When fully implemented, new-generation ATCR-33S and SIR-S primary/secondary surveillance radars and their related joint air traffic control and reporting centres (JATCRC) will be operational at IAF air bases in Adampur, Agra, Ambala, Bagdogra, Bareilly, Bhatinda, Bhuj, Bidar, Chabua, Chandigarh, Gorakhpur, Gwalior, Halwara, Hashimara, Hindon, Jaisalmer, Jamnagar, Jodhpur, Jorhat, Kalaikunda, Nal, Naliya, Pathankot, Pune, Sirsa, Suratgarh, Tezpur, Uttarlai, Yelahanka and Zopuitlang in Lunglei district in southern Mizoram.—Prasun K. Sengupta