The Need for a Missile Defense Readiness Matrix
India's Advanced Air Defence System called "Ashwin" has achieved significant milestones in the recent past and as part of the efforts to develop a full fledged multi-layered Ballistic Missile Defence system, the DRDO on November 22, 2015 test-fired its indigenously developed supersonic interceptor missile against an electronically simulated target missile over the Bay of Bengal, capable of destroying any incoming hostile projectile.
As part of a realistic dual threat perception, India plans to deploy a two-tiered Ballistic Missile Defence system to protect important cities and vital installations from enemy attack. The first phase seeks to destroy incoming enemy missiles of 2,000 km range, while the second phase envisages killing incoming missiles of more than 2,000 km. The PDV (Prithvi Defence Vehicle) missile is for high altitude interception, and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile is for interception at lower altitudes. The DRDO had also successfully demonstrated a special feature of intercepting multiple targets with multiple interceptors. It has conducted 11 interceptor missile tests with negligible failures. While eight of the missions were in endo-atmosphere, the remaining were in exo-atmospheric regime. It is worthy to note that this technology is very exclusive and the preserve of very few nations, suffice to say it is kind of a heading position in air defense technology.
It must be remembered that by maturing the PDV/AAD combination in Phase 1, India would be able to create capabilities against only missiles which have ranges not exceeding 2,000 km. While this will cater to the Pakistani threat until the near future, it would be rather inadequate against the full spectrum of Chinese MIRV threats.
The DRDO is aware of these ground realities and in Phase 2 of the program, plans to develop two new anti-ballistic missiles. These Hypersonic missiles will be able to intercept threats with a range of around 5,000 km. The new missiles (AD-1 and AD-2) will be similar to THAAD missiles deployed by the US and will require radars with scan capability of over 1,500 km to successfully intercept the target.
While the PDV & AAD tests are undoubtedly a major milestone that will bring India closer to putting in place a ballistic missile defence cover, however, one of the major drawbacks that cannot be overlooked of the evolving multi-layered air defence capability time and effort spent on evaluation & testing. While a Chinese threat is not of an imminent possibility the Pakistani equation is a different affair altogether, to protect Indian skies from any hostile attack, India must be prepared with a credible readiness matrix providing literal, time bound and an affordable test environment.
A SPARROW FOR THE HAWKS
Thankfully & rather interestingly such a system does exist to simulate a realistic Pakistani ballistic missile threat, Israel/US has developed the Sparrow series of target missiles for this very purpose. The Sparrow family of target missiles would be of special significance and interest to India, since this system is specifically designed to simulate the Shahab-3 missile (Iranian ballistic missiles with 1,500-2,000 km range). The Shahab 3 is an adaptation of the versatile but vintage Soviet SCUD system which shares the same technology with the Pakistani Ghauri series (Ghauri-I, II & III) ballistic missiles sourced from North Korea. By Pakistan's own unofficial admission, the technology transfer took place in 1990s from in return of the instructions on enrichment methods for uranium. The Shaheen, Shaheen-1, Shaheen-IA, Shaheen-II & Shaheen-III Chinese origin missiles are also of vintage ancestry.
In September 2013 Israel conducted a successful flight test of the Silver Sparrow, the latest, most advanced version of the Sparrow target missile system. The Silver Sparrow was tracked by the Super Green Pine Radar (DRDO has developed the Swordfish Long Range Tracking Radar an acknowleged version of the Green Pine for target acquisition and guidance), which transferred the information to the Citron Tree Battle Management Control System. All the elements of the system performed according to their operational configuration. The Sparrow targets have a modular warhead section carrying different payloads (selectable according to test mission) such as inert, high explosive or water. The 27.5 (8.39 mw) long missile weighs over three tons.
Flexible Test Capabilities
Sparrow targets offer medium to high fidelity threat representation and a comprehensive response to BMD sensor and interceptor test and training requirements. They can be launched above land and over sea, providing test scenario flexibility. The missile can simulate ballistic, barrel roll & maneuvering re-entry types. The target systems are easily adaptable to test range requirements due to adjustable trajectories, telemetry, radar transponders and flight termination system.
Quick Test Readiness
Target mission preparation and verification are quick and simple. Target operational software is easily loaded during pre-flight procedures. This enables a dramatic time reduction in achieving test readiness & defining target descriptions. Black Sparrow simulates unitary short-range theater Ballistic Missiles such as the Ghauri & Shaheen missiles.
Blue and Silver Sparrow simulates unitary and separable medium to long-range theatres. Both targets use the same RV, incorporating a redundant autonomous flight termination system and a 3-axis attitude control system.
EXPLOITING THE WEAKNESSES
The North Korean & Chinese origin missiles in Pakistan's armory are of vintage lineage, the basic foundational development of these missiles started in the 1980s and matured in the early 1990s. The Chinese had terminated most of the old DongFeng missile series before handing it over to the Pakistanis. The guidance system and the terminal phase homing technologies are rather crude and grossly outdated. The missiles are sluggish and would prove easy pickings for both the PDV & AAD interceptors.
The Sparrow cutting edge family of target missiles, though fired from a plane, traces the trajectory of a ground-to-ground or cruise missile, depending on the make. It is used to train antimissile systems and troops, who practice shooting it down.
In this context the Sparrow family of target missiles will be a judicious addition to India's BMD program as it will provide invaluable data of the actual re-entry characteristics of hostile missile threats which in turn will help our scientists device an agile, accurate & presumptive hit-to-kill termination system.
Notably unlike in the case of the Arrow system which India wanted to buy from Israel, the United States may not veto the sale of Sparrow missiles to India, as its sale would not violate the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
It may be noted that no nation(s) that have successfully developed the ABM or BMD systems have found it easy to thereafter deploy and consistently maintain these systems for foolproof security of their entire territory – and that includes the USA as well. The same would also be applicable to India after its ambitious BMD program reaches the intended maturity. Because of the exorbitantly high costs, it would at best be able to provide protection to only a small number of its high-value politico-strategic assets, considered to be vital for the Nation’s survival. The very issue of national survival makes it mandatory for India to acquire a complete theater BMD capability, given the policies of two nuclear armed adversaries in its neighborhood