Ballistic Missile Shields :- Where does India Stand?
World War II ended after the use of two atom bombs on the Japanese cities by the United States of America. It was the first time in the history of mankind that such kind of weaponry was used to annihilate an adversary. As the World Word II came to an end, United Nations was carved from League of Nations and two of the most powerful nations, USA and USSR spearheaded against each other, thus initiating a Cold War. To outperform each other, the superpowers competed in every field giving rises to the space race, the arms race, proxy wars, espionage and political subversion.
Post world war, the relevance of nuclear weapons could not be overlooked. If possessed, nuclear weapons acted as extraordinary weapons in the inventory of a nation. Nuclear weapons became both incentive and deterrent for the militaries of the world. With eyes of nuclear weapons, many nations initiated research and development on nuclear weapons. Observing the numerous nations attempting to have nuclear weapons, the Non-Proliferation Treaty came into existence in 1970. According to this treaty, only the USA, USSR, France, China and the UK could possess nuclear weapons. India, Pakistan, Israel, South Sudan and North Korea are the only countries which are the only countries not a signatory to the treaty.
Missile Defence systems are can be understood as series of missiles deployed to intercept enemy aircraft or missiles. These missile shields may not be just limited to short-range missiles but also to ICBM (Intercontinental ballistic missiles).
The United States of America was one of the first countries to pursue missile shield. By the early 1990s, the United States had started developing the national wide anti-missile program. National Missile Defence (NMD) is the terminology used to define the missile shield program. Presently, under the NMD program, USA operates Ground-based Interceptor Missiles, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence System, Terminal High Altitude Area Defence(THAAD), Airborne Systems, Patriot System and short-range anti-ballistic missile systems.
On the other hand, the second largest economy, China has deployed its own missile shields along with Russian S-300V and S-400(ordered)systems. Other than these counties, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are developing a missile defence system. Following UAE, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are in talks with the USA to deploy THAAD in their respective countries. A NATO missile defence system is being developed by NATO member to protect Europe from missile attacks.
India’s Quest for Ballistic Missile Defense Shield
The Indian BMD programme is structured as a two-tiered system with Prithvi Air Defense (PAD) for high altitude interception and Advanced Air Defense (AAD).Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) is supposed to tackle incoming missiles at ranges of 80-120 km (exo-atmospheric interception). On the other hand, the advanced air-defence (AAD) mainly consists of Akash Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM) that can intercept incoming missiles at ranges of 15-30 km (endo-atmospheric interception)..
In its quest for acquiring the Missile Defense System (MDS), India has developed Ballistic Missile System that could intercept missiles in not only endo-atmosphere i.e. within the earth’s atmosphere, but can also intercept in the exo-atmosphere. However this advancement of Indian BMD and Air Defence System (ADS)is not merely the fruits of Indian efforts. Countries like Russia, Israel and the US helped India while providing it with an access to sophisticated technology in order to advance its MDS. Recently India plans to buy 131 surface-to-air missiles from Israel at the cost of US$70 million (S$93 million), as per the Indian Defence Ministry press relesae issued on 2ndJanuary 2018. The BARAK missiles made by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems are to be used aboard India’s first locally built aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, which is under construction. Previously in April 2017 India and Israel signed a deal worth around US$2 billion which includes medium-range surface-to-air missiles. Israel has become a major defence supplier to India, selling an average of US$1 billion worth of military equipment each year.
To add to its arsenal, India is set to purchase S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia. S-400 Triumf is one of the world’s most advanced air defence systems that can simultaneously track numerous incoming objects – all kinds of aircraft, missiles and UAVs – in a radius of a few hundred kilometres and launch appropriate missiles to neutralise them. The S-400 Triumph air defence system integrates a multifunction radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers, and command and control centre.
All these systems are optimised for different roles and have different capabilities. Like, PAD and AAD are primarily to stop ballistic missiles which sear towards targets at super sonic speeds. S-400 is optimal for stopping cruise missiles, UAVs and fighter aircrafts. Even Aakash is capable of neutralising aerial targets like cruise missiles, fighter jets, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and air-to-surface missiles.
Missile defence systems are really important for nation like India which is surrounded by hostile neighbours. Having a reliable missile defence system will help counter nuclear missiles threat from enemy nations.