Army's air defence units get more firepower.
After years of neglect and delay, India is finally adding much-needed teeth to its Army air defence units to guard against hostile aircraft, helicopters and drones attacking high-value targets.
With a wide array of radars and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems planned for induction, contracts worth over Rs 17,000 crore have been inked and several more are in the pipeline for the air defence artillery corps, say sources.
A major overhaul of the Army's air defence weapons is needed because over 70% of its existing inventory is obsolete or nearing obsolescence. The country's overall air defence may primarily be IAF's responsibility, but the Army too requires advanced surveillance, automation and weapon systems to ensure it can detect and destroy enemy aircraft much before they release their weapons.
While the IAF may be superior to Pakistan air force, the Army air defence units across the border are much better equipped, with quick-reaction missiles and man-portable SAMs like laser-guided stingers and mistral.
To address this imbalance, India has launched the procurement process for three types of SAMs - medium-range, quick-reaction and man-portable short-range missile systems - to replace the air defence corps' old Russian-origin Kvadrat, Strela and other systems.
These will be in addition to two regiments of the indigenous Akash systems, with six firing batteries and hundreds of missiles each, ordered at a cost of Rs 14,180 crore. "Deliveries of Akash missile systems to the Army will begin from March 2013," said a source. The IAF is also slated to get eight Akash squadrons - six of them will be based in the north-east to counter China - for Rs 6,200 crore.
The 25-km-range Akash is designed to neutralize multiple aerial targets attacking from several directions simultaneously, including sub-sonic cruise missiles, in all-weather conditions.
Besides, the Rs 750-crore project is underway to upgrade about 50 Shilka anti-aircraft armoured vehicles, which are equipped with four 23mm automatic cannons each, and imported from Russia in the mid-1980s. Simultaneously, the Army air defence units are also on course to induct about 30 three-dimensional tactical control radars, which can track airborne targets up to 90-km away, and over 15 low-level light-weight radars, which can be used in mountainous terrain, for over Rs 1,500 crore.