India could join the U.S., Russia and Israel as the only nations with operational missile defense systems by 2012. This is the projected time frame for the deployment of the first phase of their Advanced Air Defense system. This claim could be a smoke screen to distract from the recent failed interceptor missile test.
Notwithstanding the recent failure of the interceptor missile test, the first phase of the indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence System to intercept and destroy incoming enemy missiles of less than 2,000-km range is expected to be deployed in two years.
Disclosing this to The Hindu recently, V.K. Saraswat, Director-General, Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister, said the first phase would be made operational through the new concept of ‘capability-based deployment.’ The Air Defence Programme has been divided into two parts — depending upon the threat perception. While the first category of threats pertains to enemy missiles with less than 2,000-km range, the second type belongs to those with more than 2,000 km. Both the phases will have two layers. The aim of the two-tier system is to first destroy an incoming missile, at a higher altitude, in the exo-atmosphere above 50 km. If that does not happen, the endo-atmospheric interception will take place up at the height of 30 km from the earth.
The DRDO has developed the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile for exo-atmospheric interception and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) system for endo-atmosphere interception.
With a fresh interceptor missile test in the endo-atmosphere planned in a couple of months, some more trials were planned for 2010-11 and 2011-12 to ensure reliability, repeatability and suitability for deploying phase-1assets, Dr. Saraswat said.
Simultaneously, DRDO scientists have started work on phase-II solutions. It requires radars of longer range and new hypersonic interceptor missiles flying at Mach 6 with agility and the capability to discriminate against ballistic missile defence counter measures. “Our effort is to have interception at very high altitudes, and the entire system will be able to handle multiple, simultaneous attacks,” he said.
A crucial requirement for the second phase is a floating test-range — a complete launch station from which interceptors will be fired. Scientists have started designing the ship and associated systems such as radar, mission control centre, launch control centre, communication network and many other equipment needed for phase-II trials.
The ‘capability-based deployment,’ under which a system would be put to use, as it got perfected, had paid rich dividends for some countries, Dr. Saraswat said. The entire work on the two phases was planned to be completed by 2016.