Indian Army’s air defence widens wings

India joins elite group of countries with MIRV capability

This year on April 13, the Iran launched over 300 armed drones and long-range missiles towards Israel. The Israeli Defense Force said the Iranian attack was thwarted and only a few missiles landed in its territory, causing minimal damage. Israel’s success to intercept at least 99 percent of these projectiles was regarded to their all-weather Iron Dome air defense shield.

But in India, it prompted discussions about their own air defense mechanism and its level of preparedness. We take a look at the recent top developments in India’s defense space. Beginning with the most recent, in March this year, India conducted a test launch of an upgraded version of its long-range Agni-5 nuclear missile.

The Agni-5 is designed to enhance its resistance against air defense systems and enable a single missile to strike multiple targets deep within the enemy’s territory. Thus, the advancement lists India into an exclusive group of nations possessing multiple independently target-able re-entry vehicle technology. Currently, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China possess operational MIRV missiles in their arsenals.

Testing of Agni 5

The successful testing of Agni-5 recorded a range exceeding 5,000 kilometers. Now moving on to India’s ambitious fifth-generation stealth fighter project, also known as the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft. These fighter jets are capable of achieving supersonic cruise speeds with ease.

The rollout of the first AMCA prototype is scheduled within four years, followed by its maiden flight a year later. Presently, the only operational fifth-generation jets are the American F-822 Raptors and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, along with the Russian Sukhoi-5-7s. Now China has also introduced its Chengdu J-20, claiming it belongs to the same category.

And Turkey’s fifth-generation fighter named Khan recently completed its inaugural flight. Next, while the range of Israel’s Iron Dome, they say, is about 70 kilometers, India has the surface-to-air missile system Akash. It is the only system that can engage four aerial targets over a range of 25 kilometers.

Indian indeginious Air Defence system

Akash is sold to Armenia, while several nations in South America, Africa and Asia, including Brazil, the Philippines and Egypt, are showing interest in it. Continuing with the missiles now. In the 70-kilometer range category, the Indian military possesses the medium-range surface-to-air missile, developed jointly by India and Israel Aerospace Industries.

The MRSAM is capable of neutralizing enemy aerial threats such as missiles, aircrafts, helicopters and guided bombs. It has different variations for use by the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. Now, according to the Indian defense officials, the MRSAM is a high-response, quick-reaction, vertically-launched supersonic missile system.

It weighs 275 kilograms and has a range of 70 kilometers. It has dual guidance, command and active radar seeker, thrust vector control and aerodynamic control and dual pulse propulsion with a solid motor. Next on to the helicopters, well, the Indian Navy recently commissioned its first squadron of MH-60R, the Seahawk helicopters.

These are designed for submarine detection, armed with Hellfire missiles, Mk-54 torpedoes and precision-killed rockets. To date, the Navy has introduced six out of the 24 MH-60R choppers procured under a contract worth Rs 15,157 crore, which is around $2.13 billion, signed with the US in February 2020. These helicopters are also outfitted with multi-mode radars and night vision equipment.

And lastly, India’s most anticipated Tejas Mark 2 fighter jets. A few months ago, India’s Defense Ministry granted preliminary approval for the acquisition of 97 additional Tejas fighters. The approval encompasses 97 more 4.5-generation Tejas Mark 2 fighters with a total cost of Rs 67,000 crore.

These Tejas Mark 2 fighters will supplement the existing order of 83 such multi-role jets that are a part of the contract signed with the HAL in February 2021.

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