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June 23, 2014

India’s Defense Preparedness on Top Gear

Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first leader to sail on INS Vikramaditya and dedicate it to the nation. During his planned tour in mid June, Prime Minister sailed for few hours on board of the giant warship and saw its capabilities.

This was a symbolic trip that connoted India’s defence preparedness on top gear and also boosted the sagging morale of Indian Navy that has been struck by string of accidents.

Modi's planned visit to INS Vikramaditya also signifies ties with Russia that has seen many ups and downs. INS Vikramaditya is Russia’s Kiev class Admiral Gorshkov which has been casting the dark shadow on the bilateral relations.

In its new avatar as INS Vikramaditya, the 22-storey high aircraft carrier weighing 44 thousand tons with the deck of the size of three football fields has become the largest warship of the Indian Navy.

The Indian Navy also accumulated a great experience in global operations when INS Vikramaditya sailed non-stop from Russia to India last December. According to some experts it was the largest warship ever exported by any country in the world.

The other good news for Indian Navy is the first Scorpene submarine will be ready by Sept 2016. The construction of French-origin Scorpene submarines at Mazagon Dock is progressing well and the first submarine is scheduled to be delivered by September, 2016.

Separately, Indian Navy can expect a full service centre for its fleet of MiG-29Ks by next year. As part of contract provisions, RAC-MiG signed offset agreements with Indian private firm Basant Aerospace worth $55 million including a $12 million deal for a service center dedicated to repair of equipment for the upgraded MiG-29K in India.

The deals include warehouses and an uninterrupted supply chain of spare parts. The Indian Navy received seven more MiG-29K/KUB jets in 2013 towards a total fleet on order of 45 aircraft based out of Goa's INS Hansa naval air station.

The upgrade kits for the first six MiG-29K fighters had been handed over to the Indian Navy for on-site upgradation at Goa as part of a deal signed in 2009.

The other aircraft will be upgraded locally under transferred technology as part of the original contract. Upgradation of the first six aircraft has already begun and its making steady progress

In the meantime, Indian Navy and Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) conducted annual bilateral naval exercises named SIMBEX 2014 in Andaman Sea. The 21st series of SIMBEX hosted by India was conducted from 22 May to 28 May 2014.

SIMBEX 14 was designed to enhance inter-operability and mutual understanding between the navies of the two nations. The Two nations started bilateral naval cooperation in 1994, the year when RSN ships began training in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) with the Indian Navy.

Since then, the SIMBEX has grown in tactical and operational complexity. It has transcended the traditional emphasis on Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) to more complex, maritime exercises of naval operations like; Air Defence, Air and Surface practice firing, Maritime Security and Search and Rescue Operations.

If Indian Navy has added some feathers to its cap, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is not far behind. IAF too has been in reckoning, as it successfully conducted tests to launch India’s indigenously-developed surface-to-air missile Akash. IAF will be the first service to induct the Akash missiles in their inventory.

Akash is a medium range surface-to-air anti-aircraft defence system developed by DRDO. It has the capability to carry warhead of 60 kgs. The missile has the capability to target aircraft up to 30 km away and is packed with a battery that can track and attack several targets simultaneously.

During the trial Akash Missile aimed at a para-barrel target. The missiles were launched on tow body target of Lakshya (pilotless target aircraft) moving at low altitude far boundary, and ripple mode missions. The missiles intercepted the fast moving and maneuvering small RCS targets within small interval of five seconds in ripple mode.

Close on the heels of Akash tests, the IAF also successfully test fired, first indigenously developed air-to-air missile Astra on 4 May 2014. This was done so from a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet over the Arabian Sea off Goa. The 60-km plus range missile possesses high Single Shot Kill Probability (SSKP) which makes it highly reliable.

Astra is India's first Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Air-to-Air missile. It was designed and developed indigenously by the DRDO. Astra is an all-weather missile with active radar terminal guidance. Astra is a highly advanced state of the art missile with excellent ECCM (electronic counter-counter measures) features, smokeless propulsion and process improved effectiveness in multi-target scenario.

Astra is to initially have a 44-km range with high single-shot kill probability. The project was first sanctioned in March 2004 at an initial cost of 955 crore rupees.

The current version of the Astra will be followed by a longer-range Astra Mark II, which can be launched at enemy fighters 80 km away. The Mark II, will have a state-of-the-art ring-laser gyro, is expected to be flight tested at the end of 2014.

India becomes the fifth country to have BVR missile. Only a few countries like the US, Russia, France and Israel have managed to develop BVR missiles till now. Once fully operational, Astra will be much cheaper than contemporary BVR missiles.

India’s defence preparedness has got a shot in its arms in yet another significant development when Bangalore based Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) announced to acquire a Dornier 228 light-weight aircraft for its own testing of radar in air.

Named ‘Nabhrathna’, the aircraft signify a jewel in the sky.

State-run aerospace firm Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on 1 May 2014 handed over the DO- 228 aircraft to the DRDO for further upgradation. The aircraft is to be equipped with indigenous synthetic Aperture Radar and state-of-the-art avionics and communication system. HAL had signed the contract for Nabhratna Flying test bird aircraft in May 2013 and completed the project in May 2014, six months before schedule time of November 2014.

The significance of Nabhratna is whenever LRDE needed to test any radar under development; they had to approach Indian Navy or Indian Coast Guard for loan allotment of DO-228 aircraft for limited period. As it was difficult to spare the aircraft because of operational needs that resulted in delay in the development of radars, the LRDE decided to procure one DO-228 aircraft for its own testing of radar in air. The aircraft will be used by LRDE as flying test bed (FTB) for evaluation of performance of various radars being developed by LRDE.

India’s defense preparedness has acquired top priority from the incumbent Prime Minister. His visit to INS Vikramaditya has sent this profound message. Over all India’s defence preparedness seems to be on top gear.

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