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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Which country has the most powerful military?

This is a topic that has been debated endlessly. Debated with renewed vigor now after the emergence of China on the world stage, rebirth of Russia and the rise of regional military powers like India.

The current title holder is indisputably the Military of the United states. I don't think it is ever in the danger of losing its title to anyone else anytime soon. Military hegemony is not just sheer numbers or shiny new guns its much much more than that.. Read on to find out how I, a layman, think that the US is by far the most formidable military force in the world.


What makes any country tick? Militarily? First and foremost, money.. Hard cash to fuel your resources, billions need to be sunk into R & D, millions need to be spent on salaries and infrastructure.

According to my trusty side-kick (read wikipedia), the world spent 1.46 trillion dollars (1,400 billions) on Defence in 2008. The split-ups go down something like this

1. USA - 607 Billion (Holy!!!!)
2. China - 85 Billion
3. France & UK - 66 Billion each
Followed by Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy, Saudi Arabia and India.

India finishes 2008 at 10th place with 30 Billion. These 10 countries account for almost 1.1 trillion of the 1.46 trillion global defence expenditure.

The US comes on top, with a mind numbing 600 billion in defence spending! That number is higher than the combined GDP of all third world countries. Its nearest competitor is China, a distant second with 85 billion and the rest of the countries in the top 10 list do not even come close to being considered comparable to the spending that the US is capable of. With the world's largest economy and the worlds most advanced industrial facilities in its disposal, the US has a clear and distinct advantage over all the other countries in the world. Almost all of the 600 billion is circled back into the country and it is almost like a stimulus for the economy!

The US also has the most talented pool of scientists and researchers in the world. With top research institutions spearheading the R&D activities, the US military leads to world in introducing new technology in battle space and it does so in style. For example, the GPS which is now a common household term was pioneered by the US military and made available to the world for free (a propaganda move nonetheless). Similiar technological marvels like the SR-71, the B-2 bomber, the F-22 fighter and the Nimitz class Supercarriers keep coming out of the American military stables..

Vast resources also come with enhanced ability to sustain and prolong the war-waging capability of a nation. More resources allow you to have a better supply chain to the war machine.

Numerical and technological Superiority:

Wars are no longer attritional. But numbers are still a vital part of a country's war waging potential.

Let's pull in my side-kick again...

According to Wikipedia (which has in fact done a fantastic job of putting the numbers together), China has a military that dwarfs the US and any other country in terms of personnel. The US comes second in the list followed by India.

The world, as we know it, is dominated by countries that have better technology and in this world, it is the US of A. And the US beats all the other countries hands down when it comes to state-of-the-art technologies and using them to make path-breaking equipment.

The Americans have successfully turned their soldiers into effective fighting units with futuristic technologies, technology that will help the soldiers stay alive in raging battles and assure him/her that help is not far away. Each soldier has tools and gadgets that give him a tactical edge over his adversaries (Night vision goggles, Laser designators, light-weight body armor, weapons, high-tech encrypted communication and nutrition). Thats just the beginning, I am yet to start on their heavy battle equipment, from microlight unmanned aerial vehicles to massive 100,000 tonne aircraft carriers, they have them all. The highly advanced military hardware combined with their network centric war doctrine act as an awesome force multiplier. Here is a quick mention of some of front line military hardware fielded by the US military.

The B-2 bomber: One of the costliest aircrafts ever made. Can penetrate thickest of air-defences and silence them. Considered the finest stealth bomber in the World. The B-2 is usually trusted with 'starting off' USA's war campaigns and it has always delivered.

The F-22 Fighter: Considered the foremost among fighters in the world with a lethal mix of stealth, supercruise and super-maneuverability. Though it has not seen combat yet, this would be a force to reckon in all future engagements of the US military.

The Aegis BMD system: A mature system with almost 20 successful tests so far is one of the few deployed missile defence systems in the world. The THAAD, considered the land version of the Aegis is equally mature and extensively deployed.

The Nimitz class Supercarriers: Heaviest military vessels ever built, and carries close to 90 aircrafts on board, a single aircraft carrier has enough punch and firepower to defeat the military of most countries in the world. And the US Navy has 10 of them! (Bloody hell)

and much much more...

Battlefield experience:

How do you train your military? Ask your soldiers to assemble in the Projection room, turn on CNN and watch how two countries beat the crap out of each other?

Obviously, no. Experience is gathered from waging wars, though training and strategy can be drafted anytime, but they can be evaluated only in an actual war. US has been involved in around 20 wars since 1945, either directly or indirectly, though that doesn't do much to enhance its image as a 'peacekeeper', it sure as hell enriches its war waging experience. Imagine the wealth of knowledge that the American battle commanders would posses and imagine the difference that it would make tactically. When battle experience combines with the advanced weaponry and superior training, an unbeatable military machine results. The numerous battles fought would mean that when war breaks out again, it will not be lead and fought by fresh hands yearning to test out their skills, but by battle-hardened veterans, who can out think and out do their adversaries.

So, what am I trying to do here? I am just trying to show something like "1+1 gottabe 2". The raw data is available for all to see and the question of who own the most powerful military seems a bit naive
From the Koreas to Panama the American military machine has seen unforgiving terrains, formidable opponents, unforeseen enemy tactics, unyielding defences, bitter upsets and sweet triumphs. More than the triumphs the defeats have made them stronger, more determined and a ruthless wager of wars. The Americans have a foreign policy that does lot of talking and muscle flexing and their military does all the "walking of the talks" if the need arises. One cannot win global influence by just condemning inhuman acts, global influence is earned by getting down on the ground and fixing the bad guys and no one does it better than Uncle Sam.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The last line of defence

Ours is an era of super advanced technologies. The modern battlefield, as one must have come to know, is technologically hyper advanced. Victories in battles these days are no longer won with numerical superiority, but with technological might. Battles have become short, intense and focused. This is the age of air-superiority and air-dominance fighter planes, of precision guided munitions and of long range cruise missiles, of theatre ballistic missiles and SLBMs. When such awesome firepower brought to bear, is there a chance to survive the onslaught? Yes. The latest generation of SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles) helps us do just that. With mind-boggling accuracy and an incredible reach, these technological marvels are the ultimate weapons for strategic self-defense.

We explore some of the best and the latest medium to long range air-defense platforms that the world has to offer.

To understand and appreciate the importance and the effectiveness of these machines, let us understand some of the key terms that would be used while exploring them.

The Interceptor – A missile fired by a SAM battery at the incoming hostile target(s).

The Battery – The term used to address a bunch of launchers (each having multiple interceptor missiles), radars and the communication equipment.

The Radar – The eyes and ears of the SAM system. The radar (ground based) provides information about the hostile target and guides the interceptor missile to the target.

The Seeker – A guidance module present in the interceptor. Provides and uses real time target information. The information is sent to the ground radar which uses this info to provide mid course guidance updates.

Range – Usually denotes the range of the interceptor missile, the actual distance the interceptor missile can fly, chase and attempt to kill the hostile target.

Interception mode – Denotes the way the interceptor will kill the incoming hostile target. The interceptor can be designed to carry either a proximity kill warhead or a hit-to-kill warhead.

IFF – Identification Friend or Foe module. A module that helps the air-defense systems know if the aircraft they are tracking is friendly or hostile.

The Game Plan

The usual battlefield scenario is something like this: The SAMs are deployed usually to protect high value assets such as Nuclear power plants, vital bridges, communications facilities, military bases etc. When the adversary tries to attack and destroy the assets he would invariably run into the air-defense systems deployed there. The adversary may try to neutralize the threat using bombs dropped from aircraft, cruise-missiles or ballistic missiles. Almost all the air-defense systems roughly follow the framework of steps mentioned below to engage the hostile incoming target. For ease of understanding, let’s assume a single hostile aircraft tries to intrude into our territory.

è The radar picks up the incoming target, tracks it based of its flight path the system assigns the target priority.

è Once the target is within a certain range the IFF swings into action to determine if the target is friendly or hostile.

è If deemed hostile, the systems go into the engage mode and continuously track the target.

è The firing officer is intimated about the incoming hostiles and he/she takes a call on whether the target is to be engaged or not.

è Once the firing officer gives the system orders to fire, the system launches one or more missiles at the target.

è After the launch of the interceptors the radars keeps tracking both the target and the interceptor. The radar provides mid-course updates to the missile about the current location of the target and the possible flight path. This helps the interceptor to determine a feasible collision course.

è Once the interceptor comes within a certain distance of the target it de-links itself from the ground radar and proceeds with its own on-board radar.

è Based on the kind of maneuvers performed by the target the interceptor usually decides the best mode of kill (Hit-to-kill or proximity kill) on the spot.

è If the interceptor’s on-board computers predict a direct hit, they activate the hit-to-kill mode and the explosive warhead is detonated only when the interceptor strikes the target.

è If the interceptor’s on-board computers predict a near miss (due to excessive evasive maneuvering by the target) then the proximity kill mode is activated, allowing the missile to get the target within the ‘lethal radii’ of the proximity warhead. Once within the lethal radius, the warhead explodes disbursing thousands of fragments that tear up the target’s surfaces making it unfit for a proper aerodynamic flight.

Some systems follow slightly more complex steps and they get even more so when there are multiple adversaries mounting an attack.

Let us now explore some of the well known air-defense systems of the world.

MIM-104 (The Patriot) (USA):

Probably the most recognizable of all air-defense systems, the Patriot gained fame during the first gulf war. The Patriots were deployed to defend friendly countries in the gulf region from the infamous Iraqi ‘scuds’. The initial versions of the Patriot boasted of an impressive range of 160 KMS. The missile had a bit of success but was overhauled and updated extensively. The up rated and the upgraded PAC-3 is the latest and the most capable of all the versions of the Patriot. The PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability) has upgrades to almost all the features of the system. The radar, the software, the seeker and the missile itself were upgraded extensively to give the system more reliability and flexibility. With the Induction of the Patriot PAC-3 the US forces obtained a genuinely versatile air-defense system. The PAC-3 is capable of engaging targets ranging from aircrafts, cruise-missiles to short-range and theatre ballistic missiles. The PAC-3 uses a new advanced seeker which turns itself into an autonomous mode of operation (delinks itself from the ground based radar) for the final chase and hits-to-kill the target.

The Patriot is manufactured by Raytheon. The Patriot PAC-3 was deployed in the second gulf war and met with considerable amount of success. The patriots successfully engaged and destroyed many Iraqi short range missiles (Scud, Al-samoud). But problems with certain sub-systems resulted in a couple of fatal friendly fire incidents. That however does not do much damage to the formidable capability of the Patriot. The US Department of defense intends to upgrade the PAC-3 further to extend its capability which in turn could offer the US war machine more strategic depth.

The Arrow (Israel):

Any discussion of air-defense systems would be incomplete without the mention of the Israeli Arrow missile defense system. Co-funded by the US and developed by Israel, the Arrow is one of the few BMD system that have been tested successfully multiple number of times. The Arrow BMD is build around the revolutionary ‘Yellow Citron’ control system and the Green pine long-range tracking radar. The Arrow is also coupled with some highly capable American military satellites to give it extra awareness of the battlefield space. The arrow interceptor accelerates to a speed of up to Mach 9 and destroys the incoming hostile target with a blast-fragmentation warhead, which enables the missile to destroy the target even when a direct hit is impossible to achieve. The Arrow’s warhead has a lethal radius of about 40 meters enabling it to destroy multiple also, if possible. The Arrow missile was to be sold to India to protect its borders from Pakistani and Chinese missile threats, but the deal fell through after staunch opposition from the US government. Now India uses the Green Pine radar technology to develop its own long range radar to be used for its Indigenous BMD (Ballistic Missile Defense) program.

The Arrow has an upgrade, the Arrow II, in the pipeline. The Arrow II is still under development and is expected to have a wide range of upgrades compared to the original system. The Arrow BMD is jointly developed by the Israeli Military Industries and the Israeli Aerospace Industries. It is worth mentioning that the Arrow has still not seen real combat yet but considering the awesome reputation enjoyed by Israel when it comes to technological ingenuity, once can say with confidence that the Arrow never cease to impress.

Aegis Missile Defense System (USA):

The Aegis BMD, a program initiated by the US DoD, is a highly versatile sea-based missile defense system providing the last line of defense for the US home land and its allies. The Aegis BMD uses the powerful AN/SPY-1 radar and the formidable RIM-161 SM-3 missile as the interceptor. The radar has a range of more than 120 nautical miles and the SM-3 can reach altitudes of more than 250 km and has an effective range of over 500 KMS. The aegis is predominantly a missile defense platform, but it is also employed against hostile aircrafts. The AN/SPY-1 tracks the incoming ballistic missile and after an initial bunch of computations and calculations about the missiles flight path, launches the SM-3. The SM-3 receives periodic updates from the launching ship about the flight path and releases the KW (kinetic warhead) for terminal chase. The ingenious KW provides the SM-3 a near unassailable edge over the incoming hostile missile. The KW uses highly sensitive thermal sensors to locate the incoming missile and hits it at it most vulnerable point. The Aegis has been successfully test fired by the Japanese forces after its induction.

The Aegis is probably the only exclusively sea based, dedicated ballistic missile defense system ever to be deployed. The Aegis is expected to work in tandem with the NMD (National Missile defense) system. With the NMD and the Aegis working in tandem, the US military expects to deploy a fool proof, world class, multi-layered missile defense system.

S-400 [Growler] (Russia):

Russians have made it a habit to regularly set high standards when it comes to air defense. Be it the downing of the famed high-flying U-2 spy plane, considered untouchable by air-defenses of that time with the giant-killing SA-2 missile or the formidable opposition mounted by the Russian air-defense systems (deemed to be obsolete, deployed by the Serbians) against the NATO jets involved in Bosnian peacekeeping missions. The S-400 (aptly named ‘Growler’ by NATO) does not seem to disappoint in this regard. The S-400 is considered the pinnacle of Russian air-defense research and development. The ‘Growler’ is an improved version of the famed S-300 family of air-defense systems. The S-300s, with an effective range of about 200 kilometers were capable of downing almost all kinds of air threats (From precision guided ammunition to cruise missiles) and ballistic missiles with a range of about 2000 kilometers. The S-400 pushes the barrier further with a range of 400 KMS and can down incoming ballistic missiles that have a range of 3500 KMS. Recent war games by leading militaries of the world has brought forth the fact that almost all the aircrafts in the world would fall prey to the ‘Growler’ leave alone the high-flying, super-maneuverable, super-stealthy and super-costly F-22 Raptor and the legendary B-2 stealth bomber. Even the much touted fifth generation fighter jet, the F-35 is thought to be vulnerable at times when it goes head to head against the S-400.

The eerie aura of S-400 received a major boost when serious concerns were raised by major western powers after news of a deal between Iran and Russia to sell S-400 to the former surfaced. The reaction from the west was one of utmost surprise and veiled fear. The S-400 is a highly capable weapons platform with remarkable battlefield survivability. Though S-400s are already deployed by Russia, it has not seen active battle till date. And when the day comes, we will know if the S-400 can really live up to the formidable reputation that it has built for itself.

The Indian Ballistic Missile Defence System:

Long has India languished under foreign sanctions, sanctions that were imposed after India’s nuclear test by the high and mighty countries of the world, sanctions that were ‘custom-made’ to bring the country to its knees. But India had other ideas, it’s strategic and space programs flourished and India surged ahead in the world arena in the field of missiles and satellite launch vehicles but the icing, was the successful interception of a ballistic missile, and by doing that India became only the fourth country (After US, Russia and Israel) to do so. India successfully gate-crashed the elite club with the successful interception of a short range ballistic missile with a two-tier missile defence system. The Indian BMD consists of two different interceptors, the PAD (Prithvi Air Defense) and the AAD (Advanced Air Defense) missiles. The PAD (to be named as Pradyumna) is a modified Prithvi missile. The missile carries a warhead that hits-to-kill. The missile has a speed of over Mach 5 and is designed to intercept the incoming missile at an altitude of around 80 KMS. The PAD forms the first line of defence. The second line is manned by the AAD missile (to be named as Ashvin). The AAD has a flight ceiling of 30 KMS and a top speed greater than Mach 4. The AAD also successfully knocked out an incoming Prithvi missile during the tests.

This system uses the locally developed ‘Swordfish’ long range tracking radar for target acquisition and missile guidance. The ‘Swordfish’ uses certain technologies from the Israeli ‘Green pine’ long range radar. The DRDO intends to develop the system as a robust two tier set-up, where two missiles (PAD and AAD) are fired simultaneously at the target to achieve ~99% hit rate.

These are some of the very few systems that stand out in terms of sheer technological brilliance. Why does air-defense, especially missile defense garner special attention? Cause it is a very critical application using extremely complex technology. An incoming ballistic missile (a missile with a range of around 2500 KMS) will enter the atmosphere to hit its target at an insane speed of 2KMS/sec. The interceptor needs to be guided to the incoming target at around Mach 5 (5 times the speed of sound) and with this you can calculate the relative speed of the two objects! An interception at such mind-boggling speeds will mean that there is literally no margin for error. A small initial miscalculation around a few millimeters will result in the interceptor missing the target by a mile. All the systems and the subsystems should work flawlessly. It should be a complete system which works in perfect synergy. That is something which is very hard to achieve. This is why only a handful of countries have managed to master it.

This is an application where there can be no excuses for failure. In a highly volatile security scenario, an attack with a nuclear ballistic missile is not unimaginable, and an attack like that could put millions of innocent civilians’ lives at risk. A successful intercept, however can save invaluable lives, protect sovereignties and help uphold justice. That is why air-defenses will always remain the most sought after machines of war in the unforgiving new-age battlefield.

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I try to bring myself back

Hopefully, from now on my posts become more regular :) Please feel free to scold me if I am not.. :)

Let me get back doing what I like.. the most.. Write about military affairs :)

I am currently working on something that has been in my head for a looong time.. should be up by the end of the day.. I hope to see some sort of a debate based on this.

Till then I would like to post one of my older works..


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Weapons of the air warrior

Air-to-air missiles have changed the way the world looks at air wars. In times of war the air force having better missiles will always have an edge over its adversaries. These awesome technological achievements have evolved into mean killers, some capable hitting targets flying as far as 400 KMS away. There are lots of categories in air-to-air weaponry. From plain old bullets to long range active radar guided missiles. Let’s explore the coolest amongst these.

Guided missiles are intelligent rockets which can actually “chase down” its target. In the sense, an intended target cannot escape a missile by just moving away from its path (like the way ‘Neo’ dodges bullets in The Matrix). Guided missiles ‘lock on’ to the target based on information provided to it by the aircraft that launches the missile. Guided missiles have on-board computers that guide the missiles to its target. These computers take inputs fed to it by on-board sensors. These sensors may work on heat signatures or radar signatures. Missiles which work on heat signatures look for the heat emitted by the aircraft from its engines and heat produced by the air-friction on the aircraft surface. Radar guided missiles work by bouncing radar beams off the target aircraft. Sometimes the aircraft that launched the missile acts as the source for the radar beams and in certain cases the missile itself acts as the source of the radar beam required to track the target. This gives us the basic categorization of missiles. If the missile guides itself based on some information (heat signatures) from the target, they are termed passively guided missiles. Missiles guided using radar are either active or semi active means. In active mode of guidance the missile carries its own radar source. In semi-active mode, the missile will rely on the firing aircraft’s radar as a source of guidance. The firing aircraft bounces the radar beams of the target which is picked up by the missile.

Once the missile gets close enough, the missile detonates the warhead that it carries with it. The warhead is usually a high-explosive, high fragment warhead. This means that the missile need not actually hit the target to destroy it, it just needs to fly close enough so that the target comes within the ‘lethal radius’ (or the kill area) of the missile, then the missile’s fuse swings into action. Missiles usually carry a proximity fuse (Laser/Radar) which constantly monitors the missiles proximity to the target. Once when the missile detects that the target is within the kill area, it detonates the warhead. The high-fragment warhead is loaded with titanium fragments, which can rip through the aircrafts body damaging it physically and aerodynamically. Modern missiles carry fuses that can change its mode. The onboard computer decides upon the mode by keeping track of the targets maneuverability. If the computer decides that the missile is going to score a direct hit, it switches on the impact fuse. The impact fuse will detonate the warhead only after the missile hits the target. If the target is maneuvering a bit and the on board computer may decide that the best fuse to use would be a proximity fuse

Many countries have set benchmarks in air-to-air missile technologies.


AIM is an American designation given for air-to-air missiles. AIM stands for Air Interceptor Missile. AMRAAM stands for Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile. This missile incorporates active guidance and has a range of 75 KMS which gives the missile a very good beyond-visual-range combat capability. It also incorporates active radar in conjunction with an inertial reference unit and micro-computer system, which makes the missile less dependent upon the fire-control system of the aircraft. This means that the missile works more or less on its own to track down and destroying the target. This mode gets engaged when the missile is fired from close ranges to the target. If the target is beyond visual range, then the missile will require intermediate updates from the firing aircraft. The AMRAAM has proven on many occasions its worth to its operators. The AMRAAM is in use mostly in those forces which operate US made fighters. Once during routine testing the AMRAAM is set to have completely destroyed a test drone without even having a proper warhead!! Now that is reliability!!

AIM-54 Phoenix:

The AIM-54 is a long-range radar guided air-to-air missile. This missile is guided semi-actively. Semi-active would mean that the missile is dependent on the firing aircraft for guidance for a certain period of time, after that the active seeker head in the missile swings in to action making the missile completely independent of the firing aircraft. The missile was intended to be used against the fast and high flying soviet aircraft, especially the mighty MiG-25 Foxbat. The Phoenix has an awesome range of 180 KMS. The Phoenix is mounted on the F-14 Tomcats. An F-14 can carry six of these missiles and they can be launched almost simultaneously. The missile works by rapidly gaining altitude using the incredible kinetic energy provided by its thrusters and then dives in to home on its target. The missile because of its ‘semi-active’ nature will require mid course updates on its target. So that would mean that if the aircraft that fired the missile is unable to give updates to the missile, the missile becomes useless. That is the only glitch in operating missiles of this type.

AIM-9 Sidewinder:

The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a short-range air-to-air missile. This missile is used by fighter pilots to take out targets at closer ranges. The missile has a range of about 25 KMS. The missile has a IR seeker head which controls the guidance of the missile. The missile is completely on its own after firing and home in on its target by using the heat produced by the aircraft’s exhaust and the heat produced on the body of the aircraft due to air friction. The missile is quite reliable in terms of target kills. The missile has now been modified so that it can be mounted on helicopters also. If the target is not making tight maneuvers, the Sidewinder can go right through the exhaust pipe of the aircraft, destroying the aircraft from the inside. Previously heat-seeking missiles were able to lock-on to target in a tail- chase scenario, but now the guidance technologies have improved so much that targets can be engaged no matter what the directions of the target is. The Sidewinder has undergone constant improvement and lots of new variants have come up. One such improvement is the AIM-9X Sidewinder. This missile has an improved range and has vectored thrust systems which enable the missile to take tight turns to get the aircraft within its crosshairs. The AIM-9s are also among the oldest of missiles remaining in active service. The AIM-9 is also very versatile. With minimal modifications the sidewinder can be mounted on helicopters. The AIM-9’s design and guidance is also one of the most copied. Many nations including the Soviet Union tried to copy the design of the AIM-9 but could only meet with limited success. The AIM-9 remains one of the widely used weapons in modern day warfare.


Here comes the Israeli Python-5. Powered by one of the most ingenious guidance and locking systems, the Python-5 is one of the deadliest short range air-to-air missiles. The Python-5 uses a revolutionary LOAL technology. LOAL stands for LOck After Launch. This technology defies the conventional method of launching missiles. Conventionally the missiles are launched with the information about the target already transferred to it. Python-5 completely defies that logic and has an altogether new approach to locking on to its target. Conventional methods of firing would require the target to be within the crosshairs of the firing aircraft before unleashing the missile, but with LOAL technology, Python-5 can be fired in the direction of the target and quickly get out of harm’s way. . The missile has an advanced electro-optical imaging seeker that scans the target area for hostile aircraft, then locks-on for terminal chase and has a range of around 20 KMS. This missile is unarguably one of the best dog fighting missiles. It is one of the few missiles that can keep coasting along even after its rocket motor is spent using its extremely efficient aerodynamic characteristics. It has complex algorithms which are put to use in its on-board computers that enable it to hit the cockpit/belly of the aircraft to make sure that the target does not survive the hit. That makes the Python-5 one hell of a weapon for the air warrior.

R-77 Adder:

The R-77 Adder is a Russian medium/long-range air-to-air missile with active radar guidance used for the terminal phase of the missile’s flight. The Russians claim that the ‘Adder’ can hit anything from low-flying cruise missiles to motionless objects like a helicopter. The missile has a range of over 100 KMS and a certain version (R-77 M1) is believed to have ranges of over 170 KMS. This missile was primarily used by the Russian forces to counter threats at long ranges. This missile is capable of withstanding around 12 Gs of forces. This would mean that the missile is capable of taking really tight turns to hit the target. This missile has not been put to use yet in battle to know its real might. Theoretically it’s an extremely capable missile which is superior even to the mighty AIM-120 AMRAAM in certain aspects. This missile forms the mainstay of the Indian Air Force’s long range air defence.

R-73 Archer:

One of the deadliest missiles ever to grace the wing of any aircraft would be the R-73 aptly named by NATO as the ‘Archer’. The R-73 is the most modern of all Russian missiles. The R-73 is a heat-seeking missile with a sensitive, cryogenic cooled seeker with a substantial "off-bore sight" capability: the seeker can "see" targets up to 60° off the missile's centerline. It can be linked to a helmet-mounted sight (HMS), allowing pilots to designate targets by looking at them. Minimum engagement range is about 300 meters, with maximum aerodynamic range of nearly 30 km (18.75 mi) at altitude. “Off-bore sight” becomes important because of the fact that pilots and the planes would be put under extreme pressure and strain to keep a maneuvering target within its bore sight. With HMS the pilot can just look at the target, lock on to it and fire the missile. The Archer also incorporates a highly efficient thrust vectoring system which will enable the missile to take extremely tight turns and take out its target. The R-73 RDM2 has an extended range of 40 KMS, which means the Archer is no longer restricted to dogfights. The R-73 incorporates complex algorithms in its on-board guidance system which enables it to target the middle of the aircraft to ensure that crippling injuries can be delivered to the target. When coupled with the right aircraft (like the Sukhoi-30MKI) the missile can attack a chasing aircraft. In such a scenario the missile is fired normally but flips 180 degrees to lock on to the chaser. There are very few other missiles which can be compared to the unstoppable Archer!

R-33 Amos:

The R-33 Amos is a long range air-to-air missile. It has a range of over 160 KMS. This missile was built to be carried exclusively by the mighty MiG-31 Foxhound. The missile is so large that even the MiG-31 can carry only one of these monsters. The missile has a very heavy warhead (around 50 Kg) that would make sure that when it detonates, nothing in the vicinity survives. The Soviets were constantly troubled by the high flying American SR-71s (The fastest aircraft in the world) and they tailor made the R-33s for taking out the SR-71s. There has been an instance, during the heights of the cold war, when a SR-71 was almost nailed by the R-33. The SR-71 ran into a bunch of charging MiG-31s and had to scramble for safety. The MiGs it seemed had the SR-71 locked on, but before they could fire the target crossed into international airspace. Others in the hit-list of the R-33 included the B-1 and the B-52 bombers. The "Zaslon" phased array radar of MiG-31 is the core of the new aerial interception system. The radar system was so robustly built that no electronic counter measure could jam the radar. This made an awesome combination for the Russians. But the R-33 has never been into combat and it still waits for its day of gleaming and fiery glory.

Novator R-172:

It is always a known fact that Russians always opt for brute force. But reading about this missile will give you some idea as to what they guys mean by brute force. The Novator R-172 is an extremely long-range missile designed for a maximum range of 400 KMS (Ouch!). It used a two-stage rocket engine with a flight speed of about Mach 4 ( for beginners, Mach 4 is 4 times the speed of sound and the speed of sound being ~ 1180 KMPH). The R-172 flies to the vicinity of the target by inertial navigation, and then activates its own active radar for terminal homing. No doubt, the R-172 has been baying for the blood of the SR-71. The R-172’s hit list included high value targets like AWACS (Air-borne warning and Control systems, essentially a flying radar), air-borne tankers etc.
The range and the speed remove the need to engage the aircrafts escorting the high value targets. An enhanced version is also under consideration, the objective: to take out spy satellites! Unfortunately due to poor funding this project is not taking off. But Russia is in discussion with an external partner to revive this program by getting into joint development. Any guesses who the partner is? It is India!

The Astra:

The Astra is India’s first indigenous air-to-air missile. The missile reportedly has a range of over 80 KMS which makes it a missile for BVR (Beyond Visual Range) engagement. The missile was tested without control and guidance systems some time in 2003. Development work is on in full swing. When fully operational, the Astra will arm the SU-30MKI, the LCA, MiG-29s and the Mirage-2000s in the IAF. DRDO is working on building an advanced Laser/Radar fuse for Astra to make the missile more reliable.

That's it for now. Some of the well known missiles for your information... Watch this space for more!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Kargil War

India is the world's largest democracy. India has come a long way from being a poverty-stricken third world giant to a regional superpower. The advance is nothing short of brilliant. India has fought many wars after its independence. India now has a huge military and it is the third largest in the world.One such experience was the kargil episode which snowballed into a small scale war between pakistani intruders backed by the pakistani army and the Indian military. This particular war is one of its kind. This war was fought on high altitudes. Victory in adverse conditions made the victory sweeter.The Indian military has learnt many a lesson from this episode.In this article i have put together some of the highlights of the most recent war fought by India.

The year 1999 was a turning point for India. It was time for the world to take notice of India. Till then India was to most of the countries was a ‘moderate’, a peace loving country, which will never interfere in other countries’ internal affairs unless and until requested. The Pakistanis took this as an advantage and decided that time was ripe to avenge the fall of siachen. Pakistan was all set to engage India for another war. But it could not afford to take on India directly as the asymmetry between the two was heavily in favor of India. Pakistan decided to invade India covertly. The Indian state was also in some kind of turmoil. The weak coalition government was toppled and elections were soon to be held. The Pakistanis would’ve never got a better opportunity to strike. In the guise of a mujahideen war Pakistan readied itself for a confrontation with India. The sole aim of the Pakistanis, according to the indian intelligence agencies was to capture the national highway which connects the remote parts of Kashmir to the rest of India. It is widely believed that Pakistan was planning to ask for siachen in return for the highway. The Pakistani intruders were well prepared for the mission. The task was simple. Occupy the Indian ridges and hold them as long as they can. The locals reported strange activities around the mountains and soldiers were sent to make sure that things were alright. The soldiers thought that this could be just another pesky intruder, but it turned out to be more sinister than that. terrorists lured the soldiers into a trap and brutally murdered them. The higher officials were shaken but they still were not aware of the grave situation that was about to threaten the nation’s sovereignty.

The military establishment was growing suspicious day by day with the growing enemy activity. Many soldiers who were sent to check out the ridges never returned. The firing from across the border became more and more accurate. This could only mean that artillery spotters were present on the mountain facing the highway. Hmm..terrorists with precision artillery strike capabilities.. you gotta be kiddin!!! That was something that could not be done without pakistani armies support. Finally intrusions were confirmed. The kargil war had begun. It was time for India to flex its military muscle. It was decided among the top echelons of the political leadership that neither Indian military personnnel nor aircraft would cross the LOC. A decision that was widely applauded by the world community. I just cannot think of any other country which would have applied so much restraint on itself. India had all the rights to launch a full scale retaliation. A full blown assault across the LOC was fully within the capability of India and this restaint blostered India's image in the global arena. Initially during the war the 'intruders' had the upper hand. The army sustained severe loss of men. This was mainly due to the unfriendly terrain. The army decided to call in the Indian Air Force. Only usage of attack helicopters was cleared at first. Then use of ground attack aircrafts was later cleared. Due to the high altitude the IAF could not use the mighty Mi-35 ( known as Akbar in IAF)attack helicopter. So Mi-8s were modified to fire rockets and were deployed. The IAF had to face one more problem. The whole area was strewn with man portable SAMs, especially the American made stingers. These were very effective against helicopters. Two MiGs were also lost. This made the IAF undertake unconventional methods to tackle the situation. Due to the strict conditions put in place by the government the strike aircrafts were not even allowed to cross the LOC for completing a turn after a bombing run. It was decided that the IAF would use the formidable Mirage-2000 multirole fighters which can fly in extreme conditions with admirable ease.
The entry of the Mirages changed the entire scenario. On a typical mission during the Kargil war, 6 Mirages would fly from the base armed with precision guided ammo. One among them would be a 2-seater, a trainer which had a laser designating pod and the rest, armed to the teeth. As the first bombs were released in anger the troops watching the action from below cheered. It would have been a great sight indeed, the sight of huge plumes of fire and smoke rising as the bombs hit the targets with pin-point accuracy. The morale of the troops had been repaired. They were ready to take back what rightly belonged to them. The Indian government recognized the seriousness of the issue and gave the go ahead to use all possible conventional weapons against the enemies. Thus came in the formidable bofors guns. This also paved way for the usage of the indigenously developed Pinaka, the multi barrel rocket launcher. With these the army was all set to bludgeon the 'intruders'.
The operations conducted by the IAF and the Indian army were nothing short of awesome. The planes had to negotiate a tough terrain. Even if the bombs miss the target by a few feet it might miss the mountain as most of the targets were at the exact peaks. But in case of plains even if the target was missed by a few feet considerable damage can be inflicted upon the target. The IAF used MiG-29s to provide air cover for the Mirages. It is known that a few Pakistani F-16s were loitering near the LOC but were kept at bay by the MiG-29s. The IAF says that they had the F-16s in their crosshairs just in case they tried to intercept the charging Mirages. The F-16s did not dare to intercept the Mirages, as it would mean a direct involvement of the Pakistani military.
After the bombing runs, a ferocious and a punishing hand-to-hand combat ensued. One of the captured Pakistani soldiers reportedly said that the Indians went mad after the initial set back. The Indian troops after some initial setbacks were raring to have a go at the enemy. That was exactly what enemy got. The Indian army mopped up the enemies just as it was expected out of them.
After coming to know that the Indians had almost mowed down all the intruders, the then incumbent prime minister of Pakistan Mr. Nawaz shariff left for Washington in a huff to coax the American president to stop the Indian assault. The American president responded to his request and pressurized India to stop the assault. India finally provided safe passage to the remaining intruders.
This type of reaction was totally unexpected from the ‘moderate’ Indians. Pakistan learnt a lesson it would never forget: never ever directly confront India militarily. The rest of the world had no other option but to sit up and take notice. India’s military might was put on show during the Kargil operations. India stamped its authority in south Asia. One thing has been proved by this episode: you push a man too far, sooner or later he will start pushing back. India after being pushed back for so long gave a firm push to Pakistan. And it widely reported that people across the LOC still live with fear that one day the Indians may avenge kargil. But I know, we know, everyone knows that India will never play a role of an aggressor. There is a saying which goes like this:Strive for peace but be prepared for war. India was not expecting its neighbor to do such backstabbing. But India recovered from the setback and chased out the pakistanis and beyond everyone's belief contained its anger and restrained herself from crossing over the border to teach the invaders a lesson. It is well known that thogh India did not want to cross the border, it was quite ready to overwhelm and pummel pakistan if required.

When someone decides to meddle with your country’s sovereignty, you have to teach them a lesson which will remain in their minds for generations.

Thus ended the Kargil conflict with the provision of safe passage to the rest of the intruders. The Indian military will never be the same again. The key to success is to learn from past mistakes. India had to learn lessons the hard way, always. The kargil episode definitely played a major role in India becoming the world leading arms purchaser. Pakistan needs to learn some bitter lessons. But she refuses to do so. I am sure the Indian leadership will be more than happy to end the hostile relation with Pak. But pakistan continues to fuel cross-border terror. If Pakistan can ask India to forget the Kargil episode, pakistan should be ready to drop the idealogy of cross border terrorism.