December 5, 2012: Strategy Page
On November 24th India held more tests of its ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) system. This one involved intercepting multiple incoming ballistic missiles and was declared a success. As a result of this, and several other successful tests earlier this year, Indian missile development officials believe their anti-missile system is ready for mass production and deployment. This would provide some Indian cities protection from Pakistani or Chinese ballistic missiles.
The Indian system uses two types of interceptors. The Prithvi Air Defense (PAD) missile is the larger of the two and is used for high altitude (50-80 kilometers up) interception. The short range Advanced Air Defense (AAD) missile is used for low altitude (up to 30 kilometers) intercepts. The two missiles, in conjunction with a radar system based on the Israeli Green Pine (used with the Arrow anti-missile missile), provide defense from ballistic missiles fired as far as 5,000 kilometers away. A third interceptor, the PDV, is a hypersonic missile that can take down missiles as high as 150 kilometers and is still in development. India is the fifth nation to develop such anti-missile technology.
The Indian system has been in development for over a decade. Ten years ago India ordered two Israeli Green Pine anti-ballistic missile radars. That equipment was used six years ago in a successful Indian test, where one ballistic missile was fired at another "incoming" one. The Israeli Green Pine radar was originally developed for Israel's Arrow anti-ballistic missile system. Arrow was built, in cooperation with the United States, to defend Israel from Iranian and Syrian ballistic missiles. India has since developed, with Israel, the Swordfish radar, which has similar capabilities to the Green Pine and has been operational for two years. Swordfish is part of a system that integrates data from satellites and other sources in order to detect and track incoming missiles.
The interceptor missiles and the fire control systems were designed and built in India, although more Israeli technology may have been purchased to speed things along. India wanted to buy the entire Israeli Arrow system but the United States refused to allow the sale (which involved a lot of American technology). The Indian ABM system wasn’t supposed to become operational for another two years. But the developers believe it is ready now and are asking parliament for money to start building systems to defend places like New Delhi (where parliament is). Even so, it’s doubtful that the ABM system would be operational, even if just around New Delhi, by 2014. Then there is the question of just how effective the India ABM system really is. India has a shabby reputation with developing weapons. Projects go on for decades without ever producing operational weapons. But joint-ventures with other countries (like Russia, France, and Israel) have been more successful. Israel is believed to be more heavily involved in this ABM than official pronouncements indicate. If so, this would be a good thing, even if the Indians don’t like to publicize it.
China and Pakistan could only defeat the Indian ABM defenses by firing more missiles at the same time than the Indians could handle. It's also possible to equip warheads with decoys in an attempt to get the interceptor missile to miss. Israel has technology designed to deal with these decoys and India can probably purchase that. But against an overwhelming number of incoming missiles, some are going to get through.