An IDC Analysis with inputs by Sayan Majumdar


New Delhi, 12 April 2004  

The BrahMos collaboration came about when the Russians realized they had rupees lying in India, which they may not be able to repatriate after 2005. The Indian Navy and DRDO identified the Yakhont missile as suitable for future missions and as an excellent tri service and under water missile with potential.

Hence instead of merely importing the missiles from NPO Mash, a joint stock company was formed with joint investment from India via DRDO and Russia via their funds in India. In this manner BrahMos Aerospace could import missiles, equipment and personnel from Russia and the Russians got their rupees out as payment in dollars and their investment in India remained intact.

This example needs to be emulated for future requirements as well, for example the fast firing 30mm AK-630M-MR-123-02 guns and AA/Air Defence Artillery Systems for the three services. The Ordnance Factory Board can very well follow the example of BrahMos Aerospace and even Larsen and Tubro, which is looking to make Amur Class submarines in India, can investigate a similar arrangement.

Sayan Majumdar reports that after successful joint-development of the BrahMos ASCM (anti-ship cruise missile) the Indo-Russian scientists and defence manufacturers had again teamed up to resurrect the formidable Russian Novator KS-172 ultra-long-range AAM (air-to-air missile) project. Novator design bureau unveiled its mock-up KS-172 AAM, a projected 6 metre long, 750 kg, 400 km range AAM in early 1993 at an air-show in Abu Dhabi. It also made a short and sudden appearance at the Moscow Air-Show in late 1993, in anticipation of a very high-level military delegation.

The mock-up of the KS-172 underwent refinement and in the Moscow Air-Show appeared in many ways similar to the Buk (SA-11 Gadfly) SAM (surface-to-air Missile). Russian officials later hinted that air-carriage tests of SAMs had been carried out using a Sukhoi-27 “Flanker”. They were speculated to be SA-11s by foreign media used for form-and-fit tests.

Designed to fulfill the BVR (beyond visual range) role for “outer-air battles”, an aircraft usually of Sukhoi-27/30/35/37 “Flanker/Super Flanker” family, equipped with KS-172 (also referred to as Article 172) would be able to engage ultra-high-value airborne platforms like AWACS (airborne warning and control system), IFR (in-flight refuelling) and LRMP (long range maritime patrol) platforms, without necessarily having first to deal with their fighter escorts. Development of powerful radar like the formidable NIIP N-011M "Bars" (Snow Leopard) for the Sukhoi-30MKI “Super Flanker” of the IAF, would provide the necessary guidance to the ultra-long-range AAM. The Bars radar is capable of detection of airborne platforms with “generous” RCS (radar cross section) at ranges in excess of 300 km.

It is possible that an optimum combination of command, inertial and active-radar guidance would be used in the various phases of flight. Whereas IFF (identification friend or foe) remains a problem because of incorrect and absent returns and "spoofing", friendly AWACS platforms like Phalcon may be deployed for reconfirmation of enemy airborne targets at extended ranges. In the long term, development of Electro-optical seeker technology coupled with on-board threat database will let the KS-172 missiles themselves determine the legitimacy of a target.

Thus IAF Sukhoi-30MKI armed with KS-172 could be launched in co-ordination with other surface-strike missions and split at an appropriate time to head for the enemy AWACS. They could penetrate from above the scan zone of the AWACS, destroy or threaten it and force a retreat in the patrol pattern. Alternatively, Sukhoi-30MKIs could be guided by Phalcon AWACS platforms to enter hostile airspace at the altitude of the enemy AWACS at high-supersonic speeds and shoot it down.

The timing of such missions is critical and therefore should be launched when the enemy AWACS was about to take up a patrol. The objective would be to attain AWACS asymmetry in our favour as soon as possible and then decimate the enemy Air Force mercilessly.

For anti-AWACS missions two other missile systems are worth mentioning and Indo-Russian cooperation should also extend in these spheres. First is the hybrid rocket-ramjet propelled Vympel R-77M, a 3.6m long development of the R-77RVV-AE (AA-12 Adder) AAM with a projected range of 160 to 200 km with similar optimum combination of command, inertial and active-radar guidance. Second is an AAM version of Zvezhda Kh-37 (AS-17 Krypton) ARM (anti-radiation missile) with 100 km range, which employs passive homing against AWACS targets. This system is rumoured to be present in the Russian Air Force inventory.

KS-172 may also be developed into an ASAT (anti-satellite) weapon. The Sukhoi-30 in this case serves as the launch platform at high altitude while missile guidance is provided from ground stations.

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