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Saurav Jha
Monday , October 28, 2013 at 17 : 51

DRDO's international coming out party in Seoul features new Pragati tactical missile system


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India's growing military industrial complex has begun to seriously look towards international markets which could be quite considerable for Indian defence wares if properly cultivated. To that end, the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has decided to feature a range of indigenously developed armaments along with its production partners at the 'International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX-2013) scheduled to be held at KINTEX, Seoul, South Korea from 29 Oct - 3 Nov 2013', which has participants from more than 30 countries. Apart from the choice of venue itself for DRDO's big international coming out party what else is rather interesting is of course the kind of hardware which it will put on display at Seoul.

Particularly striking will be the Pragati surface to surface missile (SSM) which is being exhibited for the first time abroad or anywhere for that in this avatar. Pragati is an export variant of the Prahar tactical battlefield support missile which was tested in July 2011 and is meant for the Indian Army's artillery arm. The system that will be exhibited at Seoul broadly has the same specs as the Prahar though it is being advertised abroad with slightly different ranges than what has been reported domestically for the Prahar (see the specs sheet given below). Importantly, Pragati like Prahar also depends on an indigenous ring laser gyro based inertial navigation system that can receive GPS updates to remove accumulated errors. Now the market for such tactical battlefield missiles has been expanding in recent times as armies around the world want to possess rocket artillery that would allow them to engage communication and ammunition nodes in the rear. The Chinese and Israelis have been early movers in this market and have exhibited long ranged precision guided systems of this variety in the past few years. The United States has of course sold the ATACMS to its allies here and there. Be that as it may, the fact that a usually conservative MEA has approved the exhibition of offensive weapons overseas for potential sales in a much more concerted manner is indicative of a welcome shift in the Indian mindset. Needless to say, defence exports can help India defray the costs of development and serve as a major tool for diplomacy.

Courtesy: DRDO

Coming back to the Pragati, if India is able to bring down production costs for this system a large market could exist for it amongst ASEAN and African countries. Now, the Prahar/Pragati configuration shares its missile frame and some avionics with the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor from DRDO's ballistic missile defence program. So both the AAD and Prahar/Pragati could actually be produced in tandem facilitating greater economies of scale thereby bringing down costs associated with both sets of systems. In a manner of speaking, a part of the total R&D costs of the Pragati has in any case been amortized by those expended on developing the basic airframe of the AAD interceptor. Apart from the Pragati the following systems have also made it to Seoul as DRDO delineates in the following release:

AKASH (Surface to Air Missile System)

Akash is a medium range surface to air missile system which provides area air defence to mobile, semi-mobile and static vulnerable points/ areas against multi directional air threats. The weapon system can operate in autonomous or group mode of operation. State of the art real time OS and open system architecture of the weapon system provides fully automatic and network centric operation.

ASTRA (Beyond Visual Range Air -to-Air Missile)

Astra is a BVR Air-to-Air Missile having high Single Shot Kill Probability (SSKP), and is very reliable. It is an all aspect, all weather missile with active Radar terminal guidance. It has excellent ECCM features, smokeless propulsion and process improved effectiveness in multi-target scenarios. It can be launched in both autonomous and buddy mode operation with features for lock-on before launch (LOBL) and lock-on after launch (LOAL).

ABHYAS (High-speed Expendable Aerial Target)

High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) offers a realist threat scenario for practice of weapon systems. HEAT-ABHYAS is an expendable high-speed unmanned aerial target developed by DRDO. ABHYAS is designed for autonomous flying with the help of an autopilot. A lunberg lens in the nose cone improves the RCS of the target for weapon practice. It also has an Acoustic Miss Distance Indicator (AMDI) to indicate the miss distance.

LCA (Light Combat Aircraft-Tejas)

The Light Combat Aircraft(LCA) is an indigenous fighter aircraft developed by ADA with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited as its principal partner, in India. The air force variant christened Tejas is the smallest, light weight, multi role, single engine, tactical fighter aircraft with compound delta wing. LCA is being developed to the meet the versatile and stringent requirements of the Indian Air Force (IAF), as its front line multi mission tactical aircraft. LCA fighter has take-off clean weight of 9800 Kg and can carry external stores of up to 3500 kg. The special features of LCA fighter are compound delta Planform, Relaxed static stability, composite structure, fly-by-wire flight control system, glass cockpit, etc., LCA fighter can carry Air-to-Air missiles, Air-to-ground missiles, Anti-ship missiles, Laser guided Bombs, Drop Tanks, Night targeting pod, EW suite and bombs of various weights. LCA Tejas is an amalgamation of contemporary concepts and technologies which makes the aircraft very agile and carefree maneuvering capabilities. LCA fighter has excellent handling qualities and performance characteristics. It rockets off the runway and into the air in a mere 500 meters. It has control harmony and carefree handling characteristics. With efficient fuel consumption and in built air refueling capability LCA Tejas is a contemporary fighter. The Indian Air force has placed production orders for LCA fighter.

LCA Navy (Naval Light Combat Aircraft)

The Naval Light Combat Aircraft (LCA Navy) is being developed to meet the requirements of I the ndian Navy. LCA Navy will operate from an Aircraft Carrier with a concept of Ski-jump and lands in 90 meters using an arrester hook engaging an arrestor wire on the ship. Derived from the Air force version it is longitudinally unstable, fly-by-wire aircraft making it an agile war machine. Flight control system of LCA Navy is augmented with Leading Edge Vortex Controller (LEVCON) aiding reduction in approach speed for landing. Auto throttle function incorporated in LCA Navy reduces pilot load by maintaining constant angle of attack during the critical phase of flaw-less carrier landing. Fuel dump system is an additional feature in LCA Navy to enable safe landing by reducing weight in the event of an emergency immediately after launch from a carrier. Landing gear of LCA Navy has been adequately strengthened to withstand increased landing loads in carrier operations. LCA Navy is supersonic at all altitudes and has Air-to-Air, Air-to-Sea and Air-to-Ground roles.

LCA Trainer

LCA Trainer is a two seat tandem configuration Air Force Trainer derived from the fighter version. It is mainly used for training purpose, even though it has the capability to launch weapons. It has been an endeavour on the part of the developers to maintain maximum commonality amongst all the LCA variants i.e LCA fighter, LCA Trainer, Navy Trainer and Navy fighter. Front fuselage is modified to accommodate the second cockpit. Both front and rear cockpits of trainer are configured to replicate the Pilot Vehicle Interface (PVI) as in the fighter version. The trainer version has drooped nose for better cockpit vision and larger canopy to accommodate rear cockpit with additional vision for rear cockpit. It has mechanical interconnected control stick, Rudder pedal and throttle. LCA Trainer has been designed not only as a trainer but also as precision weapon launch platform for Air-to-Air, Air-to-Ground, Air-to-Sea missions with effective stores management system capable of handling a wide range of weapons and stores. It can also be equipped with variety of sensors like Multi Mode Radar, Litening Pod and Helmet Mounted Display and Sight (HMDS).

AEW&C (Airborne Early Warning and Control)

AEW&C systems detect, identify and classify threats present in the surveillance area and act as a command and control center to support different air operations. The system with its multiple Communication and data links alerts and directs fighters against threats while providing "Recognizable Air Surface Picture" to Commanders at Ground Exploitation Stations. It also comprises electronic and communication support measures that interrupt and classify unfriendly radar transmissions and communication signals.

AAAU (Active Antenna Array Unit for Surveillance)

The AAAU houses primary Radar (PR) and Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR) electronics. The PR is the active electronically steered array Radar with a normal detection range and an extended range against RCS of fighter class of aircraft. Two radiating planar arrays assembled back to back and mounted on top of the aircraft fuselage provide 240 deg Coverage on either side of AAAU. The SSR emits a message querying the target in a particular sector. Replies from the target are automatically associated with the primary radar detections.

TRMM (Active Antenna Array Module)

TRMM is the state-of-the-art technology for active array radar which is indigenously developed and productionized with a private sector enterprise. It has undergone severe environmental qualifications for airborne application. An extensive study on thermal aspects carried out and optimized.

IFF Interrogator (Identification Friend or Foe System)

The IFF Interrogator is a compact, light-weight system using state-of-the-art technology and can be used for ground/ surface as well as airborne application. It operates as per the recommendation of Annecture-X of ICAO and STANAG 4193. It is designed using VME architecture that provides complete flexibility for futuristic upgrades. Operation in Mode S-level 2 gives capability of selective addressing and data link features which is very critical in dense air-traffic.

IFF Transponder (Aid Platform Identification)

The Airborne/surface IFF Mk XII(S) transponder is a compact and light weight system and can be tailor made into different form factor depending upon the platform requirement. It is designed using CPCI/SBC based architecture that provides complete flexibility for futuristic upgrades with all the system features as per standard laid down by ICAO/STANAG 4913. It has MIL 1533 and ARNIC 429 interface for integration with mission controller and data computer/ aircraft system.    

IFF CIT (Identification System for Fighter class)

The Combined Interrogator Transponder is state-of-the-art compact light weight system that can be used in either interrogator mode or transponder mode specially designed for airborne application to avoid fracticide while using BVR weapons. It has Gigabit Ethernet/ MIL 1553/ ARINC 429 interface that are mostly available interfaces for integration with mission controller and other aircraft systems.    

WLR (Weapon Locating Radar)

WLR is a coherent, electronically scanned pulse doppler radar. The radar automatically locates hostile artillery, mortars and rocket launchers and tracks friendly fire to locate the impact point of friendly artillery fire to issue necessary corrections. The radar is designed to detect projectiles with small cross section across the battle space horizon. The radar uses advanced signal processing techniques for detection and tracking projectiles in the presence of ground, weather clutter and other forms of interference in EW scenario. Vehicle based physical profile of the radar is designed for high mobility, quick deployment and decamp. System is designed to survive physical rigors of battlefield and soft hostile electronic warfare. The radar comes with an advanced navigation system that provides accurate position information. Software advanced solutions compensate for terrain variants like slope.    

ROHINI (3D Medium Range Surveillance Radar)

3D Medium Range Surveillance Radar, Rohini is a ground based mechanically scanning Pulse Doppler radar for air space surveillance to detect and track air targets with reliability, even under hostile EW operational environment. The flexible architecture is a reliable and adaptable technology for multiple applications - early warning for air defence weapon system, air defence sensor at airbases. The radar has advanced technologies like digital receiver, programmable signal processor providing high resolution, accuracy, response and information availability. The radar, packaged on two vehicles, is easy to operate, mobile, transportable by air, rail and road, can be deployed and decamped in less than 30 minutes.

BFSR-SR (Battle Field Surveillance Radar - Short Range)

BFSR-SR is a battery powered, light weight, man-portable surveillance radar. It can search a specified sector, simultaneously perform track while scan on multiple targets and carry out doppler based classification of various ground surface targets.

ABHAY (Compact Hull Mounted Sonar (HMS) System)

ABHAY is an advanced integrated active cum passive sonar system designed for shallow water ASW platforms. It is specifically targeted for installation on smaller platforms such as ASW corvettes, coastal surveillance and patrol vessels. It employs advanced adaptive signal and information processing techniques for detection, tracking & classification of targets. The hardware architecture is based on state of the art open-architecture processor technologies that will enable smooth up-grade of the system capabilities in the future. A compact transducer array, modular front-end signal conditioning hardware and high efficiency switched mode power amplifiers make up the rest of the system.

3G UWACS (Underwater Acoustic Communication System)

3G UWACS is a state-of-the-art Underwater Wireless Acoustic Communication System based on SDR Architecture. This system incorporates advanced modulation and coding techniques in addition to data recording and analysis features. The system offers the user a tunable wideband communication capability over multiple bands in voice and data communication modes. In addition to the enormous flexibility in operation through a comprehensive GUI, it also supports remote operation and monitoring through standard networking technologies.

CTD Logger

CTD Logger is a state-of-the-art sensor for measuring the three important oceanographic parameters - salinity, temperature and depth. These parameters form the regional description of ocean. Salinity is determined through conductivity measurement, and depth through pressure measurement. Speed of sound in ocean depends to a large extent on salinity, temperature and depth, thereby necessitating the accurate profiling of these parameters for sound profiling and characterization. As the conventional surveillance systems onboard ships and submarines use the acoustic method of detection and ranging, CTD logger finds immense applications for use in maritime or homeland port security, apart from its use in ocean research.

So apart from some key munitions being developed by DRDO that are either already in service with the Indian military or will certainly see service with the Indian military (i.e Astra, Prahar) we also find a host of sensor equipment on display- an area that has emerged as a domestic strength. Of course, the LCA family will also be showcased and I leave you with this video of the LCA during the test phase. Watch out for the laser guided bomb release at round 00:24 seconds.


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More about Saurav Jha

Saurav Jha studied economics (and debated politics) at Presidency College, Calcutta, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He writes and researches on global energy and security issues and is a regular contributor to publications such as World Politics Review, The Diplomat and Le Monde Diplomatique, and has written for Deccan Herald, The Telegraph and Hindustan Times. He is the Consulting Editor of Geopolitics magazine. His first book, The Upside Down Book of Nuclear Power, was published in March 2010 to excellent reviews. He is presently working on The Heat and Dust Project, a quirky travelogue, based on an intense budget journey through India, co-authored with his wife Devapriya.

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