New Delhi could have anti-missile shield by 2014 - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 28 August 2011

New Delhi could have anti-missile shield by 2014

The Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) interceptor, which can intercept an incoming ballistic missile at altitudes greater than 80 kilometers above the earth. This is likely to be tested shortly

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard
29th Aug 11

According to a new Pentagon report on China’s military, Beijing has paid India a sort of compliment. The People’s Liberation Army now targets India with its best and latest nuclear-tipped missiles, the solid-fuel Dongfeng-21 (NATO designation: CSS-5) medium range ballistic missile (MRBM), tipped with a 250-kiloton nuclear warhead that would flatten a large part of Delhi. Until now, India had been considered deserving only of China’s oldest and most decrepit missile, the primitive, liquid-fuelled Dongfeng-3 (NATO designation CSS-2).

India’s defence establishment is taking this new threat seriously, as also that posed by Pakistan’s nuclear-tipped MRBMs — like the Ghauri-2 and the Shaheen-2 — which can strike targets 2300 kilometres away. In an exclusive interview with Business Standard, the Defence R&D Organisation’s chief missile scientist has announced that, within three years, India will have a fully deployed missile-defence shield to safeguard a city like New Delhi from missile-borne nuclear attack.

Termed an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) shield, this complex system has been in the making since 1996. The DRDO is satisfied with the system’s ability to detect and track an incoming missile, and then launch an interceptor missile to destroy it while it is still in space (exo-atmospheric interception). If that misses, there is a second interceptor that homes in on the enemy missile while it is in the upper atmosphere (endo-atmospheric interception). In internationally watched tests, these interceptors have been tested thrice each.
But only now has the DRDO announced that a fully integrated ABM system is close to deployment. Says Dr Avinash Chander, the DRDO’s Chief Controller for Missiles and Strategic Systems; “We can deploy an effective ABM system for a single city within 3 years from now. We can definitely ensure the safety of one city in that time frame. After that, the [ABM shield for] other cities will follow.”

Chander will not confirm that Delhi will receive India’s first ABM shield but, given Delhi’s vulnerability to MRBMs from Pakistan and China, and its status as the capital city, experts predict that it will almost certainly be the first city to be safeguarded.

“We are planning more ABM trials in a month or two. Both exo and endo-atmospheric interceptors are doing well in development. We already have a demonstrated capability against enemy missiles that are fired from up to 2000 kilometres away. After some more trials we will be going into deployment mode. The ground systems and the missiles are going to be available… there is no issue,” says Chander.

The sophistication of an ABM system depends upon the range of the incoming enemy missile. The longer the range of the incoming missile, the faster it travels and the more difficult it is to it detect and shoot it down. The missiles that currently target India — the Shaheen; the Ghauri; and the Dongfeng-21 — can all be successfully intercepted, says the DRDO.

“Pakistan can only target India with missiles that have ranges of less than 3000 kilometers, otherwise the missile will overshoot India. Our ABM system will be capable of detecting and shooting down incoming missiles from those ranges,” says Chander.

However China, with its arsenal of longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and the geographical space to launch missiles from thousands of kilometres away, is capable of defeating India’s ABM system in its current form. The DRDO says that it will gradually enhance the ABM system to enable the interception of longer-range missiles.

For now, deployment is on track, says the DRDO’s missile chief. The radar network that is needed to detect an incoming enemy missile is already being sited. This includes a Long Range Tracking Radar (LRTR), which Bangalore-based Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) has developed in collaboration with Israeli company, ELTA. The LRTR picks up incoming missiles at ranges out to 300 kilometres.

The ABM system also has a “guidance radar”, which tracks the incoming missile in its terminal phase and guides the interceptor missile onto the target. The DRDO developed the guidance radar in collaboration with French company, Thales. In addition, ABM systems also use satellite-based detection systems to detect enemy missile launches.

ABM systems are controversial; strategists argue that they destabilise a nuclear balance, incentivising the production of more nuclear weapons to defeat an enemy’s ABM shield. Indeed, Pakistan now has the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal after it aggressively expanded its Khushab reactor complex to produce more plutonium for bombs.


  1. I am sure enemy will launch multiple missiles in one run before any international pressure mounts or the second strike itself gets initiated.

    Ajai, Do you have any stats on what AMDs that our enemies have or will have in same time frame.

    The Chinese and Pakis ongoing defence cooperation is for sure a matter of concern for all. In present scenario can we expect Russia or any major power to stand by us in case of war scenario with any of these two nations...

  2. hope this is not a day dream and it will materialize within the time frame mentioned and will safe guard our country from the evil JAI HIND

  3. Ajai Ji please start an article about our missile developments and compair it with our neghibour especially we all like to know about the status of K series missiles PLEASE AJAI JI

  4. Ajai sir

    I will like to raise a few points

    1. what you said about ABM paints a pretty rosy picture, but fact is this missile presumably called 'Pradyumna' has never been actually tested against an IRBM/MRBM of Agni class, all the tests have been carried out with 'Prithvi' missiles simulating as hostile IRBM/MRBM which can never be equatted with IRBM/MRBM, as 'Prithvi' are single stage missiles and IRBM/MRBM are always 2 stages. right or wrong?

    2. All these tests have been carried out from ITR Chandipur and near by with the hostile 'Prithvi' also fired from with Odisa, so how can these be termed as successful. If a missile fired from Andamans was intercepted then only these would have been a success, right or wrng ?

    3. The effectiveness of ABM shield would be best judged by using the PAD endo atmospheric ABM and Pradyumna exo atmospheric ABM on a single trail. Right or wrong?

    4. Till now no test of ABM or any other missile has been done at night to test the effectiveness of the tracking and launch system, the only time it was done it failed. Also except for 1 Prithvi in 1990s no missile has been test in west, these do not help is assessing the effectiveness of the missiles. right or wrong?

    With so many doubts how can we say the ABM is effective, awaiting your response


    Joydeep Ghosh

  5. Year 2014 after the New Year Celebration the whole of Delhi is fast asleep with lost of good memories about the year that gone by. But at the same time across our border the evil is planning a deadly Nuclear Attack on the heart of India. They are planning to wipe out the capital on India from the world map and accordingly they started the preparation for the Nuclear Missile Launch and the General who is overlooking the all
    Procedure murmured “in the next 15 minutes Delhi is gone ha ha ha” and he pressed the launch button. At the same time the anti-ballistic missile’s (ABM) radar identified the evils missile launch and initiate the ABS to launch the interceptor to destroy the enemy missile and the ABS started the count down 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 -1 - 0 and Aman’s mother pours a bucket full of water on to his bed and shouted “AMAN WHATS THE HELL YOU ARE DREAMING IN THE DAY YOU DON’T WANT TO GO TO OFFICE”…….. WE ALL ARE HOPING THIS IS NOT AN ANOTHER HOPE GIVEN BY THE DRDO. HOPE YOU GUYS WILL KEEP UP THE WORDS THAT YOU ARE GIVING

  6. Good news. Now it needs to be converted in to reality.

    The foremost thing for the fnukes is that we should forget fearing from the fnukes forever.

  7. Agni V... no where to be seen... MOD min has asked to get it ready... to sarawat... still he is doing babudom... to hide behind... non delivery... its time... for change.. before india's sec is put in jeopady...

  8. Either the Chinese are paying us a compliment, or this is just the routine replacement of old weapons by new. Sometimes it is possible to read too much into routine activity.

    And the best response IMO is not a leaky BMD system but a robust second-strike capability.

  9. @Anon 11:00: While it’s true that our enemies may launch multiple missiles in one salvo to somewhat neutralize the proposed AMDs, one must not the concept of MAD (mutually assured destruction) to think of the cold war years. Missile deterrence,in my humble view, relies significantly on intelligence inputs of enemy missile bases thru spy satellites, AWACS to gather the accurate information for our own aggressor missiles which could be fired in retaliation at enemy missile bases within seconds of any such misadventure by our enemies. And with India adopting a no-first use of N-weapons but ensuring unacceptable retaliatory strikes on the enemy, I would assume that we already have a requisite number of deterrent aggressor missiles ready, if not they will soon be, along with the AMD development. So, to summarize, AMDs alone won’t assure safety from multiple missile strikes, but what would enhance India's deterrence posture against any such misadventure would mean increasing significantly the number of our own strike missiles (preferably with MIRV warheads, which would soon be a possibility), effective electronic and satellite based intelligence and finally the AMDs. For our enemies to think that by simply launching a salvo of missiles just 2 defeat AMDS they would not get any sort of retaliation in return, before any perceived international pressure mounts on India, would be very foolhardy. While it is also true that Chinese and Pakistani cooperation should be a matter of grave concern for India, it would be better for India to be prepared to face this threat alone (prepare for the worst case scenario)and build her own strategic forces accordingly. In the present post cold war world, there are no permanent friends, just permanent interests, India needs to cultivate such strategic interests with various countries apart from our "time tested" friend Russia. Whatever help we do get should such a situation arise, would be a great bonus, we must first and foremost prepare our forces as per the Army's two front war concept, before seeking or hoping for any external help.

  10. First we need to have operational ballistic missiles. Those buggy A2s and Prithvis need to be fixed before DRDO builds more castles in air.

  11. Pak is already working on MIRV technology. Infact it is their current priority. Furthermore i wonder what kind of shield is needed for the BABUR, whose current range is 700km but is being upgraded to 1000km and RAAD, air launched with a range of 350km...both of these come with LO and radar absorbing material?

  12. coulda, shoulda, woulda.

  13. DRDO needs to prove itself and validate its claims.


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