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Indian Army acquiring 28 indigenous Weapon Locating Radars

By Gulshan Luthra Published : July 2008

New Delhi. The Indian Army is acquiring 28 highly sophisticated Made-in-India Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs) to track and neutralize hostile artillery fire.

The radars are being integrated by the state-run Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL), set up in 1954 to meet the specialized electronic needs of the Indian armed forces, but a large number of components will come from the private sector, including some Commercially-available Off the Shelf (COTS) from the international market.

With the indigenous manufacture of the much-needed radars, there is likely to be no further import of the system from the US arms technology major Raytheon, which has supplied 12 radars to the Indian artillery under a 2002 government-to-government deal for around US$ 200 million.

Dr Prahlada (uses single name), Distinguished Scientist and Chief Controller in the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), told India Strategic in an interview that the Indian Army had approved the radar after several tests in electronic clutter and “high density fire environment.”

It may be noted that the Indian Army had asked for the WLRs in mid-1980s but the government sanctioned their acquisition only after the 1999 Kargil War in which the Indian Army suffered more than 80 per cent of its casualties due to the Pakistani artillery fire.

During the Kargil War, according to Army Headquarters reports, the Pakistanis could detect Indian fire and counter attack while Indians were at the receiving end and had to deploy massively disproportionate firepower later to suppress the Pakistanis.

The process for the WLRs acquisition was stopped in 1990 by the then government along with the purchase of most other systems for the armed forces and the intelligence agencies.

In fact, the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence said in a report tabled in both the houses on 18 April 2000 that it “was seriously concerned by the degree of seeming casualness shown by the Defence Ministry in this regard,” and observed:

“The Ministry of Defence has not shown any sense of seriousness in acquiring this item. The enquiry in respect of this item had admittedly started in 1989 and even after a decade the Indian Army has not been able to acquire it. Our adversary is in possession of the weapon locating radar and it was used by it during the Kargil conflict to destroy our gun positions..…The Committee desire that the Government should take immediate steps to equip the Army with this Radar.”

The need was felt so urgent after the Kargil War that it was in fact the first acquisition from the US under its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme. Raytheon completed the delivery last year, and the radars were integrated on Tatra chassis supplied by the public sector BEML Ltd.

The Weapon Locating Radar, also known as Gun Locating Radar, helps track hostile fire and directs counter fire within seconds.

Pakistan has had the advantage of US-supplied radars from the mid-1980s, and they were also built by Raytheon, but an earlier model, AN-TPQ-36. The version supplied to India, Firefinder AN-TPQ-37, has longer range and reach, and the additional capability to destroy some artillery missiles.

There was however no Transfer of Technology (ToT) in the WLR acquired from the US, although Raytheon officials have separately told India Strategic that it is favourable to the idea if there are further orders. Of course, it’s the US government that has to approve any transfer of technology and arms sales.

Rahtheon's Firefinder radars supplied to India can track "first-round" hostile fire within seconds from a range of three to 50 km, and launch precise counter attacks. The radar also holds strategic significance in that it can be configured to detect missiles by adding a 60-degree sector mode antenna to extend its range.

The Raytheon radar's computerised signal processors detect, verify and track up to 10 artillery, mortar or rocket projectiles, estimates their firing position as well as the impact point and helps direct friendly fire in neutralising enemy positions subsequently. Manned by a crew of 12, the radar is capable of separating any clutter generated by birds, helicopters and aircraft.

The Indian radar, which is a good example of import substitution, is stated to have matching capabilities.

The heart of the DRDO-BEL WLR is the advanced electronic phased array Rajendra radar, being made by BEL for a multiplicity of use. The Indian radar is also fitted on the BEML-supplied Tatra vehicles, which are produced in India under licence.

Dr Prahlada, who is the interface between the DRDO and the Indian armed forces for the transfer of indigenously-developed technology, said that the Indian radar developed by DRDO was good but as technology grows and improves, further development would be there. The system is modular.

A military system generally has Mark I, and II, and so on. With this WLR radar also, the range and firepower would increase with periodic development, he said.

The indigenous radar is based on two vehicles, as against three of the Raytheon WLR.

The sensor is on a single vehicle, and the radar has automatic projectile acquisition and data transmission even in high density fire environment. It has high resolution as well as remote displays with the facility to change sector coverage as required in a battlefield.

The range of the radar was not specified but it is believed to be 40-plus km.

  © India Strategic  
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