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Air Combat Evolving, Time To Catch Up

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Air Combat Evolving, Time To Catch Up


The next generation fighter aircraft technologies will enhance survivability in contested, well-defended environment, and yet deliver arsenal for effect-based results

by Air Marshal Anil Chopra (Retd)

Combat aviation continues to remain the most preferred means of prosecution of war. The one who controls air and space will dominate all operations. Military aviation continues to see the fastest growth of technology.

Agility – speed and manoeuvrability — remains important, but it has become less consequential. Occasions for close-combat engagements are reducing. Long-range beyond-visual-range (BVR) combat requires sensors and weapons that allow ability to “see first, shoot first, hit first”. High-exposure close air support can now be taken on by drones and unmanned platforms. Long range and precision strike ability has become more important. Information superiority and shortened decision loop will decide the victor.

The next generation fighter aircraft technologies will enhance survivability in contested well-defended environment, and yet deliver arsenal for effect-based results. Integration with other aircraft will require secure, highbandwidth, datalinks, connecting sensors across platforms and terrafirma in multiple domain environment. Intelligent “data-to-decision” (D2D) capability will be crucial.

System-of-systems approach will greatly enhance situational awareness. AI will support decision-making and autonomy. Helmet-mounted or even retina displays will givethe aircrew all-hemisphere picture, allowing more complete threat assessment and attack or response options.

Aircraft will feature next-generation avionics, more efficient thrust-vectoring engines with in-built super-cruise, advanced stealth features, conformal weapon bays with extended long-range weapons with a high degree of post-launch autonomy.

Modern AESA radars will operate in heavy electronic counter measures (ECM) environment. Passive infrared search and track (IRST) systems will have higher tracking ranges. Improved onboard power-generation capacity will support powerful electronic warfare systems and DEW. Automated health monitoring and diagnostics suite will combine with self-healing options. The stealth will be inbuilt to support low radar cross section (RCS) over large spectrum of frequencies without trading flight performance. There will be a plug-and-play interchangeable hardware. 3D tools will be used for both design and manufacture processes.

Evolving aerial weapons will have greater autonomy. Air launched hypersonic cruise missiles (HCM) and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) will defeat air defences and bring game-changing vulnerabilities to strategic targets and large ships and aircraft carriers. Large platforms like airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) and mid-air flight refuelling aircraft will be kept farther away from tactical area due to the threat of long-range missiles.

In future, onboard mini-missiles on planes could shoot down incoming air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles and act as self-defence for the aircraft. High-energy onboard lasers will engage enemy aircraft and missiles, including those coming from behind, and also target on the ground.

Drones and uninhabited aerial systems (UAS) will proliferate. Dual-use (optionally manned) aircraft are evolving. Next generation UAS will be able to take on all roles of ISR, surface strike, air defence, aerial refuelling and air delivery. Offensive aerial drone swarms will overwhelm the enemy defences. Drone counters, including both “hardkill” and “soft kill”, are already evolving. These could be small arms fire, net guns, electro-optical weapons such as lasers, data-link jamming, electronic or cyber-attack, and directed energy weapons like microwave. A drone swarm may be engaged by a counter drone swarm. Manned and unmanned aircraft teaming will exploit the advantage of human in the loop with strength of numbers to take on well-defended target systems.

Future aircraft engine technologies will support reduced weight, improved engine propulsive efficiency, improved reliability and maintainability and reduced lifecycle costs.

Attack and combat helicopters have an important operational role. Other than flying surface target attack role missions, they are increasingly being used for air-to-air missions against other helicopters and UAVs.

India has already mastered most of the basic aircraft building technologies. India is currently at 4.5 generation technology stage with Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS MK-2 and has mastered the composite materials technologies. Some other metal alloys, special metals, and single-crystal blades etc. are still a work in progress. India has more work to be done on AESA radars and electronic warfare. A joint venture route for aero-engines is being finalised.

India is gradually coming of age in aerial weapons. Private companies are already making part of the TEJAS front, central, and rear fuselage. India’s 5th generation aircraft, the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA), is still a work-in-slow-progress. It needs to be accelerated if India has to sit on the global high-table. India has also to accelerate the development of indigenous flight refuelers and AEW&C aircraft. India is already looking at sixth-generation technologies. Time to act is now, lest we get too far behind.





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INS Arihant’s Nuke-Capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile ‘Ready To Roll’

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INS Arihant’s Nuke-Capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile ‘Ready To Roll’


NEW DELHI: India tested its nuclear capable K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), designed to have a strike range of 3,500 km, for the second time in six days on Friday. The missile test, as the one conducted on January 19, was undertaken from an undersea platform in the shape of a submersible pontoon off the coast of Andhra Pradesh according to a report by Rajat Pandit of TOI.

The solid-fuelled K-4 missile is being developed by DRDO to arm the country’s nuclear-powered submarines in the shape of INS Arihant and its under-development sister vessels. INS Arihant, which became fully operational in November 2018 to complete India’s nuclear triad, is currently armed with the much shorter K-15 missiles with a 750 km range.

“The K-4 is now virtually ready for its serial production to kick-off. The two tests have demonstrated its capability to emerge straight from underwater and undertake its parabolic trajectory,” said a source.

India has the land-based Agni missiles, with the over 5,000-km Agni-V inter-continental ballistic missile now in the process of being inducted, and fighter jets jury-rigged to deliver nuclear weapons. But INS Arihant gives the country’s deterrence posture much more credibility because nuclear-powered submarines armed with nuclear-tipped missiles are considered the most secure, survivable and potent platforms for retaliatory strikes.

Once the K-4 missiles are inducted, they will help India narrow the gap with countries like the US, Russia and China, which have over 5,000-km range SLBMs. The K-4 missiles are to be followed by the K-5 and K-6 missiles in the 5,000-6,000 km range class.

The 6,000-ton INS Arihant, which is propelled by an 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor at its core, in turn, is to be followed by INS Arighat, which was launched in 2017. The next generation of nuclear submarines, currently called S-4 and S-4*, will be much larger in size.





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After Upgradation, Sukhoi Su-30MKI Indigenisation To Reach 78%

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After Upgradation, Sukhoi Su-30MKI Indigenisation To Reach 78%


India has received clearance to upgrade 84 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets, which will result in 78% indigenization after the upgrade

In a significant step towards bolstering its military might with indigenously developed technology, India is poised to witness its Russian-origin Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets evolve into a domestic platform. Speaking at a recent lecture.

The upgrade program is being led by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in partnership with the Indian Air Force and other partners. The upgrade is expected to cost US$7.5 billion.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) granted Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the upgrade. The upgrade is part of India’s efforts to improve the capabilities of its primary fighter aircraft, it refers to as the “Super Sukhoi”.

This initiative is a part of a larger effort by the Indian Air Force to modernize its ageing fleet. Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari asserted the critical role of an offensive air force as demonstrated in current global conflicts and emphasized India’s move towards an indigenized arsenal. To this end, the IAF has been proactive, from upgrading its Mirage 2000 to enhancing its MiG-29 fleet.

In summary, the IAF’s commitment to updating their combat forces with the latest technology, including shifting to fifth-generation fighter jets, ensures operational preparedness and a strong deterrence capability. The gradual indigenization of its air fleet marks a pivotal shift in India’s defence landscape, reducing dependency on foreign imports and fostering technological sovereignty.





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Akash Weapon System Exports For The Armenian Armed Forces Gathers Pace

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Akash Weapon System Exports For The Armenian Armed Forces Gathers Pace


According to unconfirmed reports, Armenia is a top contender for an export order for Akash SAM system manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).

While there is no official confirmation because of the sensitivities involved, documents suggest that the order for the same has already been placed the report further added.
There are nine countries, in turn, which have shown interest in the indigenously-developed Akash missile systems, which can intercept hostile aircraft, helicopters, drones and subsonic cruise missiles at a range of 25-km. They are Kenya, Philippines, Indonesia, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Vietnam and Algeria reported TOI.

The Akash export version will also be slightly different from the one inducted by the armed forces. The 100-km range air-to-air Astra missiles, now entering production after successful trials from Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, also have “good export potential”, said sources.

Akash is a “tried, tested and successfully inducted systems”. Indian armed forces have ordered Akash systems worth Rs 24,000 crore over the years, and MoD inked a contract in Mar 2023 of over Rs 9,100 crores for improved Akash Weapon System

BDL is a government enterprise under the Ministry of Defence that was established in 1970. BDL manufactures surface-to-air missiles and delivers them to the Indian Army. BDL also offers its products for export.

Akash Weapon System

The AWS is a Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM) Air Defence System, indigenously designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). In order to meet aerial threats, two additional Regiments of AWS with Upgradation are being procured for Indian Army for the Northern borders. Improved AWS has Seeker Technology, Reduced Foot Print, 360° Engagement Capability and improved environmental parameters.

The project will give a boost to the Indian missile manufacturing industry in particular and the indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem as a whole. The project has overall indigenous content of 82% which will be increased to 93% by 2026-27.

The induction of the improved AWS into the Indian Army will increase India’s self-reliance in Short Range Missile capability. This project will play a role in boosting the overall economy by avoiding outgo of precious foreign exchange to other countries, increasing employment avenues in India and encouraging Indian MSMEs through components manufacturing. Around 60% of the project cost will be awarded to the private industry, including MSMEs, in maintaining the supply chain of the weapon system, thereby creating large scale of direct and indirect employment.





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