Indian Navy strengthens its arsenal; successfully tests LR-SAM
The Indian Navy significantly boosted its capabilities as the INS Kolkata successfully test fired 2 cutting-edge Long Range Surface to Air Missiles (LR-SAM) against high-speed targets in the Arabian Sea during a naval exercise. The LR-SAM, jointly developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Israeli company Rafael and India's Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), is designed to shoot down aerial threats (missiles/aircraft) from 70 km away.
How the LR-SAM came into being?
During the 1999 Kargil conflict, the Indian Navy realised it had no counter-measure for the Pakistan Navy's US-manufactured Harpoon anti-ship missile. India thus approached Israel for the procurement of their Barak anti-missile missile for the duration of the conflict. Pleased with the Barak, India agreed to collaborate with Israel in 2006 to develop a 70 km version of the Barak- the Barak-8 or LR-SAM.
The cost of the LR-SAM and the returns
India allocated Rs.2,606 crore for the LR-SAM project, including Rs.1,700 crore for fitting 3 Kolkata-class destroyers with the system. Regardless of the investment, the LR-SAM has an amazing reliability of over 95% when it comes to intercepting aerial threats.
Why the LR-SAM was delayed by years?
The development of the Barak-8 or LR-SAM was divided between the DRDO, IAI and Israeli company Rafael. The development of LR-SAM's solid-fuel, two-pulse propulsion motors was given to DRDO, which faced significant difficulties in building it, thus resulting in delays. The rest of the missile was developed by Rafael, while its accompanying systems like the high-tech MF-STAR radar was developed by the IAI.
Why the LR-SAM is important in modern warfare?
In earlier times, naval battles were fought with heavy-calibre guns which required ships to be within gun range of each other. Today, guns have been replaced with long-range, anti-ship missiles which can be fired from up to 150 km away. However, since missiles are slower than gun shells, they can be intercepted mid-flight and destroyed. The LR-SAM grants interception ability to the Indian Navy.
How the LR-SAM works?
The incoming threat is first detected and tracked from up to 200km away by a Multi-Function Surveillance, Tracking and Acquisition Radar (MF-STAR). When the LR-SAM is launched, it is guided to its target by the MF-STAR over a data link. About 5-7 km from the target the LR-SAM locks on to its target, detonating a few meters from the threat, thus destroying it.
Difficulties which the LR-SAM could face
The two "high-speed targets" that the LR-SAM intercepted during testing were significantly slower than real-life threats. Simulated targets travel at 500-550 kmph, whereas the US-made Harpoon anti-ship missile travels at 865 kmph, and the French-made Exocet at 1,150 kmph.
The future of the LR-SAM
DRDO officials have stated that manufacturing some of the LR-SAM's sub-systems indigenously could greatly bring down the costs. Thus, several private firms like Godrej & Boyce, and SEC might enter the manufacture-supply chain LR-SAM will be integrated on all 3 Kolkata-class (Project 15-A) destroyers, another 4 Project 15-B destroyers, and also on India's indigenous aircraft carrier - the INS Vikrant which is under construction.