Air Defense: India Loots The Dead To Save A Carrier


May 6, 2015: The new Russian built Indian aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, was supposed to be fully operational by mid-2014 and it was, sort of. What was missing was its primary anti-aircraft missile system; the Israeli LRSAM/Barak 8. Also missing was the short range AK-630 Russian made six-barrel 30mm close-in weapon systems (CIWS), for defense against anti-ship missiles. A year later (Vikramaditya arrived from Russia in January 2014) a temporary solution was found. A 32 year old Indian frigate is about to be retired and had an older version of Barak installed a decade ago. This Barak system will be removed and installed in Vikramaditya as will two AK-630 systems from the frigate. It will likely take at least a year to move the Barak and AK-630 systems from the Godavari class frigate to the Vikramaditya.  Long range anti-aircraft missiles are a major part of the carrier air defenses and Barak 1 will do until Barak 8 is ready. Barak 1 was installed as an upgrade for an older Indian carrier that is supposed to be decommissioned in 2016 and served well.

The original Barak 1 missile was introduced in the 1980s and was purchased by the Indian Navy in 2000. Each Barak 1 missile weighs 98 kg (216 pounds) and has a 21.8 kg (48 pound) warhead. These missiles were also mounted in an eight cell container. The radar system provides 360 degree coverage and the missiles can take down an incoming missile as close as 500 meters away from the ship. The missile has a range of ten kilometers and is also effective against aircraft. India has bought over $300 million worth of these systems.

While Israeli warships already have Barak 8 installed, the delays for India are all about the persistent Indian problems with managing the development of military technology. India and Israel have a deal to jointly develop and manufacture Barak 8. India calls their version LRSAM (Long Range Surface to Air Missile) and while most (70 percent) of the development work has been done in Israel, India is the major customer because it is buying $1.1 billion worth of LRSAM for their warships. Since India has a larger navy, they will be the major user. The two countries evenly split the $350 million development cost. The Indian delay is because of problems developing features India wanted and some Indian made components in LRSAM. While the Barak 8 was installed in Israeli ships in late 2013, Israel cannot just install Barak 8 in Vikramaditya until the two countries resolve some differences over the transfer of some Israeli technology to India. This has also been a problem with other Western nations, and the Indian government has not been willing to change Indian laws and patent protections to avoid these problems.

Over the last few years India found that they had a major problem with LRSAM; they did not have enough engineers in the government procurement bureaucracy to quickly and accurately transfer the Israeli technical data to the Indian manufacturers. In addition, some of the Indian firms that were to manufacture Barak 8 components either misrepresented their capabilities or did not know until it was too late that they did not have the personnel or equipment to handle the job.

Meanwhile, Israel has already manufactured and installed Barak 8 on its three 1,075 ton Saar 5 class corvettes. Thus Barak 8 was ready for action over a year before its scheduled 2015 service date. Israel is believed to have rushed this installation because Russia has sent high speed Yakhont anti-ship missiles to Syria and Barak 8 was designed to deal with this kind of threat. Barak 8 is also Israel’s first air defense system equal to the American Patriot (and similar systems like the U.S. Navy SM-2, Russian S-300, and European Aster 15). An improved Barak 8 would be able to shoot down short range ballistic missiles.

The Barak 8 is a 275 kg (605 pound) missile with a 60 kg (132 pound) warhead and a range of 70 kilometers. The warhead has its own seeker that can find the target despite most countermeasures. The missiles are mounted in a three ton, eight cell container (which requires little maintenance), and are launched straight up. The compact (for easy installation on a ship) fire control module weighs under two tons.



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