The Swedish defense company, Saab, has offered the RBS 70 NG for the Indian tri-service tender for Very Short Range Air Defense (VSHORAD) systems. The tender is for an initial order estimated to be worth INR 27,000 crore (USD 5.4 billion) for over 800 launchers and over 5,000 missiles. Saab says it has sold more than 1600 systems and 17,000 missiles to 18 countries. This could be its single largest order if it works out for them.
Bo Almqvist, Vice President at Saab briefed StratPost on the system, the advanced NG variant of which was first tested earlier this month at Karlskoga in Sweden. The test was conducted before representatives of 17 countries, including the Defense Attache of India and five targets were taken out – three in the daytime and two at night time, with three direct hits and two proximity hits.
Targets included a dummy missile placed on a vertical platform around 4.5 kilometers away and an aircraft-towed aerial target flying at a height of 500 meters, tracked from a distance of six kilometers and requiring an elevation of around 30 degrees. This aerial target had a vertical height of around two feet. Such targets typically have a Hot Spot, which raises the temperature of the target by a few degrees above the surrounding air. But this target had no Hot Spot and Bo explained why.
Almqvist, who has a Ph.D in Theoretical Physics and a thesis on Quarks and Leptons, has lost none of his academic enthusiasm and vigorously scribbles on the whiteboard to explain the different systems.
He begins by distinguishing the operator line of sight-guided RBS 70 NG from systems guided by Infra Red Homing. Heat-sensing homing guidance systems, he says, are susceptible to deception by counter-measures dispensed by target aircraft, like chaff or flares.
“But how do you jam a laser beam?” he asks. Since the RBS 70 NG is a ‘beam-rider’, steered by a user-operated laser beam, it cannot be deceived and diverted by such counter-measures. Of the other comparable systems, only the Thales Starstreak is laser-guided as well. Not prepared to disclose the effective range of the laser beam guiding the missile, he says, “It’s good for six kilometers.”
The missile used in the system, the Bolide, has a range of eight kilometers, exceeding the six-kilometer requirement of the tender, and the system itself is claimed to have an altitude coverage ‘in excess of 5,000 meters’, according to a company statement.
Another disadvantage of IR Homing guidance systems, says Almdqist, is that they are ineffective within 20 degrees of the position of the sun, leaving a cone of ineffectiveness from the position of the operator with an angle of 40 degrees, which would create a circle of ineffectiveness of around 13 square kilometers in the sky around the position of the sun (assuming conical side distances of six kilometers).
The degree of ineffectiveness for the laser-guided, line of sight operated system is 1-2 degrees around the position of the sun, he says.
Typically, three to five units of the operating a system each are connected to a single surveillance radar, which alerts and guides them towards possible targets. Saab says the system includes integrated thermal imager and night sight capability, three-dimensional target designation, automatic target detection. The auto-tracker aids the missile operator during engagement, allowing him to visually cue the target on the monitor. In case the operator changes his mind and wishes to abort the hit, he simply has to take away the tracker and self-destruct the missile, says Almqvist.
He says the operator also has option of selecting the part of the aircraft to be targeted. This gives the operator the choice to merely scare off or disable an aircraft, if he chooses not to bring it down completely. In the IR Homing system, the missile would likely go towards the engine, the hottest part of the aircraft.
He also points out that unlike other comparable systems, which can operate only with an elevation of at least 5 degrees from the horizon, the RBS 70 NG has no such restrictions and can zero in on ground targets like armored vehicles as well.
The RBS 70 NG can only be operated with a code input locking system to prevent unauthorized use and comes with a 16 kilometer-range HARD (Helicopter and Aeroplane Radar Detection) radar system for tracking targets. This can be containerized or vehicle-mounted. The system also has an IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) receiver to prevent errors in identification of targets. Almqvist says the system is effective against Unmanned Aerial/Remotely Piloted Vehicles (UAVs/RPVs), fighter aircraft, helicopters, Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and can even take out cruise missiles.Saab says the modularity of the system also allows it to be used in a remotely controlled configuration. “These deployments can last several weeks or more in around-the-clock operations,” says the company.
The NG variant improves upon the older RBS 70 system with a new day and night sight, which is also lighter by around eight kilograms. The system earlier required a clip-on sight for night operations. The newer version also incorporates visual cueing, an upgrade from the audio beeps which earlier guided the operator.
The tender has also asked for a naval variant of the system, with anti-corrosive qualities. The effective range of the naval variant could be slightly lower due to the presence of crud caused by moisture which might affect the integrity of the laser beam.
Offset proposals for the tender to comply with the 30 percent offset requirement of the Defense Procurement Procedure (DPP) were submitted in June and the process is currently at the stage of technical evaluation. User trials are expected to take place early next year.
Note: 1 crore = 10 million