by Faran Awais Butt
[Terminal X Analysis]
Radars can be classified into a number of different categories such as application, operating frequency, deployment and technology. This article will fundamentally discuss ground-based radars and analyze a few that are presently in use by two rival South Asian nuclear powers, Pakistan and India.
Radar technology is a domain in which every nation is trying to gain superiority. There has been a rapid increase in the sophistication of weapons in order to tackle the hostility of threats. After World War II, a significant amount of work has been done in the research and development of radars. However, as the technology kept progressing, its countermeasures also started to develop. Radars in the L-band are primarily ground-based and ship-based systems that are used in long range military and air traffic control search operations. Most ground and ship-based medium range radars operate in the S-band. The X-band is used for radar systems where the size of the antenna gets very small. Many of the airborne radars usually fall into this category.
These days, the preferred military radar would be one which is better suited to overcome the effects of electronic countermeasures that an airborne threat imposes on it. If we talk about jammers, they target the operating frequency of the radar and for that, the most effective method is the use of frequency agility in which the radar keeps on changing its operating frequency. This frequency agility is available in the latest GIRAFFE radars that Pakistan has. It refers to the radars ability to rapidly change its operating frequency in a pseudo-random fashion to maintain a narrow instantaneous bandwidth over a wide operating bandwidth. Nowadays, the biggest threat to a country can be a stealth target in its vicinity and the technology to counter that is neither available to Pakistan nor to India. Pakistan is especially mindful of this case post the so-called Operation Neptune Spear at Abbottabad.
The Indian Air Force has significantly improved its air defence capabilities by acquiring the Integrated Air Command and Control Systems thus connecting all of its modern and legacy radars under one single grid. The Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO) is influxed with a sufficiently good budget and is striving well for a better air defence system for India. Noticeable radars that India has are the Arudhra, Supervision-2000 and Swordfish which are no better than Pakistans GIRAFFE, Skyguard and Chinese YLC radars.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has deployed its Arudhra radars in most of the forward and strategic air force stations in Rajasthan and Gujarat along Pakistans border. They are also deploying medium power radars along this border which have been developed by the DRDO with the assistance of Israel. The Arudhra is a four-dimensional active array radar which can provide detection till up to 300 km.
Pakistan is equipped with GIRAFFE radars which provide surveillance and air defence command and control systems tailored for operations with medium and short range air defence missile or gun systems or for use as gap-fillers in a larger air defence system. They provide multi-beam three-dimensional air coverage at 5.4 to 5.9 GHz with instrumented ranges of 30 km (19 mi), 60 km (37 mi) and 100 km (62 mi); the altitude coverage is extended from ground-level to 20,000 metres (66,000 ft) with 70-degree elevation coverage. GIRAFFE radars also give automatic hovering helicopter detection, which is an artillery and mortar locating function that allow the radars to detect incoming rounds and give 20 seconds or more of warning before impact. A skilled crew can deploy these radars in around 10 minutes and recover it in around 6 minutes.
Costly machines like radars have a maximum life limit and they require a high level of maintenance and overhauling. It is hence not so easy for them to be operational 24/7. A multistatic radar system can be much effective for situations which require more vigilance.
Pakistan needs to upgrade its airborne radars as well. Its rival India is spending a lot of money on airborne radars. Pakistan has also included the KLJ-7, an X-band Chinese radar, whose indigenous production has started at Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra (PAC Kamra). An Airborne Early Warning & Control system (AEW&C) is an airborne radar system which can detect aircrafts, ships and vehicles from long distances. Modern aircrafts can detect aircrafts from as far as 400 km which makes them a great attraction for scientists and strategists. The PAF has the Saab 2000 ERIEYE AEW&C from Sweden.
Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) are also in Pakistan's possession because in some way, they serve the core purpose of ground-based radars. The PAF has ZDK-03 AWACS planes. The P3C Orion aircraft, which were in possession of the Pakistan Navy, were targeted during an attack on PNS Mehran back in 2011. A similar attack took place at Minhas Air Base in Kamra where a Saab 2000 ERIEYE AEW&C plane was targeted. It is worth reiterating that Pakistan has to prioritize radars and watch out for prevailing threats while its military forces are already engaged in country-wide counterterrorism operations.
The IAF has purchased custom-made Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft fitted with Phalcon radars from Israel. The A-50E/I Phalcon, which India has fitted, has more range and payload to carry but one has to look for the area as well. India is far bigger than Pakistan and its terrain demands such an AWACS. Hence, on an overall, I would rate the surveillance capabilities of India and Pakistan to be of almost equal proportion.
The three-dimensional Central Acquisition Radar (3D-CAR) is a three-dimensional radar developed by the DRDO which is capable of tracking 150 targets. India has further developed its 3D-CAR into the all new and locally-produced Rohini and Revathi variants. The Rohini is the IAF-specific variant whereas the Revathi is for the Indian Navy. They replace the original joint development items such as the planar array antenna with new indigenously-developed ones which are more capable than the original design. A third variant, known as the 3D Tactical Control Radar has been developed for the Indian Army and has cleared trials.
Another interesting radar which the DRDO is developing is Rajendra. It is a multi-function phased array radar capable of engaging low radar cross section targets. Phased arrays provide beam agility and flexibility. They have effective radar resource management (multi-function capability), more over they have the ability to perform adaptive pattern control.
The PAF had acquired TPS-77 radars from Lockheed Martin, which have the unique capability to provide valley coverage and long range detection capabilities. If we compare Indias Rajendra radar with a TPS-77, we can observe that the latter is better in surveillance and engaging of targets. It is a mobile, active phased array, long range, L-band, three-dimensional solid-state radar designed to perform airspace surveillance missions. It also has an advantage of being active in nature unlike the Rajendra which is passive. Furthermore, the TPS-77 radar can be deployed in a single C-130 and by only two medium trucks. It can be operated by a crew of 6 and set up can be done in less than 30 minutes. The radar system provides detection and tracking against targets till a distance of 450 km.
It is interesting to note that India, although jointly collaborating with allied countries in the defence sphere, is working on the latest radar technology completely on its own. Pakistan should look to capitalize the benefits which it can gain from the US-made TPS-77. It can be further divided into units which can somehow wok as a multistatic system. Also, by having independent antennas, it can have a very effective frequency agile system.
Russias Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics limited (HAL) are working on a project, the Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF), whose objective is to make the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA); it is expected to be in operation by 2015. India, on the other hand, is also working on an autonomous Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) 'AURA', developed for the IAF by the DRDO. Clearly, the most expected threats for Pakistan are the FGFA and AURA.
Pakistan has a fine air defence system against jamming techniques but there is still a dire need to make efforts in overcoming the threats of stealth. India has been working on stealth in collaboration with Russia. Pakistan had already been a victim of this technology and is also under threat from its western border, besides the eastern. The country should make efforts to bring affordable stealth capabilities to its system, which will certainly take a considerable time to adopt. Instead, it should instead make efforts to build or design counters to these stealth systems. Additionally, Pakistan should also consider using radars operating on the lower side of L-band on the borders to make detection stronger.
Neither Pakistan nor India have any notable superiority over each other as regards radar technology. Those who claim India is better in this field should have a look at the official website of the IAF which states that recent analysis of accidents reveal that the ground infrastructure in terms of surveillance and precision radars, navigational aids, communications and other supporting systems need to be revamped.
The writer holds a Masters in Computer Engineering from the Lahore University of Management Sciences and is currently a lecturer at a renowned private university in Pakistan. His research work on "Radar ECCM Against Deception Jamming" has been filed in the US patent office, funded by Higher Education Commission Pakistan. He is a member of Terminal X and serves the organization as an Electronic Warfare Specialist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet to @FaRaNawaisbutt
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