By Fang Xiaozhi
India has recently completed the development of its homemade ballistic missile defense system and all the tests have been successful. The Indian Air Force and the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the system developer, are seeking the approval to install and activate this system near the capital city of New Delhi, which is expected to take three or four years.
India has been working to develop its own anti-missile system for a long time, and even formed a cross-service committee to conduct comprehensive and elaborate research on the technology, combat capability and cost of establishing a missile defense network covering the whole country. It has developed a “two-step” strategy, which means that theater/tactical ballistic missile defense system that is of a low technological level will be deployed first, which will then be upgraded gradually to the strategic defense system.
The successful development of homemade missile defense system marks a critical step forward on India’s way to achieving that goal, laying a solid foundation for it to establish the Indian-style missile defense network and maintain its strategic superiority in South Asia.
However, missile defense system is a very complicated project that reflects a major country’s overall strength, and it requires a thorough and solid technical foundation in terms of anti-missile early warning system, missile interception system and command and control system, in all of which India has nothing much to say for itself. Compared with Russia, the US, Israel and other countries with strong anti-missile capabilities, India’s technology is completely left behind and its R&D has had too many twists and turns. Besides, it has conducted too few tests, far from enough for it to fully understand the technology.
Furthermore, India has adopted the most conservative plan in all its anti-missile tests - only intercepting a target whose launching spot, flying velocity and direction, altitude or ballistic parameters are all known and there is no actively maneuvering and changing trajectory. This testing approach of “hitting a fixed target” doesn’t comply with real combat situation, nor can it truly test the anti-missile system’s stability and reliability, so the testing results are hardly reliable.
Besides, India heavily relies on developed countries for ballistic missile defense technology, and many parts of its homemade missile defense system use foreign technologies, which has seriously restricted the system’s combat capability.
Generally speaking, although India has made considerable progress in the independent R&D and deployment of ballistic missile defense system in recent years, it is still faced with a string of difficulties, such as inadequate capital, unsmooth R&D process, heavy reliance on other countries regarding key technology, and incomplete system. New Delhi has a long way to go before it can establish a truly effective ballistic missile defense system and fully exert its real combat force.
Disclaimer: The author is a researcher at the BRI Institute of Strategy and International Security, Fudan University. This article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.