Air Warriors and their Weapons

In the Indian context, there is a huge requirement to indigenise the rockets, missiles and bombs of the MiG-29, with commonality with the Indian Air Force, which presents a huge opportunity for joint ventures/transfer of technology.

Issue: 3 / 2014By Admiral (Retd) Dr S. KulshresthaPhoto(s): By US Navy

The armament carried today by maritime aircraft and helicopters includes depth charges, bombs, lightweight torpedoes and anti-ship cruise missiles.

Air Dropped Depth Charges and Bombs. British Aerospace BAE Systems had developed the Mk 11 depth charge for air delivery from maritime aircraft and helicopters. The design of Mk 11 depth charge caters specifically for shallow water operations against submarines on the surface or at periscope depths. It is fully compatible for carriage and release from a wide-range of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters and fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft. Bofors Underwater Systems (now Saab Dynamics) developed the BDC 204 depth charge for air delivery from maritime aircraft and helicopters of the Swedish Navy. Four different weight categories and with different sinking speeds ranging between 5.2 metres per second and 6.8 metres per second are available to cover a wide range of applications.

Two air dropped bomb upgrade kits worth mentioning are joint direct attack munition (JDAM) by Boeing Corporation and the dual mode laser guided bomb (DMLGB) by Lockheed Martin. The JDAM upgrades include GPS-aided inertial navigation system with a range of up to 24 km. The DMLGB kit provides LGBs with a semi-active laser, GPS/INS guidance.

Air launched Torpedoes. Stingray is a light-weight torpedo manufactured by BAE Systems. It has a diametre of 324 mm, weight of 267 kg, and length of 2.6 metres. Its speed is 45 kts (about 83 kmph) with a range of 8 km and its warhead is 45 kg of Torpex explosive. It can dive up to 800 metres. Mk46 Mod5 torpedo is the mainstay of US Navy’s air-launched light-weight torpedoes. Alliant Tech Systems manufacture it. It has a diameter of 324 mm, length of 2.59 metres, with a weight of 231 kg. It runs on Otto fuel, has a range of 11 km with a speed of 40 kts (about 74 kmph) and can dive upto 365 metres. The Mk 54 lightweight torpedo of Raytheon is a hybrid of technologies taken from MK 46, MK48 and MK50 torpedoes. It is supposed to have homing and warhead of the MK 50 and propulsion package of the MK 46 torpedo. P-8i aircraft of the Indian Navy are to be equipped with this torpedo. The A244/S developed by WAAS and currently manufactured by the Euro Torp consortium is a 324 mm diameter, 2.8 m long, and 244 kg weight torpedo. It has a cruise/surge speed of 30/39 kts (about 55/79 kmph), with a range of 6 km and depth up to 600 m. It has special signal processing to distinguish target from decoys. A244/S Mod 3 is the latest upgrade, which has more powerful propulsion battery, ensuring a 50 per cent increase in the endurance of the weapon to 13.5 km. The MU90/IMPACT torpedo by Euro Torp is a 323.7 mm ‘NATO Standard’ calibre, 2.85 mm long with a weight of 304 kg weapon. An aluminium-silver oxide seawater battery using dissolved sodium-dioxide powder as electrolyte with a closed-loop electrolyte re-circulation system powers it. The control and guidance electronics has embedded operational and tactical software including the signal processing, the data processing and the torpedo guidance algorithms, which enable continuous updating of its configuration and tactics.

Low-Cost-Anti-Submarine Weapon (LCAW). A200/A is a miniature torpedo developed by WASS. It is a low-cost option, which provides propulsion and guidance to a depth charge without the costs of a torpedo. The A200/A version has a length of 914.4 mm, weight of 12 kg, and a diameter of 123.8 mm. The warhead is a 2.5 kg PBX shaped charge and the LCAW has an operating depth from 15 m to 300 m. It has a speed of about 18 kts with a range of 2 km.

Anti-ship Missiles. Sea Skua manufactured by MBDA (UK) is a 145 kg, 2.5 m long anti-shipping missile primarily launched from helicopters like Westland Lynx. It uses solid fuel, has a 30 kg SAP, RDX warhead, and has range of 25 km. It utilises semi-active radar guidance system. RBS-15 is a long-range ASM manufactured by Saab Dynamics. It is an 800 kg, 4.33 m long turbojet missile with a range of 250 km and has a 200 kg HE warhead. It is a sub-sonic sea skimmer using, GPS, inertial and active radar guidance. MBDA is the manufacturer of EXOCET AM 39. It is a 670 kg, 4.69 m long high subsonic missile with a range of 70 km. It uses solid propellant turbo jet engine and has inertial and terminal active radar guidance with a 165 kg insensitive warhead. Manufactured by Boeing, AGM-84 Harpoon Block II is an 1,160 lb, 151.5 in missile with a range of 67 nm. It has a turbo jet cruise engine with a solid booster and uses GPS aided inertial guidance with terminal active guidance. It has a 500 lb last warhead. Indian Navy has ordered this missile as a weapon outfit for its P-8i aircraft.

In the Indian context, there is a huge requirement to indigenise the rockets, missiles and bombs of the MiG-29, with commonality with the Indian Air Force, which presents a huge opportunity for JV/ToT. There would be a weapon package requirement (anti-shipping cruise missiles, ASW etc) for replacement/upgrades of IL-38 and TU142s. Weapons for naval version of the LCA will also be required.

The author is former DG NAI and Senior Fellow New Westminster College, Canada