Future Weapon Technologies – Navy's Blueprint of 'Make in India'

“Come, make India your workplace. This is the best time ever to be in India and it’s even better to Make in India.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi while speaking at the ‘Make in India’ Week held from February 13-18, 2016, at Mumbai.

Issue: 1 / 2016By Lt General Naresh Chand (Retd)Photo(s): By WASS

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The Indian Navy (IN) has a tradition of over five decades of indigenisation in the field of design and construction of warships. Currently 48 state-of-the-art ships and submarines are under construction in government and private shipyards. To fulfill the ‘Make in India’ vision of the Government of India, IN has embarked upon a plan to achieve selfreliance in the design and manufacture of high–tech defence equipment. The plan has been articulated through a guide line document titled “Indian Naval Indigenisation Plan (INIP) 2015-30”, which supersedes the Indigenisation Plan published in 2008 for the period 2008-22. It may be brought out that the IN had the foresight to establish a Directorate of Indigenisation under a twostar Admiral, more than a decade back. They now plan to build the ‘Make in India’ vision on their experience gained through five decades of indigenisation. The document covers all aspects of the naval equipment including Marine engineering equipment; Electrical and electronic systems; Weapon, armament and sensors; Submarine equipment and systems; Aircraft handling equipment; Diving and special operations equipment; Naval aviation equipment and future technologies.

Categorisation of Ship’s Equipment. The equipment can be classified for warships and submarines as follows:

  • Float. This category includes all materials, equipment and systems associated with the hull structures and fittings. 90 per cent indigenisation has been achieved in this category.
  • Move. This category includes propulsion system, power generation diesel/gas/steam turbine engines, alternators, associated control systems and other associated equipment. 60 per cent indigenisation has been achieved in this category.
  • Fight. This category includes all types of ship-borne weapons and sensor systems that directly improve upon the combat capability of the ship. 30 per cent indigenisation has been achieved in this category.

It is clear from above that the areas of focus for achieving self-reliance are ‘Move and Fight’ category in which ‘Fight’ category is more critical. The aim of this article is to give the readers a glimpse of the IN’s future vision in the critical area of ‘Fight’ category.

Future Technologies – Fight category

The rapid developments in the field of defence electronics, ammunition and data processing are continuously reinventing the nature of the threats to naval platforms. Our potential adversaries including non-state actors are acquiring potent air-defence systems, anti-ship weapons, mines, torpedoes, and soft-kill weapons. Thus the ‘Fight’ capability has to match the threat to include hard and soft kill, operating in a networked environment. Adding the template of Cooperative Engagement Capabilities will integrate all the sensors to provide a composite threat picture which in turn will integrate the firepower of all net-worked platforms to make optimum use of them to destroy the hostile elements. The document thus stresses that the indigenous Research and Defence effort needs to be directed towards development of suitable missiles, guns and softkill weapons for anti-missile defence (AMD), precision longer range missiles for offensive action against ship and land targets, guns with suitable ranges for providing naval gun fire support (NGFS) and anti-ship and antisubmarine torpedoes.

Anti-Ship Missile Defence. This has to be provided by a mix of quick–reaction high performance surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, high rate of fire close-in weapon system (CIWS) guns and, in future, the employment of directed energy weapons (DEW).

Attack and Fire Support Missions. NGFS is provided by precision anti-ship missiles, land-attack missiles and thus suitable calibre guns with appropriate ammunition need to be developed / procured. Small calibre guns are also required for engaging small craft, boats, etc., when operating in the littoral environment or engaging nonstate actors in policing / low intensity conflict roles. Anti-ship and land-attack missiles should be capable of being launched from ships, submarines and aircraft.

The rapid developments in the field of defence electronics, ammunition and data processing are continuously reinventing the nature of the threats to naval platforms

Attack Missiles

Cruise and sea-skimming missiles launched from ships, submarines and aircraft are the most effective weapon for anti-shipping and for engaging land targets due to their accuracy and long range. The future systems will have to have a longer range, be stealthier, faster, and smarter with better electronic counter countermeasures capabilities to face future threats. Lockheed’s long range anti-ship missile (LRASM) programme was launched in 2009 to replace four decades old Harpoon. A two-pronged approach was initially undertaken with LRASM-A being a subsonic, low-flying and stealthy weapon and LRASM-B being a high-altitude supersonic, ramjet powered anti-ship missile, similar to the Russian BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missile. Due to financial constraints, LRASM-B was cancelled in 2012. The prominent features are that it will ‘intelligently’ sense and avoid hostile threats via an on-board passive radio frequency and threat warning receiver, equipped with an on-board datalink, advanced artificial intelligence software, low probability of intercept radar, imaging infrared sensor and an inertial navigation system with embedded GPS. In addition to LRASM’s own electronic ‘sniffing’ abilities, high fidelity off-board data can be sent to it via data link from external sensors. LRASM can also search for its own target autonomously, hundreds of km away from its launch point. LRASM is planned to be launched from an aerial platform as well as naval surface combatants. Range is expected to be 320 km but could have a variant of 1,600 km. There is a possibility of a submarine launched ground attack variant of LRASM also. Raytheon has claimed that their JSOW-ER missile system is cheaper and roughly as effective as Lockheed’s LRASM. IN already has naval version of BrahMos whose next generation is already under development in India. India will need an anti-ship missile on the lines of US’ LRASM. Nirbhay is already under development with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). DRDO also has a joint venture with Israel Aero space Industries to develop a next-generation LR SAM with a range of 70 km. The first trial firing has already been conducted during end December 2015.

Missile Guidance Systems. The cost of missile guidance systems is very high and in modern missiles it may be as much as 50 per cent of the total cost of the missile. The cost will depend upon the type of guidance systems. Infrared and video seekers, oneway command data links, GPS, and new Inertial Measurement Unit weapon navigation systems cost less as compared to two-way, high-data-rate links and long-range radar seekers. Another approach to reduce cost is to standardise components across the board for all missile systems. Cost is always an important criteria thus this aspect is to be kept in mind while developing guidance systems which will be co-developed along with the future missile systems.

Guns

Conventional guns have reached a plateau in terms of range and calibre as these are dictated by length of the barrel and the recoiling force which depends on the muzzle velocity (MV) during firing. Considerable research is already in progress in developed countries for the development of extended range guided munition projectiles for larger calibre (127mm, 155mm and even larger) guns. Thus more lethal NGFS capabilities for warships needs to be indigenously developed.

Extended Range Guided Munition (ERGM). The ERGM is a 12-calibre rocketassisted projectile capable of carrying a 4-caliber submunition. Unitary warhead constructs are also under consideration. The 110-pound aerodynamic projectile uses a coupled GPS/INS guidance system. MK45 Mod 4 will reach ranges in excess of 60 nm (about 111km) with accuracy and lethality. Raytheon Missile Systems is the prime contractor and the US Naval Surface Warfare Center is the Technical Design Agent.

Vulcano Ammunition. OTO MELARA is developing the Vulcano ammunition family which is based on sub-calibre with the guided version having aerodynamic controls and INS/GPS navigation. Two types of ammunition, i.e. unguided and guided versions are being developed both in the extended range and long range category. The calibre selected is 127mm for the naval version. Projected ranges for the unguided version is up to 70 km, while the range of the guided version is expected to be of up to 100 km when fired by the 127/54 calibre gun and of 120 km when fired by the new 127/64 calibre light weight gun.

Railgun. The electro-magnetic (EM) Railgun uses high-power EM energy instead of explosive chemical propellants to fire a projectile farther and faster than any current gun. Rail guns can achieve a MV of Mach 7-10. Such a high degree of MV makes projectiles fired from a Railgun more penetrating against hard targets and achieve a much longer range of about 160 km. BAE Systems has received a contract for design and production of the 32 Mega Joules (MJ) Laboratory Launcher for the US Navy. General Atomics is developing a Railgun called the Blitzer System on its own. EM Railgun comes under the category of kinetic energy weapons and is a cost effective option as compared to land attack missiles when a large amount of firepower/bombardment is required. Kinetic energy weapons are also comparatively safe and can be stored in larger numbers on warships.

Soft-kill Weapons

Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs). A DEW is a system which employs direct energy to damage or destroy adversary equipment, facilities, and personnel. The two basic types of DEWs include lasers and microwaves which are both part of the electromagnetic spectrum and are made of the same electromagnetic energy which consists of light and radio waves. DEW can be defined in terms of wavelength or frequency. The basic relation between the two is that higher the frequency, shorter will be the wavelength and vice versa. Thus the light waves can thus vary from a fraction of an atom in size to thousands of km long. DEWs operate at the speed of light, and hence are immune to the directional errors or gravitational effects. The energy can also be adjusted depending on the target and storage is not a problem on board a warship.

High Power Microwave Weapons (HPMW). HPMW consist of basically two major technologies. First are the millimetre wave devices which can be focused on a target at great distances and produce a burning sensation. An example of this is the Active Denial System. The second is the electromagnetic bomb, which can destroy electronic circuitry, communications networks, and harm organic matter at a distance, with a non-nuclear electromagnetic explosion (pulse).

Laser Weapons. Lasers consist of two basic groups, i.e. low and high energy. Lowenergy lasers can be used to disrupt vision and high-powered lasers can be used on people and material. High-energy lasers are already under advanced stages of development in the United States, China, Russia and Israel. US Navy is pursuing laser weapons very vigoursly to be deployed on naval surface ships as CIWS for providing effective defence against anti-ship missiles.

Underwater Weapons

Torpedoes, rockets and mines are the common underwater weapons. Out of these torpedoes are the most complex underwater weapons.

Torpedoes. Torpedoes have a large number of high-tech subassemblies like propulsion system; batteries; homing system for terminal guidance which includes homing head and a signal processing unit; gyro and control systems, and proximity fuse. The propulsion can be by a thermal engine or electrical. Homing head of most modern torpedoes have acoustic sensors. The homing head should also have acoustic counter countermeasure features to overcome countermeasures taken by the target such as jammers and decoys. A wake homing torpedo detects and homes on to bubbles that are created in the wake of the target ship. The Signal Processor Unit is the brain of the torpedo and is completely microprocessor based. Adding to the complexity is that it is wire guided. Raytheon’s MK 48 Mod 6 Advanced Technology is a heavyweight torpedo designed for optimum effectiveness against all targets, in both littoral and deep-water environments. In the lightweight category torpedoes is Raytheon’s MK 54 that can be deployed from a surface ship, helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft to track. It can classify and attack underwater targets. It uses sophisticated processing algorithms to analyse the information, edit out false targets or countermeasures, and then pursue identified threats. Black Shark is an advance, long-range, multi-purpose, heavyweight torpedo designed and developed by WAS in cooperation with the Italian Navy. The wire-guided heavyweight torpedo can be deployed to defend any surface or underwater targets and can be launched from submarines, surface vessels or land.

Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) System. Roketsan of Turkey has produced one of the most modern ASW systems which has properties like automatic direction capability; fragmentation at the desired distance and depth and insensitive munition (such a munition is chemically stable to withstand mechanical shocks, fire and when hit by a shrapnel but that can still destroy the target. It can be integrated with other weapon management systems and has a time fuze. It is used from surface platforms against subsurface platforms at a range between 500 and 2000 m and a depth of 15 – 300 m. Its launching system is stabilised, automatic pointing and lock – in with Sonar Data.

Mines. Mine design has advanced significantly in the last two decades with the introduction of smart processor based intelligent mines. Development of the lightweight/portable mines that can be launched from air to counter underwater threats is also underway.