Naval Air: Indian Carrier Tribulations Are Not Over


December 5, 2013: The new Russian built Indian aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, was turned over to the Indian Navy on November 16th and left for India ten days later. There’s one major problem however. Vikramaditya is not combat ready yet. When Vikramaditya arrives at its home port in late January it will be without its primary LRSAM/Barak 8 anti-aircraft missile system. Vikramaditya is supposed to be fully operational by mid-2014, but that won’t happen until it receives its Israeli designed air defense system. In the meantime, the carrier does have several AK-630 Russian made six-barrel 30mm close-in weapon systems (CIWS), for defense against anti-ship missiles, as well as MiG-29 fighters. But the long range anti-aircraft missiles are a major part of the air defenses.

It’s all about persistent Indian problems with managing the development of military technology. India and Israel have a deal to jointly develop and manufacture the new Barak 8 anti-aircraft missile. India calls their version LRSAM (Long Range Surface to Air Missile) and while most (70 percent) of the development work has been done in Israel, India is the major customer (buying $1.1 billion worth of LRSAM/Barak 8 for their warships). Because India has a larger navy, they will be the major user. The two countries evenly split the $350 million development cost. The Indian delay is because of problems developing features India wanted and some Indian made components in LRSAM. While the Barak 8 is being installed in some Israeli ships right now, Israel cannot just install Barak 8 in Vikramaditya until the two countries resolve some differences over the transfer of some Israeli technology to India. This has also been a problem with other Western nations, and the Indian government has not been willing to change Indian laws and patent protections to avoid these problems.

Over the last few years India found that they had a major problem with LRSAM; they did not have enough engineers in the government procurement bureaucracy to quickly and accurately transfer the Israeli technical data to the Indian manufacturers. In addition, some of the Indian firms that were to manufacture Barak 8 either misrepresented their capabilities or did not know until it was too late that they did not have the personnel or equipment to handle the manufacturing of Barak 8 components.

Meanwhile, Israel is already manufacturing and installing the new Barak 8 on its three 1,075 ton Saar 5 class corvettes. This means Barak 8 will be ready for action over a year before its scheduled 2015 service date. Israel is believed to be rushing this installation because Russia has sent high speed Yakhont anti-ship missiles to Syria and Barak 8 was designed to deal with this kind of threat. Barak 8 is also Israel’s first air defense system equal to the American Patriot (and similar systems like the U.S. Navy SM-2, Russian S-300, and European Aster 15). An improved Barak 8 would be able to shoot down short range ballistic missiles.

The Barak 8 is a 275 kg (605 pound) missile with a 60 kg (132 pound) warhead and a range of 70 kilometers. The warhead has its own seeker that can find the target despite most countermeasures. The missiles are mounted in a three ton, eight cell container (which requires little maintenance), and are launched straight up. The compact (for easy installation on a ship) fire control module weighs under two tons.

The original Barak 1 missile was introduced in the 1980s and is also used by the Indian Navy. Each Barak 1 missile weighs 98 kg (216 pounds) and has a 21.8 kg (48 pound) warhead. These missiles were also mounted in an eight cell container. The radar system provides 360 degree coverage and the missiles can take down an incoming missile as close as 500 meters away from the ship. The missile has a range of ten kilometers and is also effective against aircraft. India has bought over $300 million worth of these systems.




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