Five Deadly Indian Tactical Weapons China Fears: From Nuclear Attack Submarines to BrahMos Cruise Missiles
With one of the largest defence budgets in the world, and as the world’s largest arms importer, India’s armed forces today field a very formidable arsenal of tactical weapons systems across their three services. Russia has long been a primary source of armaments, from nuclear attacks submarines to battle tanks and fighter jets, and defence ties between the two countries have grown close over several decades providing India’s armed forces with access to several unique types of armaments not offered to other export clients. India has not only purchased top of the line Russian systems, but has also acquired them in uniquely large quantities – from a massive order for five S-400 units placed in October 2018 to orders for several thousand T-72 and T-90 tanks making it the largest foreign operator of all three weapons system. Although India’s relations with China have overall remained positive, clashes in the Galwan Valley area have highlighted the possibility for conflict and drew unprecedented attention to the types of assets which could prove pivotal in a conflict. The capabilities of the five most outstanding of these are explored below:
Su-30MKI Heavyweight Fighter
The Su-30MKI forms the backbone of the Indian Air Force with over 250 in service and dozens more planned, and they represent the heaviest and most capable fighters in the Indian inventory. The Su-30MKI can be equipped for a strike role with the BrahMos cruise missile, and as a bomber with a range of guided munitions including both indigenous platforms and the Israeli SPICE 2000. The fighter’s twin seat configuration optimises it for such a role and allows it to accommodate a weapons systems officer behind the pilot. The Su-30MKI is particularly prized for its air to air capabilities, and deploys a wide range of anti aircraft missile types including the Russian K-100 ‘AWACS killer’ with a 3-400km range, the R-77 and R-27ER with ranges of 110km and 130km respectively, and the Astra jointly developed with Russia with a range of approximately 105km. The fighters benefit from a very high endurance, a high speed and altitude ceiling, and a large and very powerful radar providing excellent situational awareness. The Su-30MKI is considered a match for the J-11B which forms the backbone of China’s heavyweight fleet, with the Indian jet retaining a manoeuvrability advantage at short ranges due to its thrust vectoring engines. Its ability to go head to head with more elite Chinese fighter classes such as the J-16 and J-20, however, remains highly questionable – with the deployment of these new aircraft expected to raise Indian interest in acquiring more advanced next generation aircraft of its own. The Indian Defence Ministry has already shown considerable interest in acquiring the Russian Su-57 fighter, either as part of a licence production deal or ‘off the shelf,’ which would help to bridge the gap with newer Chinese fighters and complement the large Su-30 fleet. Upgrades to the Su-30 based on Su-35 technologies, including integration of new AL-41 engines and an Irbis-E radar, have also been offered by Russia.
Akula Class Nuclear Attack Submarine
The Soviet Union’s foremost class of nuclear attack submarine, the Akula Class boast performance advantages in traditional fields of Russian superiority while also challenging the American stealth advantage with unprecedented quietness. India deploys a single one of these ships commissioned in 2012, the INS Chakra, and the ship maintains the steel double hulls typical of Soviet designs providing a survivability advantage over Western designs. The Chakra benefits from access to powerful 3M-54E Kalibr cruise missiles designed to engage ships with a sea skimming trajectory at high speeds of around Mach 3. At over $3 billion each, the warship is among the most costly in the world and is considered the most dangerous in the Indian fleet. The Akula design has been modernised considerably since it first became operational with new armaments, improved sensors and further reduction of noise to improve survivability. The submarine represents a particularly valuable asset considering the relatively weak anti-submarine warfare capabilities of China and Pakistan, meaning that if operating in open ocean far from enemy waters it is likely to be extremely survivable. India is considering leasing two more Akula Class ships for its Navy, which would provide one of the most formidable nuclear attack submarine fleets in the world.
Brahmos Cruise Missile
Jointly developed by India and Russia, and based loosely on the Russian P-800 anti ship cruise missile, separate variants of the BrahMos are fielded by the Navy, Air Force and Army for anti shipping ands standoff precision strikes. The missile is cable of reaching speeds of Mach 3 and benefits from an advanced precision guidance system allowing it to engage mobile targets reliably. The missile is reported to have torn warships in half upon impact with its sheer speed, which combined with its long range and considerable payload makes it a very potent asset. Naval variants of the BrahMos have revolutionised India’s long range anti shipping capabilities, although their capabilities are still relatively lacking compared to Chinese rivals such as the YJ-18 which have some similar characteristics but much longer ranges. Those in the army deployed from mobile launch vehicles have provided an effective complement to India’s tactical ballistic missile arsenal. The latest variant to become operational, the air launched variant has been in service since late 2019 and is paired with India’s most formidable and longest ranged fighter the Su-30MKI. Although its range is shorter than the SCALP missile which will equip India’s French built Rafale fighters, the BrahMos is approximately four times as fast and is considerably more difficult to intercept. This combined with its ability to reliably engage warships, which the SCALP notably lacks, and its use of the heavier and much longer ranged Su-30MKI as a launch platform makes it a much more dangerous asset. BrahMos missiles launched by the fighters will benefit not only from the Su-30’s long range, but also from their high speed and altitude ceiling which provide the missiles with considerable energy upon launch. The low altitude ceiling and below average speed of the Rafale and its much shorter range impose restrictions on its own capabilities for delivery of air to ground missiles.
T-90MS Battle Tank
Following purchases of overr 2500 T-72 tanks, India has moved to gradually phase the older but still formidable platforms out of frontline service in favour of the T-90MS. The tanks have been built under licence in India and over 1000 are currently in service with several hundred more on order. The underperformance of the indigenous Arjun battle tank program, over 10 years behind schedule and with capabilities which the Indian Army has been reluctant to consider sufficient, means the T-90MS is likely to retain its importance – possibly alongside the newer fourth generation T-14 in which India has also shown considerable interest. The possibility of upgrading the T-90MS with T-14 technologies, much like Russia has done with the new T-90M, also remains a significant possibility – particularly as the capabilities of rival Chinese tanks such as the Type 99A continue to improve. While China’s most advanced tanks are capable of going head to head with the T-90MS, the older Type 96 which forms the bulk of Chinese armoured could well struggle particularly given the sheer numbers of Indian tanks deployed.
S-400 Air Defence System
Although India has yet to receive its first S-400 batteries, the country remains by far the largest foreign client for the system having purchase five separate units for over $5 billion. The S-400, and its more mobile counterpart the S-300V4, are considered the most capable multirole air defence systems available for export in the world today. The system is particularly prized for deployment of multiple powerful interconnected radars to provide unrivalled situational awareness. These can not only detect but also lock onto and track stealth aircraft, which is considerably more difficult. While China has not deployed any stealth fighters under its WesternTheatreCommand facing India, with its entire J-20 fleet thought to deployed under the Eastern Command facing Japan, Taiwan and U.S. forces, China’s emergence as a world leader in stealth technologies with considerable investment in the field has made the S-400 a valuable asset for India. The system can engage aircraft up to 250km away at hypersonic Mach 14 speeds, and if equipped with the 40N6E missile which Chinese and Russian S-400 batteries already deploy this will increase to 400km. The S-400 deploys over half a dozen classes of surface to air missile, and can engage up to 80 targets simultaneously including high speed cruise and ballistic missiles.
Source:- Military Magazine