SOURCE: VINAYAK SHETTY / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Earlier this year Pakistan confirmed first successful test of the submarine-launched Babur missile. dubbed Babur-3, Pakistani have been very vocal that Sub-Sonic Babur-3 is a Nuclear capable Cruise missile which can carry a tactical nuclear bomb up to 450 km towards its target and it completes Pakistan’s nuclear triad.
Pakistan also has developed Air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) Raad which can also carry a nuclear warhead up to 350km and recently Pakistan also confirmed the development of Raad-II which has improved range of 550km. Pakistani Military has made it clear that to complete its Nuclear triad their go-to weapons will be Subsonic cruise missiles which pose real threats to targets even in India, which bring out a new level of threats since they are harder to detect.
Subsonic cruise missiles unlike ballistic missiles which can be detected by Ground Radars once it is high in the earth’s atmosphere, Subsonic cruise follow the tree-top level of cruising and hug the ground to stay below the line of sight of Ground radars and other sensors which present a completely different set of challenges for missile defence.
Present missile defence systems like MR-SAM and QR-SAM along with Akash SAM System can perfect to Intercept slow moving targets but early detection is key and since Pakistani military doctrine allows use of Subsonic cruise missiles to be used as Nuclear delivery platform it makes it much harder for India to ignore development of dedicated Anti-cruise Missile System since India will never know which cruise missile fired from Pakistan will be carrying a Nuke .
In Anti-cruise Missile System detection is more important than missile system since present Surface-to-Air Missle systems are perfectly fine to be used for taking down Subsonic cruise missiles but a dedicated low-key missile system specially designed to be used against Cruise Missile, drones or Air-to-Surface missiles will only improve India’s Missile Shield Umbrella in the long run.
Since detection is a crucial factor in an Anti-cruise Missile System, dedicated aerial platforms or some sort of airborne sensors will become a major factor which will come in handy to improve detection of low flying cruise missiles in the first place. But Since AEWACS and AWACS Airborne Warning System cannot be in Air for long periods of time an alternative cheaper but effective system needs to be developed which will be part of the Cruise Missile System.
Many Defence experts have suggested use of deployment of balloon-mounted radars or use of HALE Class Unmanned Aerial Vehicles which can carry radar and sensor pods to search for cruise missiles since they can stay up in air for 24-36 hours in and are cheaper to operate and few of this can cover wide search area but it is still cannot provide 100% detection since Submarine Launched Cruise Missile can be fired from sea and the submarine can surface in any part of the coast but range and likely targets can help plan better deployment of this airborne radars .
DRDO and other agencies have already expressed interested in idea of development of a Cruise Missile System in near future and it will be interesting to see how our government and Military planners plan to tackle this threat level but rise of cruise missiles in the region and use of this cruise missile has nuclear delivery system will likely clear path for need of an Anti-Cruise Missile System sooner or later .