Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Revving Up Radar Tech: Calling On Private Sector Involvement

By Staff Correspondent

India’s expanding defence apparatus has created an increasing demand for a plethora of battlefield surveillance and weapon-locating radars. This unfolding scenario calls for deeper engagement from the country’s private sector, which is already playing a role in providing state-of-the-art technology and solutions. The state-owned Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), in conjunction with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), a defence public sector undertaking (PSU), has been seen, by industry analysts, as having done commendable work in developing and producing a series of radars, thereby bolstering the nation’s defence capabilities.

Modern warfare has evolved significantly from traditional approaches, stressing the need for mobile, modular and interconnected sensor networks to augment situational awareness for soldiers on the battlefield. The advent of new-generation advanced battlefield radars has seen lighter, compact designs that require less power, are more portable, and are significantly more maintenance-friendly.

However, according to defence-technology observers, the momentum of technological advancement will necessitate a more significant role for private sector entities in the future, particularly in aspects such as design and development (D&D), production, and life-cycle support, including upgrades. This collaborative model would also benefit DRDO and BEL, allowing them to focus on developing more significant, strategic, and expensive systems for the Indian Armed Forces.

The Indian Army is observing a growing requirement for Low-Level Light Weight Radars (LLLWR), essentially mobile radars capable of covering a range of 50 km. For deployment in arduous terrains, these can be transported by various means, including animal carts, trucks, or helicopters. “The vast requirement by the Indian Armed and Paramilitary Forces for lightweight mobile radars offers ample business prospects for Indian private sector firms, paving the way for significant opportunities,” said defence analyst Major General VK Madhok (r).

Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) is one such firm that has made its mark in this arena. After being awarded several contracts by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for supplying Surface Surveillance Radars (SSR) and shipborne 3D C/D Air Surveillance Radars, TASL is now manufacturing an entirely indigenous military radar at its Noida facility. This pioneering step has placed the company at the forefront of India’s private sector in the defence industry.

Additionally, the company has successfully integrated manufacturing Transfer of Technology (ToT) for the SSRs from its foreign technology partner, Terma A/S, Denmark. This move has not only led to the localisation of most of the parts for the radar system but also strengthened India’s position in defence manufacturing.

However, the increasing complexity of global geopolitical dynamics, particularly along India’s northern borders, has added a new layer of urgency to these developments. The Army Air Defence’s (AAD) recent request for proposal (RFP) for 40 new Low-Level Light Radars (Improved) – LLTR I – systems was triggered by the rapid infrastructure improvements undertaken by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). This has necessitated the need for advanced low-level aerial surveillance.

The Indian defence sector has made considerable strides in the development of lightweight, portable, and technologically advanced radar systems, such as the Battlefield Surveillance Radar-Short Range (BFSR-SR) developed by DRDO. This radar has proven to be a significant advantage for surveillance and detection of moving targets, with over 1,100 units believed to be in service.

Similarly, the BEL-Thales Systems Limited (BTSL) partnership has borne fruit with the development of the Ground Alerter 100. The passive radar technology employed in this system makes it completely undetectable, thereby offering a significant advantage in stealth operations. Moreover, the partnership has facilitated the development of variants that cater specifically to Indian requirements.

The induction of the Swathi Weapon Locating Radars (WLR) into the Indian armed forces is another case in point. The system, jointly developed by the DRDO lab and BEL, has been designed to locate hostile artillery and provide the direction of fire for friendly forces. With its ability to track seven targets simultaneously, the radar system significantly enhances India’s defence capabilities.

In essence, the broadening requirements of India’s military, fuelled by the increasing sophistication of battlefield technology, present a wealth of opportunities for the country’s private sector. Their engagement will be pivotal in fuelling the continued innovation and development of advanced radar systems. This, in turn, will be instrumental in strengthening India’s national security infrastructure, fortifying the nation against any possible threats and ensuring the safety of its citizens.

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