Pakistan’s Focus on Babur and Raad Cruise Missiles

Introduction

Cruise missiles, unlike ballistic missiles, fly an essentially horizontal cruise path for most of the duration of its flight and can manoeuvre like an aircraft through way points. They are difficult to locate and provide a distinct advantage over ballistic missiles. These missiles came into prominence after their extensive use by the United States in the first Gulf War. They are precise weapons, designed for use against land and sea targets and are launched from land, air, and sea as also underwater by submarines. Most of these cruise missiles are guided by Inertial Navigation systems (INS) in combination with Global positioning System (GPS/ GLONASS). There are other guidance systems which comprise of Terrain Contour Matching System, Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) and have seekers with an active radar, anti radiation (passive radar), Infra Red (IR), Imaging Infra Red (IIR) and Autonomous Target Acquisition (ATA). Cruise missiles fly at varying altitudes starting from about 300 feet but there are missiles which fly at heights of 15 km above the ground or sea, thereby making their detection and interception very complex. Further cruise missiles are much smaller and simpler in design than manned aircrafts, possess smaller Radar Cross Sections (RCS) and emit comparatively less heat from their small jet engines making their engagement by heat seeking sensors extremely difficult. Despite developing a large number of ballistic missile Pakistan is focussing on its two cruise missiles, the Babur and Raad.

Issues

The Indian Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) System has entered the two tiered stage. The recent test has enabled a thermospheric interception at an altitude of 97 km. The Exothermic test was conducted on 11 February 2017 at 7.45 a.m. at Abdul Kalam Island of Integrated Test Range at Balasore. The target was developed for mimicking a hostile ballistic missile approaching for more than 2000 km away, was launched from a ship in the anchored in the Bay of Bengal. This test has signalled to Pakistan, India’s capability to intercept missiles in the two tiers of the atmosphere. This caters for all ballistic missiles of Pakistan. Since cruise missiles operate at lower altitudes from 300 ft to about 15 km, they fall out of the purview of the current BMD System. Accordingly Pakistan is focussing on Babur and Raad Cruise Missile systems.

It would be pertinent to examine these characteristics.

Babur also designated as the Hatf VII has three versions. It is in service with the Pakistan Army since 2005 and Pakistan Navy since 2017. Unlike our BrahMos missile Babur is capable of being launched with both conventional and nuclear warheads. It is extremely versatile as it is both a Land Attack Cruise Missile and a Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM). The Babur 1 was in service since 2005 with the Army Strategic Forces Command. This has a range of 700 km. The upgraded Babur II was inducted on 14 December 2016 and has a range of 750 km. The speed is subsonic and it is slated to attain a maximum speed of 880 km/hour. It has a superior guidance system comprising Inertial Navigation System, terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM), Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) and the GPS. The launch platform is a Transport Erector Launcher and the fuel is solid fuel booster and liquid fuel for the jet engine.

Babur III is a submarine launched cruise missile which would be inducted into Naval Strategic Forces Command (NSFC). The missile was flight tested on 09 January 2017. The missile currently has an operational range of 450 km. It is likely to be a part of the Agosta 90B Khalid class submarine. The video clip showing the launch is questioned by naval experts who say there are contradicting images and Pakistan has not undertaken the test. This contradiction lies with numerous Pakistani systems and it is difficult to surmise the truth.

The other cruise missile that Pakistan possesses is the Air Launched Cruise Missile Raad. It is in service from December 2007. The missile was initially launched from a Pakistani Air Force Mirage III fighter jet but currently planned to be integrated with JF 17 combat aircraft. The operational range is 350 km and the sped is subsonic. Raad, like Babur, can be used to carry a conventional high explosive load of 450 kg, alternatively a nuclear load of 10 to 35 kilotons.

Comparison between BrahMos and Pakistani Cruise Missiles

Pakistani cruise missiles, when compared with BrahMos, vary in their weaponry speed and range. The BrahMos is a supersonic cruise missile with a speed of 2.8 Mach while both Babur and Raad are both subsonic. Speed is an essential aspect in countering a cruise missile and in this field BrahMos has a qualitative edge. The next is accuracy. BrahMos is extremely accurate as numerous trials have proved; little is known about the accuracy of Pakistani cruise missiles. The range of BrahMos is 280 km whereas Babur II ranges 750 km, Babur III has a range of 450 km and Raad has a range of 350 km. Currently, BrahMos has been inducted in the Indian Army and the Indian Navy, while developmental trials are on with the Indian Air Force as also on firing under water for fitment into submarines. The BrahMos only carries a high explosive warhead where as Pakistani cruise missiles are capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads. BrahMos, apart from flying from way points, has a steep dive capability which enables it to be used in mountainous and high altitude areas. On the conventional battlefield BrahMos caters for requirements of all the three services.

Countering Pakistani Cruise Missiles

As stated earlier, the current BMD caters for engagement of missiles in two atmospheric layers, the exo-spheric and the endo-spheric. The Pakistani cruise missile would be flying at low altitudes between 5 km and 15 km which would be difficult for the BMD to engage. The S 400 Triumf based on its radars should be able to engage and destroy Pakistani Cruise Missiles. It is necessary to understand the fundamentals of countering Cruise Missiles for easier comprehension.

Engagement of a cruise missile is similar to any aerial object and would entail the process of detection, tracking, interceptors to destroy the attacking missile, seamless communications and the ability to assess and manage the consequences of a cruise missile attack. The most difficult part is that of detection and tracking the cruise missile. The missile flies at extremely low altitudes which make detection by satellites even in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) extremely difficult. Satellites are now graduating to usage of Synthetic Aperture Radar but even these would not be in a position to detect and track these weapon systems. Obviously the systems would have to be low elevated systems which avoid ground clutter.

The next aspect pertains to Radar Cross Section (RCS). The state of art cruise missiles are currently made of composites and their shapes are tailored to reduce the RCS. With low RCS, it is very difficult for radars to indicate the presence of these missiles. The cruise missiles are constructed to produce low RCS, thereby making it difficult to be detected by radars.

In such an eventuality the best possible detection would by the AWACs or Aerostats as also the US Naval Aegis system which is capable of sighting objects Over the Horizon. In the image shown, Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defence Elevated Sensor (JLENS) is used for detection and tracking of a cruise missile. The point to note is these are mounted on Aerostats whose survivability during hostilities is debatable as they are vulnerable to all types of firepower systems which are within range. These Aerostats can easily be knocked down by hostile aircraft.

Due to these reasons, it is extremely difficult to locate and track these missiles. Location of the missile is extremely important for countering them and this remains a difficult part. Hopefully, the radars of S 400 would be able to undertake this task and prevent a free run for the Babur and Raad.

Conclusion

Pakistan is rightly focussing on the Babur and Raad as they would be difficult for the Indian BMD to counter. India on its part must develop a good surveillance system both on land, Air and Outer Space to locate these missiles and destroy them before they reach the target.


Published Date: 23rd February 2017, Image Source: http://www.edristi.in

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