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Army’s air defence wing set for modern makeover

The army’s air defence (AAD) wing is undergoing a long awaited modernisation and rejig – an exercise that remained stalled since 1990s. For a starter, it is acquiring six batterys of Aakash surface to air missiles that can reach aerial targets up to 25 kms in the horizon, this month. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will be handed over the missiles at a ceremony.

Though Aakash is a sophisticated surface-to-air (SAM) missile system, meant largely for what is called “area defence” – like defending Delhi’s air space – the primary work-horses of the AAD are anti-aircraft guns, which are for ‘point defence’ that can move with a armoured brigade, let’s say.
Nobody is willing to put a figure on the modernisation process of the AAD. A source, “The figure cannot computed like that as it is an aggregation of approvals coming from the top.

The AAD at the moment has three types of anti-aircraft (AA) guns, which are all of 1980s vintage. These are L-70, ZU-23 and Schilka. The last delivery that the AAD has got is that of the Tangushka 30 mm AA guns from Russia in 1998. Tangushka guns were meant by the Russians to replace the Schilka, but since Indian army did not purchase the guns in enough numbers the Schilka’s continued to remain operational.

Now, all three L-70, ZU-23 and Schilka are being upgraded with new radars. And the guns are  going to be refurbished by the Ordnance Factory Board workshops.

Then there is the very short range, Igla missiles, which reach up to five kilometers. In the multi-layered missile firing air defence system Igla’s that are shoulder fired, are followed by short range and the medium range SAMs.

The AAD has begun the modernisation process with the AA guns first. According to government sources, the L-70 guns are already under upgradation. The ZU-23 and Schilka are under general staff evaluation.
Pinaki Bhattacharya

Pinaki Bhattacharya

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