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By Bulbul Singh

01 Sep 10. India would need to buy surface-to-air missiles(SAMs) and radars worth over $3bn if its latest plan to defend all major cities with SAMs is cleared. India is planning to weaponise all major cities and ports with SAMs. This would be in addition to the demand from the defence forces for air defence systems worth billions of dollars. Currently only Delhi is defended by short and medium range air defence systems capable of killing incoming missiles, rockets and aircraft.

The Indian government plan is to establish Joint Command Analysis Centres (JCACs) near airports in major cities across India and weaponise them with surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). This would mean that scores of systems will have to be purchased for major Indian cities and installations.

Currently even the Indian Air Force is finding it difficult to meet its air-defence system needs, which are mostly of USSR-era and need immediate upgrade or replacement. “In fact, air-defence is a grey area of the Indian defence forces,” said a senior Indian Air Force.

The Indian defence ministry is already considering purchase of Iron Dome and David Sling systems though no formal announcement has been made. “Indian defence ministry officials have held several meetings with Israeli and U.S. officials to iron out the purchase of these systems,” said the Indian Air Force official. A top level meeting is to be held in the first week of September which will consider the new proposal to establish JCACs.

The current list of Russian SAMs in the Indian inventory includes the ZRK SD Kvadrat, a two stage, solid-fuel, low-altitude SAM with a length of 5.7 meters, a maximum effective range of 24,000 meters and a minimum effective range of 3,000 meters, the OSA AKM, a single-stage, solid-fuel, short-range, low-altitude, all-weather SAM and Strela-10M3, a short-range, low altitude SAMs which has a maximum speed of Mach 2, carries a 5kg HE warhead. Igla, Strela and Pechora are systems used by the Indian defence forces.

The Indian Air Force sent Request for Information (RFI) to overseas defence companies in June for the purchase of air defence systems with a strike-range between 500 meters to three kilometres, with the aim of providing terminal air defence to selected vital assets and points in plains, deserts, semi deserts, hilly and mountainous terrain.

In addition, the Indian Air Force is on a global look out for purchase of unspecified number of mobile Low-Level Transportable Radar (LLTR). The Indian Air Force needs LLTRs to check Pakistani, UAVs sneaking into Indian airspace and will enable the Indian Air Force to look up to 70 kilometres into Pakistani airspace.

It is estimated that shortage of key radars is to the tune of 76 per cent, making India particularly vulnerable to air attacks.

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