The Indian Army has acquired a Weapon Location Radar (WLR) capability after a 20-year wait.
It has received seven of the 12 contracted AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs) built by ThalesRaytheon Systems.
Well-informed sources told the India Strategic magazine that the remaining five systems were likely to be delivered by the end of the year and that training of Indian Army personnel to operate these radars had been successfully completed.
India had signed an agreement in 2002 with the US government to buy eight of these radars under the Foreign Military Sales Programme (FMS) for $140 million. Later, another four were added. The total deal approximates $200 million.
The army had sought this radar-based capability to counter artillery and mortar attacks by opting for an earlier version, AN/TPQ 36, about 20 years ago, but thanks to the paralysis in the system triggered by then prime minister V.P. Singh's government's spate of inquiries, this proposal was not accepted. The 1999 Kargil War proved that it was a costly error, both in terms of men and material.
India was at a disadvantage in the Kargil war of 1999 as most of the Indian casualties were caused by Pakistani artillery fire. Worse, some of the then top army commanders grossly underestimated the number and strength of the Pakistani troops inside the Indian borders with one of them at least insisting that the number of intruders was less than 100.
According to "Kargil: The Impregnable Conquered" by Lt. Gen. (retd) Y.M. Bammi, the Pakistani artillery was responsible for 83 percent of the Indian casualties. And that Pakistan had the advantage of commanding heights, UAV surveillance and US-supplied WLRs-AN/TPQ 36 to gather information on Indian deployments and artillery positions.
Pakistan had acquired the WLRs long ago, although the older version, AN/TPQ 36, has half the range of the newer AN/TPQ 37.
India used overwhelming artillery firepower to suppress the Pakistanis, firing 293,600 shells of various types and by also deploying hurriedly-assembled laser guided munitions from Mirage 2000 aircraft. The Indian Air Force (IAF) was able to marry laser guidance kits from Israel with indigenous bombs within two weeks.
The 155mm Bofors, from which 69,800 shells were fired, was the most successful gun as it could engage enemy targets without redeployment.
The IAF's precision hits paved the way for successful assaults by the Indian Army, whose young officers provided inspiring leadership and fought alongside their troops to evict the intruders.
Bammi also says the Indian Army deployed innovative techniques, and that the commander of 70 Infantry Brigade, "with eight units under command", personally fought "well ahead along with his troops" and captured maximum territory, evicted 800 Pakistani troops from the 35 km frontage, and accounted for the first and sixth out of eight Pakistani prisoners of war.
India's new radars are capable of first-round detection from a range of three to 50 km within seconds. Each radar uses computer controlled signal processing to detect, verify and track up to 10 artillery, mortar or rocket projectiles in flight and then estimates their firing position as well as the impact point. It also tracks and corrects friendly fire for effective neutralisation of adversary fire.
Manned by a crew of 12, the radar filters out any clutter generated by birds, helicopters and aircraft.
Hostile long-range surface-to-surface missiles can be detected by deploying a special 60-degree sector mode antenna to extend its range.
The deal for the Firefinders includes generators, trailers, communications equipment, training, logistics services, Quality Assurance Team (QAT), spare parts, publications and other programme support elements.
The US had loaned two old US Army radars for initial training but both these were sent back once the normal supply began. The new radars are configured for the Indian climate and requirements.
The AN/TPQ 37 is made by ThalesRaytheon Systems of El Segundo, California, an equally owned transatlantic joint venture encompassing air defence/command and control centres and ground-based air surveillance and WLRs.
According to ThalesRaytheon, the system can be set up or taken down in minutes, and moved away if required. Ninety percent of all repairs can be done in the field as its computers detect and identify any fault.
India needs a larger number of weapon locating radars and now it is developing its own electronic phased array radars to detect artillery fire and longer range missiles.