India’s Defence Acquisition Council is likely to approve the acquisition of six indigenously developed weapon locating radars (WLRs) worth Rs 400 crores for the Indian Army (IA). Delhi Defence Review has learnt that the approval is for a new version of the Swathi WLR which is already in service with the IA.
This new version, let’s call it Swathi-2 for the time being, like its predecessor has been developed by the Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), which is of course the Defence Research & Development Organization’s (DRDO’s) premier radar laboratory. As such, it would be worthwhile to take a closer look at the emergence of Swathi-2 as well other developments in the arena of indigenous military radar in India.
The baseline Swathi WLR is a C-Band phased array, developed by LRDE and produced by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). It can automatically track incoming hostile rocket, artillery & mortar rounds. Swathi can also track the trajectory of friendly rounds to locate their point of impact and issue necessary corrections. It is a two-vehicle system, with each vehicle being a 8×8 heavy duty truck manufactured by BEML Ltd on which different elements of the overall system are mounted. The phased array itself is mounted on a swivelling platform to provide wide coverage.
Swati WLR not only locate enemy artillery but is also capable of guiding fire from an artillery gun attached to it and destroying enemy guns. Currently, Swati can detect incoming shells up to 40 km which can decrease relativity with the size of the target, however, the DRDO is planning to modernize the radar by increasing it’s effective detection range and reducing the false alarm rate.
The importance of a WLR can be gauged from the fact that more than 80 per cent of casualties suffered by the Indian Army during the Kargil war was due to Pakistan’s artillery fire. At the time of the war, India had the British- made Cymbeline which could only locate shells fired at a high-angle and this did not make any significant impact during the war.
To make matters worse, Pakistan at the time of the war had the American ANTPQ 36/37 radar system, enabling them to target the Indian artillery while the Indian Army had to rely on disproportionate firing to counter the Pakistanis.