– Srivatsa RV

The Indian Air Force has recently concluded the deal with BEL for DR-118 Dhruti Digital Radar Warning Receivers (RWR) under the Buy Indian-IDMM (Indigenously, Designed, Developed and Manufactured) deal, which we know is a part of a larger subsystem upgrade in the EW Package that D-PSUs are offering the IAF primarily on the Su-30 MKI and the LCA Tejas Mk1-A platform.

There has also been an EoI (Expression of Interest) issued by CASDIC, DRDO in interest of manufacturing of ASPJ Pods, the document states 6 production prototypes will be procured in the D&D Phase and will be integrated by DcPP (Development cum Production Partner). After successful evaluation the production partner is expected to deliver 20 sets of the EW suite to end-user annually. The Minimum order Quantity (MoQ) is expected to be in 100s. Which is the hint for integration on multiple Su-30 MKI Squadrons having to receive the EW kits once the deliveries complete.

This article will explore what program Indian Defense PSUs have underway that will be either substituting or complementing the existing EW systems and sub-systems in the IAF inventory 

Electronic Warfare Categories

Before delving deeper into the idea of different programs under electronic warfare, it is highly important that you understand what exactly EW in military understanding is, let’s keep it simple. It is the exploit of Electromagnetic Spectrum for military use, offensive or defensive. Whoever controls the electromagnetic spectrum, controls access to any resources that are dependent on it. All military assets, on land-sea or air, are heavily dependent on Electromagnetic Environment (Radio, Signals, Remote Sensing, SATCOM etc.) for a variety of tasks to effectively carry out their mission in hostile environments,  becoming their eyes and ears in the battlefield.

This heavy dependency is precisely what EW exploits. Based on this, we have Electronic Attack (EA) Electronic Protection (EP) and Electronic Warfare Support (EWS). Operators can choose one or all during action. The details into what each of this style of waging EW is out of scope of this article.

Now coming to Indian Air Force, and its adaptation to the rapidly changing domain of EW, various PSUs have offered IAF a range of different equipment, let’s look.

The package that is now available for integration on at least 2 platforms (LCA Tejas, and Su-30MKI) is given below,

Brief Run-on Components

Offensive Jammer Pods

An offensive jammer can disrupt or degrade the functionality of enemy radar and communication systems. By emitting jamming signals, an offensive jammer can interfere with the enemy’s ability to detect and track friendly aircraft, disrupt their communications, and degrade their situational awareness. This can provide a significant advantage by reducing the effectiveness of enemy defenses, allowing friendly aircraft to operate with increased freedom of action, and potentially evading enemy threats. Can be used against aerial and ground targets alike depending on the situation

Equipment previously used for this role – SAP-14 Pod (Russian)
Future Equipment – HBJ (DRDO) – Indian (Status – Flight Trials Underway)

Self-Protection Jammer Pods

A self-protection jammer, on the other hand, is designed to protect the aircraft itself from incoming threats, such as radar-guided missiles or other electronic threats. When the aircraft is under attack, the self-protection jammer can emit jamming signals to confuse or disrupt the enemy’s targeting or guidance systems, reducing the probability of a successful attack. This can enhance the aircraft’s survivability and increase the chances of successfully evading or defeating enemy threats.

Equipment previously used for this role – SAP-518 Pod (Russian) , Elta-8222 ASPJ (Israeli)
Future Equipment – ASPJ (DRDO) – Indian (EOI Issued, production ready)

DC-MAWS (Dual Colour MAWS)

A Dual Colour (DC) Infrared Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS) is an advanced type of MAWS that uses two different infrared spectral bands to provide enhanced threat detection and tracking capabilities. It can accurately identify and track incoming missiles with high fidelity, while reducing false alarms. The DC MAWS can autonomously activate countermeasures and provide real-time threat information to the pilot, improving the aircraft’s self-protection capabilities and survivability in complex air combat environments.

Equipment previously used for this role – None(some did use SAAB-IDAS)
Future Equipment – DC-MAWS (DRDO) – Indian – (No status available)

RWR (Radar Warning Receivers)

A Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) is a passive system that can detect and identify radar emissions from hostile sources. By providing real-time alerts to the pilot, a RWR can significantly enhance the aircraft’s situational awareness, allowing the pilot to take timely evasive actions or employ countermeasures to avoid or mitigate threats. This can greatly increase the aircraft’s survivability and help the pilot make informed decisions during combat operations. India has had an evolution in this area of development.

Equipment previously used for this role – Tranquil, Tarang Mk1/2 (Indian)
Future Equipment – DR-118 Dhruti (DRDO) – Indian, Upcoming is NG-RWR (an improvement on DR-118) – (Order placed by IAF with BEL)

Software Defined Radios

A Software Defined Radio (SDR) is a versatile communication system that can adapt and reconfigure its operating parameters in real-time based on mission requirements or changing electromagnetic environments. This flexibility allows for enhanced interoperability with friendly forces, improved communication security, and adaptability to different operational scenarios. An SDR can provide reliable and secure communication capabilities for the aircraft, enabling effective coordination with other friendly assets, command and control elements, or ground-based stations.

Equipment previously used for this role – Rafael BNET-AR (Israel) – (Order placed recently)
Future Equipment – BEL Proposed SDR Solution Underway (Unnamed) – won’t likely replace, but complement existing sets.

For IAF, SDRs are being used to establish secure communications between ground and air-linked assets, effectively creating a network-centric operational environment. Indian Navy is as always ahead in indigenization of such key components and is paving the way with procurement from BEL of SDR-Tac (Tactical) and SDR-NC (Naval Combat) variants of SDR sets.

Towed Decoys 

We currently do not have indigenous towed-decoy systems (Although we missed the chance on that with several programs like Lakshya), we are now moving towards the import of this specific component. And no current DRDO Program is underway to make it in India as well, so this part of EW Suite remains non-indigenized till date. We should ideally have at least 1 towed-decoy system in house. Instead, an Israeli make X-Guard Towed Decoy System by Rafael will be procured.

The X-Guard Towed Decoy is a sophisticated airborne electronic warfare countermeasure system utilized on military aircraft. Comprising a towline, a decoy module, and a launch module, it is deployed from the aircraft via a launcher and emits electronic signals that mimic the aircraft’s radar signature. The decoy module is designed for high manoeuvrability, capable of evasive manoeuvres and flying in various profiles. As part of the aircraft’s electronic warfare suite, the X-Guard towed decoy significantly enhances survivability by providing effective self-protection against radar-guided threats, making it a crucial asset in hostile environments.

Equipment previously used for this role – Rafael X-Guard Towed Decoy (Israel) – Order placed recently
Future Equipment – No Indian Programs Currently Underway for Towed Decoys.

How does the future look?

Figure 1 – LCA Tejas Mk1A Configuration with ASPJ in the left wing (Make by CASDIC-DRDO) Status – Ready for Production

Well, you’re looking at it!

A perfect desi-loadout has now started to take shape, starting from our smallest fighter the LCA Tejas, up until Su-30 MKI and Mig-29 multirole air-superiority fighters, we will be armed to the teeth for EW Hostile environments. In the 4.5 Generation fighters, EW Systems are always designed to operate in a unified fashion. Often termed as UEWS (Unified Electronic Warfare Suite), which will have a dedicated handler system capable of detecting, classifying, intercepting and deploying countermeasures against incoming threats all by its own without much of pilot’s interventions. With the completion of this suite, we will have the kit ready for 2 aircraft below (LCA Tejas and Sukhoi-30 MKI) 

This would potentially, tinker around the idea of raising new dedicated EW Squadrons (Possibly from the Mk1A units on order) to cater for this requirement. Historically, No.35 Squadron – Rapiers was the dedicated EW unit for IAF, sporting the Mig-21M aircraft with Chatterbox Noise Jammer and a handful of ESM equipment on board.

The LCA Tejas at least, being the smallest aircraft of 3 here, when equipped with the Advanced Self Protection Jammer Dual Colour MAWS and RWR will be capable of operating with increased freedom of action in contested airspaces. While taking help from lead escort jamming aircraft like the Su-30 MKI or Mig-29 UPG, an aircraft like Tejas can also be employed for DEAD (Destruction of Enemy Air Defence Missions) and safely conduct battle damage assessments or other operations that require you to remain in enemy territory for conducting the mission after air-superiority has been established.

On the offensive front, EW Squadrons also carry the Anti-Radiation Missile loadout, which in our case used to be (still-is) the Kh-31P missile of Russian Origin carried on Su-30MKI and Mig-29UPG and but going forward will be Next Generation Anti-Radiation Missile (NG-ARM) or popularly called as RUDRAM-1, which has already been flight tested multiple times, and will be the mainstay ARM for Indian Air Force going forward. replacing KH-31P which is a Russian make ARM. This will enable carrier aircraft to undertake SEAD missions from standoff distances, without coming into enemy’s hands.

Operating in Network Centric Environments

When indigenous development and work is in play, the ecosystem is naturally created to favour the systems involved in this effort. Enabling network-centric warfare was one of the key focus of many DRDO labs, and other D-PSUs alike when the airborne and ground platforms were developed. Right from NETRA AEW&CS Platform Suite and all the way to dedicated EW Ground Stations like Project Himraj, Himashakti EW Systems, all can be linked up to (Integrated Air Command and Control Centre) IACCS Nodes, which ingests data in real-time from 100s of sources, and collates them into what is known as Global Air Situation Picture for the decision makers on the ground.

During wartime, this intel becomes key enabler for taking decisions, and mission planning. Overall, the Indian Air Force has found itself in good hands especially for working itself out with Indian providers of EW technologies.

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