We all know that DRDO currently is in the mood of celebrating Diwali by bursting firecrackers. Among those firecrackers, one cracker of a missile that DRDO tested recently was the SANT (Stand-off Anti-tank) missile, also called HELINA. This missile was successfully tested on October 19th near Odisha in Abdul Kalam Island.
Diving deep into the technical details of this missile, SANT is an improved version of the HELINA missile which stands for Helicopter launched NAG missile which is an air launched version of the NAG anti-tank missile. Just like the HELINA, this missile also has ‘fire-and forget’ capabilities along with ‘lock-on before launch’ and ‘lock-on after launch’ capabilities as well.
This missile has a rumoured range of 15 – 20 kilometres whereas the original HELINA was rumoured to have a range of 7-8 kilometres. SO this missile can be considered as a considerable upgrade over the original HELINA missile. This missile carries as wide band millimetre wave radar (seeker) in its nose cone which provides exceptional accuracy for this missile in neutralizing its target in stand-off ranges. This missile is touted to have a speed of 830 mkph.
Details about the existence of this missile started to flow into the public domain for the first time in 2018 when this missile was tested aboard an IAF’s Mi-35 helicopter. The recent test conducted is the final development trail and from this stage the missile will move on to user trails. As IAF’s help was used for this trail, it is believed that this trial was conducted from Mi-35.
Parallels can be drawn between SANT and US’s Hellfire missile which also has millimetre wave radar. SANT is better in terms of range when compared to Hellfire missile. There are a lot of variants in the Hellfire missile and this missile is comparable to the Hellfire in many ways. This can also have a price advantage over Hellfire missiles as these can be produced cheap.
Scale model of SANT missile (Image courtesy – DRDO)
Generation of Anti tank Missile
The first generation A TGMs with manual control to the line of sight (MACLOS) and a typical range of 1.5-2 km suffered from the following disadvantages:
- Difficult role of the operator to simultaneously track the tank and the missile and to generate up-down and left-right commands on a joystick for sending to the missile through the guidance wire. The kill probability of the missile system depends on the operator’s skill and training and his capability to perform in the actual battlefield scenario.
- The guidance wire dispensation from the missile and the operator’s response time for guiding the missile limited the missile speed to 100-180 m/s. The operator and the missile system were vulnerable to enemy counter action during the prolonged flight time due to this low speed.
Second Generation ATGM: The relative advantages of the second generation
ATGMs employing semi-automatic control to line of sight (SACLOS) over their predecessor are as follows :
- The operator is required only to track the target. He is not required to track the missile as it is done by the IR Goniometer nor he is required to generate the guidance commands which is done automatically by the command generation system on the launcher. The operator’s reduced role results in a better hit probability
- A higher missile speed of 150-280 m/s could be achieved due to the reduced role of the operator.
- Reduced wing size due to increased speed leading to tube launching and reduced dispersion. This along with the reduced role of operator-led to a smaller minimum range.
(a) Though the missile speed could be increased to 150-280 m/s, still the flight time to ma~imum range is 10-15 s and during this time and the target
acquisition time, the system and the crew remain vulnerable to enemy counter-fire.
‘ (b) Being a line of sight missile attacking the tank from front or side (for ground deployment), the disadvantage of engaging only on the front or sides remains as in the case of first-generation ATGMs.
The third generation ATGM overcomes those disadvantages because of the soft launch technology. In addition to soft launch that allows the operator to change the location, these missiles are also equipped with following technologies :
- Fire and Forget system.
- Lock-On after Launch
- Top Attack
The SANT Missile is equipped with the MM wave seeker that allows the missile to have a larger stand off range. This stand off range allows the launch platform to launch the offensive without getting into the range of the target platform.
IIR guidance system offers the advantage of high resolution. However, in bad weather, the attenuation of the IR radiation even at 8-12 micron increases, thereby deteriorating the range performance considerably. On
the other hand, an MMW-based guidance system has relatively less attenuation, thereby enabling all-weather capability.
The use of such high frequencies at MMW is essential to accommodate active seeker. especially the antenna within the permissible diameter /dimensions of the ATGM. For the antitank role, the use of a W-band seeker is considered essential to achieve the required beam width with the limited size of the antenna.
The immunity to attenuation helps MMW seeker to have a larger stand off range when compared with IIR seeker.
As this is an air-launched anti-tank missile, this can provide close air support to our ground forces on the battlefield. This can be mounted on different platforms such as Rudra, Rustom, and Mi-35. This can also be mounted on the upcoming Ghatak stealth UCAV which can increase the armament capability of the UCAV. If this missile can be integrated with Apache helicopters, this can make the Apaches even more deadly.