Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Indian SAM Network


One of the most populous nations in the world, India has engaged in numerous regional conflicts in the past. The threat environment led to the creation of a point-defense oriented EW and SAM network designed not to protect the skies over India, but to protect the military units tasked with such a role. This ultimately led to the creation of a number of EW and SAM units within the Indian Air Force.


Indian air defense elements, to include EW assets, SAM systems, and interceptors, are subordinate to the Indian Air Force (IAF). This allows the IAF to coordinate both sensors and weapons, allowing for a maximum degree of target deconfliction. SAM units are organized as squadrons, with radar units being organized as either signal units or transportable radar units, depending on the assigned types. These units are in turn subordinate to the five operational commands in the IAF.

The Indian SAM network follows a point defense layout. The primary SAM system employed by the IAF is the S-125M (SA-3B GOA). These systems are deployed at various airbases in the northern and western portions of India. EW assets are deployed primarily along border regions, with the highest concentration being present along the northern and western borders with Pakistan.


Fifty four EW sites have been identified in India. The primary assets are THD-1955, P-12/18 (SPOON REST), and 36D6 (TIN SHIELD) radars. Thirteen THD-1955 radars arrayed primarily along the border region from Pakistan to Myanmar provide a significant amount of EW coverage. EW coverage is enhanced by fourteen 36D6 radar sites, arrayed primarily along the border with Pakistan. The 36D6 is significant as it can provide both target track data to SAM batteries as well as GCI support for Russian-origin fighter aircraft such as the MiG-29 (FULCRUM) or Su-30MKI (FLANKER-H). P-12/18 radar sites are scattered throughout the region, as are indigenous Indra-II radar units. The net result is an EW network that is heavily oriented towards potential threats.

The following image depicts the locations of identified Indian EW facilities. Dark blue diamonds represent basic EW sites, typically manned by P-12/18 or Indra-II radar systems, while light blue diamonds represent THD-1955 radar facilities. Blue circles represent 36D6 radar facilities. The range rings given for the 36D6 sites represent the 165 km acquisition range against a typical fighter-size target. Each radar system is capable of target detection at greater ranges depending on the target RCS and altitude, with the THD-1955 typically employing a range of 400 km.
The following image depicts a typical THD-1955 site. These large radars are sited atop dedicated structures. This site is located south of Shillong in eastern India.
The following image depicts a deployed 36D6 radar at Pune AB in western India. This radar likely serves as both an EW and GCI asset, given its co-location with Su-30MKI fighters.
India does possess the 40V6 series of masts for mounting the 36D6, although their use appears to be relatively infrequent. The following image from February 2008 depicts a 36D6 mounted atop a 40V6 mast assembly at Nal AB. Imagery captured four months later indicates that the 36D6 is still deployed but has been removed from the 40V6. Only thee 36D6 locations have an identifiable 40V6 series mast available for use.
Other EW assets include the A-50I AWACS based at Agra AB, and potentially an aerostat system found near the border with Pakistan. The aerostat system's purpose is unknown at this time, but could potentially be used to mount an air surveillance system. The facility can be seen in the image below.
THE S-125

India's primary strategic SAM system is the S-125M. These systems were delivered between 1973 and 1989 from the USSR, and thirty four batteries are currently active. These batteries provide point defense for key military installations, typically airbases, in the northern and western portions of India.

The locations of India's active S-125M batteries and their engagement zones can be seen in the image below:
The S-125M has two specific drawbacks: range and single-target engagement capability. The ability of the system to engage one target per battery is partially mitigated by placing multiple batteries at many locations, but the 25 km maximum range of the system effectively reduces its role to one of point defense only, lacking the range to provide long-range overlapping fields of fire necessary for a more robust air defense network.

IAF S-125M batteries are frequently relocated in their operating areas. This can be done to complicate targeting by enemy assets and to allow systems to be cycled through maintenance periods. The following image depicts the S-125M deployment area at Vadodara AB in western India. While only one location currently has an active battery, there are four other locations which have been active at some point in the past.
Numbering the S-125M locations 1 through 5 from west to east, the following information can be derived from available imagery:

Site 1
-Active from December 2005 to March 2010

Site 2
-Active from October 2000 to October 2002
-Active from June 2003 to November 2003
-Active from December 2003 to March 2010

Site 3
-Active from October 2000 to October 2002

Site 4
-Active from November 2003 to December 2005
-Currently active as of March 2010

Site 5
-Active from June 2003 to March 2010

All told, there are twenty one inactive or former S-125M positions identified throughout India that can be used as relocation sites should the need arise.


Tactical SAM systems are also operated as point defense assets in the IAF. The primary system is the Osa-AKM (SA-8 GECKO), a mobile system mounted on a wheeled TELAR. The 10 km range of the system allows it to serve as a layered short-range counterpart to co-located S-125M batteries.

An IAF Osa-AKM TELAR can be seen in-garrison near Ambala AB in the image below.
The Indian Army operates the 2K12 Kvadrat (SA-6 GAINFUL), which could be employed in a similar capacity to IAF Osa-AKM units if required. The Army also operates additional Osa-AKM units.


Given that India has chosen to rely on a point-defense oriented air defense network, the lack of long-range SAM coverage is not a true limitation. Furthermore, the presence of significant numbers of fighter aircraft such as the Su-30MKI cpaable of acting in concert with the EW network to perform interception tasks can alleviate the lack of long-range SAM coverage. However, there are still some limitations to be addressed within the network as it is currently organized.

The primary limitation is one of terrain. Northern and eastern India contains very varied terrain, which can introduce significant blind spots in radar or SAM coverage, reducing the network's effectiveness. The issue of EW coverage has been addressed to a degree by the procurement of the A-50I AWACS platform.

The other significant limitation faced by the strategic SAM network is one of age. While many of the systems have been refurbished or modified to retain their effectiveness, the age of the systems is such that a potential aggressor has enjoyed a significant amount of time to discern weaknesses and develop ECM systems and countertactics to defeat the deployed systems. In truth, it is the age of many of these systems that has pushed India towards developing and procuring new SAM systems to replace the elderly systems currently in widespread use.


One significant aspect of Indian air defense that will become operational in the near future is an ABM capability. India began researching an ABM system in 1999, with the goal of fielding a two-tier system. The two-tier system would consist of the exoatmospheric PAD, a Prithvi SRBM derivative, and the endoatmospheric AAD. Where PAD employs a directional warhead, AAD employs a hit-to-kill kinetic warhead. It is now believed that a new weapon referred to as PDV will replace the PAD in the two-tier structure. This system is capable of engaging 1500 km range ballistic missiles, making it an ATBM rather than a true ABM system, but a separate system with a design goal of engaging 5000 km range weapons is underway to field a true ABM.

The radar syste employed by the PAD/AAD weapons is referred to as Swordfish and is in actuality a modified Israeli EL/M-2080 Green Pine radar system. Two of these radars were delivered to India in 2002. One is currently sited northeast of Bangalore, with the second being located near Konark on India's northeast coast. The radars are sited in protective domes. The inland facility can be seen in the image below:

India is actively developing and acquiring new SAM systems to revitalize its air defense force for the 21st Century. There are three significant programs which should begin to bear fruit in the near term. The first is the Akash, being procured by the IAF to potentially replace S-125M systems. This is an indigenous mobile SAM system derived in part from the 2K12. Maitri is a short-range SAM being co-developed with France, employing technology used in the French Mica BVR AAM. The third program is a long-range SAM system. This system may build upon the aforementioned AAD weapon under the codename of Ashvin. Deployment of these weapon systems will eventually allow the IAF to retire the S-125M and Osa-AKM, replacing them with weapons more capable of performing effectively in the current environment.


While India's SAM network does not appear to be particularly robust or capable on paper, it is not intended to serve as the primary protector of the nation's airspace. However, even with its more limited role, modernization programs must continue if the network is to remain viable in the forseeable future.


-Satellite imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth

IAF Orbat
PAD Test

Monday, September 6, 2010

Does All of Our Intelligence Data Pass The "So What" Test?

Data relevance is critical to achieving success in the Intelligence Community (IC). Simply put, everything that we do must pass the “so what?” test, and we need to move away from creating intelligence data for intelligence’ sake. This means that every intelligence product and briefing should have a clear goal and tangible outcomes.

The unfortunate reality is that many of the IC’s efforts do not come close to passing this test. All too often, our intelligence lacks relevance or does not tangibly support a mission. The main issue is a lack of insight into goals based on achieving measurable outcomes.

The following is an example of viable intelligence that would clearly pass the “so what?” test based on tangible outcomes. Imagine that we have identified and then targeted a Taliban kidnapping ringleader, and our intel products/briefings make the argument that we have this terrorist's pattern of life and furthermore, by removing him, we will halt kidnappings in this region for a three-month period. This provides our Commander with a clear “so what?” This intelligence matters. Our Commander and staff, primarily his Operations Officer, are able to analyze the means available to them and formulate an appropriate plan to intervene. By collecting and providing the data needed to remove this leader, the key outcome is the fact that kidnappings decrease in this region. The goal of this mission was to decrease kidnappings and make this region safer, so the outcome was achieved.

From a terrain perspective, many analysts provide data about the slope, vegetation, hydrography, cover and concealment, and location of roads that could play a major role in determining the ideal location of the enemy’s SCUD launchers and associated support vehicles. The “so what?” factor is that by correctly analyzing, interpreting, combining with other intelligence disciplines, and then disseminating this data, we can predict likely SCUD locations. Similar analysis can offer Primary, Alternate, and Supplementary positions for our own Field Artillery units or ideal Drop Zones and Helicopter Landing Zones.

These examples of providing actionable intelligence seem very intuitive, and one would expect these types of efforts to be commonplace. Unfortunately, they are not all that common. One of the driving issues behind this challenge is the myriad of available data.

In 2009, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) alone generated 24 years worth of video if watched continuously. In 2010, UAVs are expected to generate 30 times that amount of data—and military commanders are acknowledging the issue. According to Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, “We are going to find ourselves in the not-too-distant future swimming in sensors and drowning in data.” (1)

The other challenge is focusing only on relevant data. For example, many believe that the IC is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy in Afghanistan because the majority of our collection efforts and analytical prowess are focused on insurgent groups. As such, our vast intelligence apparatus still finds itself unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which we operate and the people we are trying to persuade. (2)

The “so what?” factor in Afghanistan is determining who the local powerbrokers are that need to be influenced, as well as how we can best engage with locals—whether they are villagers, aid workers, or Afghan soldiers—to gain the credible insights we need to help advance the mission. (2)

Now that he has been appointed the new Director of National Intelligence, one of the key challenges that retired Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper Jr. hopes to tackle is to unite the traditionally separate missions of intelligence collection and analysis and to shrink and flatten the intelligence bureaucracy. (3) Clapper has also created the position of Deputy Director for Intelligence Integration to unify the collection and analysis tasks, which is a significant step toward addressing this issue. (4)

It certainly seems that IC leaders are taking this issue very seriously, and a top-down effort could bring about true change. However, all levels of the IC must continually ask themselves “so what?” If they are unable to answer this question, their efforts may be wasting the time and resources of our troops and policymakers—and these are resources that we cannot afford to waste.

-Lt. Col. (Ret.) Marv Gordner, 2010


(1) “Too Much Information: Taming the UAV Data Explosion,” Defense Industry Daily, May 16, 2010
(2) Greg Dunlap, “Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan,” Marine Corps Gazette, December 9, 2009
(3) Ellen Nakashima, “New Intelligence Chief Clapper Brings Sense of Humor to Serious Job,” The Washington Post, August 21, 2010
(4) Pam Benson, “Director of National Intelligence Names Deputy to Boost Collaboration,” CNN, August 20, 2010


The preceeding article was written for this site by Lt. Col. (Ret.) Marv Gordner, a former intelligence officer in the US Army. Mr. Gordner has twenty-one years of extensive leadership and management experience in the Department of Defense and intelligence collection field. His assignments included the 101st Airborne Division and Special Operations Forces including, 5th Special Forces, 3d Special Forces, and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). He now serves as the Program Manager, Intelligence Solutions Division, for MorganFranklin.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Some news items

Before I get to updating the SAM Site Overview file, here's a few news bits that I either forgot to mention previously, or that are new.

-I have invaded Facebook. Not sure if this is relevant at all, but you can add me if you want. I use the same image as my profile picture here, the MiG-29 Guards badge. Don't know yet if anything amusing or relevant will come out of it, but you can always watch me harass my former coworkers if you want!

-Over the past few months I've been contributing features to Air Power Australia. These are either relevant reworks of features found here, or specialized things like the PLA BM summary that may or may not have worked for this site. So, go to APA and see what you can find if you're interested.

-Monday will see the publication of the first guest-written article here. The author, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Marv Gordner, is a former Army intel officer with an extensive SOF background. I'll post a fuller bio with his article, which covers whether or not intelligence collection has both a goal and serves a requirement. Given the quality of Lt. Col. Gordner's piece, this is something that I will certainly be open to more of in the future. So if any of you have amusing ideas and are looking for someplace to get some exposure, send me an e-mail.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Schedule

Here's the projected lineup for September:

Week 1: SAM Site Overview
Week 2: India's SAM Network
Week 3: Iranian BM Facilities
Week 4: China's SAM Network update

Yeah, the China thing keeps getting pushed back. Turns out it needed a very deep update and reformatting, and with starting class and resuming teaching for the fall semester free time has not been very easy to come by recently. But it's still working, and if I get it done early I'll post it and update something else for Week 4.