Pentagon officials have opened the way to cooperating with India on ballistic missile defense (BMD).
Washington is conducting a cooperative development of the SM-3 IIA interceptor with Tokyo, and interest in India is part of the Pentagon's larger plan to increase its presence and influence in the Asia-Pacific region.
“That is an important potential area for our future cooperation. . . . BMD has great strategic importance and, therefore, the two governments should discuss that strategically before they discuss that technically,” said U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during a trip to India last month.
India plans eventually to deploy systems to protect against intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in some of its major cities. A detailed proposal is being prepared for approval by the Indian government.
The missile defense program, developed by India's Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), has carried out seven tests, the first in March 2006 and the final one last February. Six were deemed successful.
India's system is designed to destroy an incoming ballistic missile with a range of up to 2,000 km (1,240 mi.). DRDO used variants of surface-to-surface, short-range Prithvi missiles as simulated targets and intercepted incoming missiles in test firings.
Its BMD program has a two-tiered system, with the Prithvi missile for high-altitude, exoatmospheric intercepts and advanced air defenses for low-altitude endoatmospheric interception. In the most recent test, DRDO's Air Defense Missile AAD-05 intercepted a modified Prithvi ballistic missile at 15-km altitude off the coast of Orissa in East India.
During tests thus far, radars tracked the incoming ballistic missile and provided continuous updates to the AAD-05 interceptor. The missile also employed an onboard radio-frequency seeker in the endgame.
In the most recent test, India's Radar and Electro Optic Tracking Systems (EOTS) tracked the missile and also recorded the fragments of the target missile falling into the Bay of Bengal. The mission was carried out in the final deliverable user-configuration mode.
Plans call for two new antiballistic missiles to intercept ICBMs at a range of 5,000 km by 2016.
DRDO says its young system is comparable to the U.S. Patriot, a terminal area-defense system that was used for the first time during the 1990 Persian Gulf war.
“The ballistic missile defense shield is now mature,” DRDO chief V.K. Saraswat says. “We are ready to put Phase 1 in place, and it can be put in [in a] very short time.” India will likely deploy it in two locations, Saraswat says.