Role of MANPADS in Russia Ukraine war
MANPADS or Man Portable Air Defence Systems are forward-deployed Air Defence Systems widely used across the world. One of the famous MANPAD in discussion now a days is Stinger which was developed by the US Army in the 1980s. It is a 15-kilogram shoulder-mounted missile that uses an infrared sensor to locate an aircraft by its heat. The 1.5-metre-long missile travels at twice the speed of sound and destroys its target with fragmentation explosives. It is designed to give ground troops a way to deal with low-flying airplanes and helicopters. In a significant strategic development, the US has sent shipments of Stinger missiles to Ukraine to fight the Russians. Despite the proliferation claims, US has taken risk of shipping MANPADS to Ukraine. As per the Ukraine’s claim, Russia has Lost 39 Planes & 40 Helicopters in Nine Days Of War in which MANPADS have played critical roles especially against helicopters and low flying planes such as SU-25.
Role of MANPAD in Indo-China conflict
The Indo-China border across LAC is obstructed by mountains which limits the capability of various radars in detecting the aircrafts and especially when they are flying hugging the terrains. This is where MANPADS are going to be game changer as it will be able to take down the low flying fighter jets and helicopters at ease. This type of system is used as short range POINT DEFENSE where the enemies are very close in the range of 5 -6 KM.
MANPAD requirement of Indian Army
The Indian Army and the IAF have been fielding the old Soviet supplied Igla MANPAD systems to meet their respective short-range point defence requirements against aerial threats. These systems are almost four decades old and need urgent replacements in both the services as part of the overall modernization programmes for the entire range of air defence weapons. Indian Army alone is in need of 5,175 VSHORAD missiles with 800 launcher systems. The figure could easily touch 6,000 missiles and 900 to 1,000 launchers by adding the IAF requirements.
DRDO’s MANPAD with AMDL
Talking about DRDO’s MANPAD, it is going to be a STATE OF ART SYSTEM which will feature an AUTONOMOUS MANPAD DATA LINK (AMDL) in its launcher. Hyderabad-based Grene Robotics along with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) is jointly developing Autonomous MANPAD Data Link (ADML) system. It is first-of-its-kind air defence solution that brings isolated MANPAD (man-portable air-defense system) operators into a networked environment. AMDL is a first-of-its-kind mesh networked, centrally integrated, AR/VR enabled and AI/ML edge enabled last mile C4I system that is capable of connecting multiple MANPAD operators in a single mesh and link them to a single command to deliver highest hit-rate and zero collateral damage. This will also deliver highest situational awareness for the shooter and maximum degree of control with augmented intelligence and voice commands. Currently all Man-portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) are usually operated by one gunner & observer in very unfriendly environments with almost no linkage to a local command, other operators and are not integrated to the central command center. Generally, this type of technology is used in FORWARD AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM.
DRDO’s MANPAD is also known as MPDMS or VSHORAD. It will also feature Dual-band infrared homing seeker and multi-spectral optical seeker. The missile can carry upto 25 kgs of warhead. It will have fire and forget capability. MANPADS of DRDO will be able to engage aerial targets in day & night. It will have a horizontal range of 6-KMS and vertical range of 3KM. However, its detection range will be much larger.
Update on MANPAD
As per the latest update the DRDO’s VSHORAD development has been fast tracked and expected to complete by first quarter of 2023 and we can expect development trials of the system in next 3-4 months. Considering the upcoming trials DRDO is procuring 20 Uncooled Imaging Infra-red seeker for VSHORADS. The infrared camera used in IIR seeker are of two types – cooled and uncooled one. The cooled cameras are more bulky, expensive and more prone to failures when compared with uncooled Infrared cameras.