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Experts Question Indian Missile Defense Capabilities

Issue specialists, including a former high-level Indian military officer, are questioning claims about the capabilities of India's developing ballistic missile defense system, the Straits Times reported on Saturday (see GSN, May 9).

The head of the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization, V.K. Saraswat, was quoted last week as saying that the first phase of the antimissile shield was "in place and it can be out in very short time." The technology was said to encompass long-distance sensors and monitors, electronic communications, and command and control systems.

The system, which Saraswat likened to the U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability 3 technology, has undergone six trial launches dating to 2006 and has reportedly been shown capable of eliminating targets with ranges of up to 1,240 miles. The second phase of the effort calls for readiness by 2016 to take down missiles capable of flying 3,100 miles.

Saraswat said the Indian missile interceptor has a 99.8 percent likelihood of making contact with its target, but experts noted that systems such as the PAC-3 have a "kill rate" of roughly 70 percent. That percentage is connected to an enemy's use of countermeasures to prevent elimination of the real missile.

The Defense Research and Development Organization has also not allowed for unpredictability in its testing, according to retired Brig. Arun Sahgal, who now co-leads the New Delhi-based Institute of National Security Studies.

"A real-time situation is vastly different as it is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between real and fake missiles and provide foolproof security," he said.

India also cannot assure continuous electricity supply and other components of a "dedicated infrastructural regime" needed to operate a ballistic missile shield, according to Sahgal. He said the nation continues to develop a key operational Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance infrastructure.

"The BMD system remains at best a successful technology demonstrator for now," Sahgal said (Rahul Bedi, Straits Times, May 12).

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