India acquires 12 contracted Weapon Locating Radars

By Gulshan Luthra,


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New Delhi : The Indian Army has taken delivery of all the 12 sophisticated Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs) it had contracted to buy from leading US arms manufacturer Raytheon.

Ten of the 12 Firefinder radars had been supplied till last year, and the remaining two recently, according to a report in the coming issue of India Strategic defence magazine, an advance copy of which has been made available to IANS.

Designated AN-TPQ/37 Firefinder, the radars are used to locate and destroy hostile artillery fire. The army had actually projected their requirement in the early 1980s but their urgent necessity was felt when in the 1999 Kargil war it suffered more than 80 percent of its casualties to Pakistani artillery fire.

Pakistan then also had the advantage of WLRs, although of an earlier version — AN-TPQ/36, which it had acquired in the early 1980s virtually for free in military doles from the US.

The deal for WLRs, signed in 2002, was the first one India signed with the US in the post-Cold War era, thanks to the improving diplomatic ties between New Delhi and Washington.

Initially, India looked for only eight WLRs under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme for $140 million but later, another four were added, taking the value to nearly $200 million.

Although the Indian Army needs a number of WLRs, there is no transfer of technology (ToT) involved in the deal with Raytheon. The remaining requirement is being met by a newly developed phased array system indigenously built by the public sector Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

Carrier vehicles for the Firefinder radars and support systems are being supplied by another public sector company, the fast growing Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML).

As for the AN-TPQ/37, the highly advanced radar can track “first-round” hostile fire within seconds from a range of three to 50 km, and then launch precise counter attacks. Significantly, this radar can also be configured to detect missiles by adding a 60-degree sector mode antenna to extend its range.

A radar’s computerised signal processors detects, verifies and tracks up to 10 artillery, mortar or rocket projectiles, and then estimates their firing position as well as the impact point. The system helps in correcting friendly fire in neutralising enemy positions. Manned by a crew of 12, the radar is capable of separating any clutter generated by birds, helicopters and aircraft.

Raytheon does not make platforms like aircraft or ships but, according to Admiral Walter F. Doran (retd), the recently appointed president of Raytheon Asia “lends substance” to them. For instance, INS Jalashva, or the former USS Trenton, which the Indian Navy has purchased this year for $45 million under the FMS programme, has its main onboard equipment supplied by Raytheon.

“We do not manufacture platforms, but we lend substance to them… We are the technology virtually behind every mission,” Doran told India Strategic in a recent interview in New Delhi.

Notably, Raytheon also has the most advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar technology at the moment, which is going to be a key determinant in buying the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) 126 Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA). Raytheon has offered to install it on either of the two US jets, the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet or the Lockheed Martin F-16, depending upon India’s choice.

Other contenders in the race are also developing their AESA radars, promising mature technology by the time India buys them.

Raytheon officials say that as its AESA radar has no moving parts, it can be used for 10,000 to 15,000 hours, that is, 10 to 30 times more than older radars. The AESA units also function as messaging tools for communication between a number of aircraft, satellites, ships or ground control.

The Firefinder deal includes generators, trailers, communications equipment, logistic services, quality assurance, spare parts, publications and other programme support elements.