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The Indian RUDRAM Missile Is Worth Keeping Tabs On

November 4, 2020
Via Indian PIB/DRDO.

India’s renowned Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) achieved a new milestone last month when its next generation anti-radiation missile (NGARM) was successfully tested. Dubbed “RUDRAM” and meant for homing on ground-based radars used by air defense systems, a single missile was carried by an IAF Su-30MKI on October 9 and launched at an unidentified target on Wheeler Island, a testing range in the Odisha coast.

With the initial success of the RUDRAM the DRDO has brought India a little closer to becoming self-sufficient in providing the armed forces’ needs.

Air-launched anti-radiation missiles are meant for degrading enemy air defense networks and leaving them operationally “blind” against further attacks. There’s been a slump in anti-radiation missile development for the past three decades as existing stocks of Soviet vintage and US munitions sufficed. This is what makes the RUDRAM promising. The few details shared by the DRDO through the Indian government’s own news agency was its GPS/INS guidance and “passive homing” guidance “for neutralizing enemy radars, communication sites and other RF emitting targets.” The maximum range of the RUDRAM is undisclosed but the DRDO’s press release emphasized its role in suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) at standoff ranges.

Along with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and numerous laboratories under the DRDO, the RUDRAM is a project with a multitude of collaborators. Even through its own media the DRDO hasn’t named any of the private companies involved with the missile and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh himself only acknowledged “other stakeholders” in a congratulatory message. Still, the RUDRAM is a clear win for India’s pursuit of “civil-military fusion,” itself a concept applied by China with notable success, where private companies are openly involved with the state-owned military industrial sector.

The RUDRAM now joins the DRDO’s impressive portfolio of missiles and other weapon systems that match global standards for military technology. But this doesn’t guarantee the RUDRAM’s widespread use by India’s air force in the coming years. Despite their apparent success, DRDO projects are known for baffling delays and protracted testing phases that can stretch years. It’s also a possibility, given the alliance that’s been established between India and the US, that a foreign missile is acquired in bulk thereby scuttling the RUDRAM’s chances.

The IAF does have a need for a long-range anti-radiation missile as its current and future operations are directed against China and Pakistan. The latter is now a recipient of the latest Chinese-made air defenses to augment its existing anti-aircraft weaponry. China, on the other hand, boasts some of the most sophisticated anti-access/area denial capabilities in the world and this extends to the Himalayas, where the shared border with India is being redrawn. Even if a limited war broke out over Aksai Chin, Sikkim, or Arunachal Pradesh the speed of the PLA and PLAAF’s movements outside their territory will involve the establishment of layered air defenses and electronic warfare for deterring the IAF’s own movements.

Possessing ample stocks of RUDRAM missiles gives the IAF an acceptable guarantee against hostile air defenses in the near-future conflicts it must fight.

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