Game changer weapon technology

SMART could turn out to be a major factor in how India will counter China’s submarine menace

AuthorPublished: 7th Oct 2020  12:00 amUpdated: 6th Oct 2020  7:25 pm

The successful flight test of a new weapon system called Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) marks a major technology breakthrough for India in anti-submarine warfare. This may well be a game changer technology demonstration and a quantum leap for the Indian Navy, particularly in the light of the growing threat from China. The SMART is a missile assisted release of lightweight Anti-Submarine Torpedo System for anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations for far beyond torpedo range. The weapon system, indigenously developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), will act as a deterrent against Chinese misadventures in the Indian Ocean at a time when the presence of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy in the region is on the rise. A number of DRDO laboratories, including DRDL and RCI in Hyderabad, have developed the technologies. The weapon system, flight tested from Wheeler Island off the coast of Odisha, encompasses hybrid technology, which helps to upgrade the present system and also increase the striking range. Considered the “mother of all naval weapons”, the system has a range of around 350 nautical miles. When launched from a warship or a truck-based coastal battery, SMART takes off like a regular supersonic missile. Just when it approaches close enough to the submerged submarine, the missile will eject the torpedo system into the water and the autonomous torpedo will start moving towards its target to take out the submarine. The significance of these rocket-assisted torpedoes is that they cover a larger distance in a shorter period. This would mean a quantum leap for the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities, given the very-long range and supersonic speed.

The Indian Navy needs to modernise and expand its range of ship-borne and airborne anti-submarine surveillance and detection capabilities to take full advantage of the SMART missile. The development of the SMART missile comes as China continues its relentless development of both nuclear-powered and conventional submarines. A report on China’s naval modernisation by the US Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence noted that by 2030, China could have as many as 76 submarines. It is a matter of concern that Beijing is moving ahead to develop bases in nations such as Pakistan and Cambodia. SMART could turn out to be a major factor in how India will counter China’s submarine menace. Over the past few years, India has indigenised many of the sub-systems used in missiles and also stepped up efforts to enhance its ability to conduct surveillance of Chinese warships and submarines entering the Indian Ocean Region through the nearby Malacca Strait — one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Also, the Army has deployed BrahMos missiles in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh to deter an increasingly aggressive China.

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