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Exporting SWATHI

March 9, 2020 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By PIB
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Weapon Locating Radar (Swathi)

India has bagged a deal over Russia and Poland to supply 4 x Swathi Weapon Locating Radars to Armenia at a cost of $40 million. This is good news. Prime Minister Narendra Modi while inaugurating DefExpo 2020 had set the target for defence exports over next five years to $5 billion, which is about 35,000 crore. Defence exports rose from 1,500 crore in 2016-17 to 4,500 crore 2017-18 to 10,700 crore in 2018-19. For the current fiscal, the Centre has set a target of 20,000 crore. The indigenous Swathi WLR is developed by DRDO's Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) and manufactured by the Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). Armenia conducted trials of WLRs offered by India, Russia and Poland after which, the nod was given to the Indian Swathi.

As per the agreement, India will supply four SWATHI weapon locating radars, which provide fast, automatic and accurate location of enemy weapons like mortars, shells and rockets in the 50-km range. As per reports, first supplies have already begun to Armenia. Though DRDO had been working on developing a WLR since 1980's, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the WLR in 1998. Because of sanctions But because of sanctions imposed on India after the nuclear tests, America and France would not supply radars to India. However the 1999 Kargil Conflict facilitated sale of the AN/TPQ-37 radars from the US to India. These were 25 year old technology which US had already sold to Pakistan a decade back. According to 'Pakistan Defence', Swathi is modeled on the same lines AN/TPQ-37 but is more user friendly as compared to the AN/TPQ-37. In 2017, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by the Defence Minister had cleared procurement of 30 x Swathi WLR from Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) at a cost of 1,605 crore ($256 million). Swathi is a mobile phased array WLR. Its predecessor also developed by LRDE was called 'Rajendra'. Swathi is an improved version having instrumented range of 50 km, same as AN/TPQ-37. Swathi can simultaneously handle multiples projectiles fired from different weapons at different locations. The system is capable of adjusting the fire of our own artillery weapon also. The weapon includes 81mm or higher calibre mortars, 105mm or higher calibre shells and 120mm or higher calibre free flying rockets. The data is displayed in real-time that can be overlaid on a 3D digital map. The system can store a 100 km x 100 km size digital map at any time – up to 99 weapon locations can be stored and tracked simultaneously at any time as information transmitted to the command centre. Other modes include Plan Position Indicator (PPI), Range-Height Indicator (RHI) displays and the like. The radar antenna can be slewed up to +/- 135 degrees within 30 seconds, which gives the ability to the WRL the ability to quickly change its scanning sector, providing 360 degree scan capability.

The Coherent Travelling Wave Tube (TWT) transmitter of the WRL emits 40 KW of power. Swathi will automatically locate hostile artillery, mortars and rocket launchers and direct friendly fire to locate the impact of point of friendly artillery fire to issue necessary corrections. It will be used by the Surveillance and Target Acquisition component of the artillery. Swathi can detect incoming shells up to 50 km which can decrease relativity with the size of the target, however, the DRDO is planning to modernise the radar by increasing its effective detection range and reducing the false alarm rate. Swathi can reportedly detect incoming shells up to 40 km which can decrease relativity with the size of the target, however, the DRDO is planning to modernize the radar by increasing its effective detection range and reducing the false alarm rate.

Induction of Swathi radar would assist own forces in major way in mountainous terrain of the LoC where Pakistan is at an advantage geographically. Usually, after firing, artillery and mortars are moved away to avoid detection but space for doing so in mountains is limited. Deployment of Swathi could restrict Pakistani ceasefire violations since any firing by Pakistan would, now, immediately reveal the location of their artillery guns and the ability of the radar to launch counter-fire would mean their destruction. Not that Pakistan's ceasefire violations will cease totally but yes, certainly there will be caution imposed on them. Besides, Pakistan army too has WLR, albeit not indigenous. With longer range artillery and rockets on the anvil, our R&D must focus on the next advanced version of Swathi that can cover extended range artillery and take on multiple targets simultaneously. ANI quoting government officials says that export of Swathi WLR will open a new market for the sale of India's indigenous systems, which are much cheaper than its European and other rivals, and government is also targeting South-East Asia, Latin America and Middle-East countries to secure defence orders. This is good but two issues need to be kept in mind, these being:

  1. Priority in equipping the Indian Artillery with WLR should not suffer on account of export orders, and;
  2. While prices of indigenous defence equipment for export are low giving them better winning chances, prices of the same equipment supplied to our Armed Forces are inflated 2-3 time – this practice or rather malpractice must cease.

Recently Pentagon has awarded India's Larsen and Toubro a $11.5 million contract to build a specialised supply vessel for Chilean Navy, which US will supply to Chile under the US government's foreign military sales (FMS) programme. This is good but while our defence exports are set to rise, foreign direct investment (FDI) remains abysmal due to various reasons of red-tape, instability within India including riots, financial scams and periodic failure of banks. This needs to be addressed. The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal informed Parliament on March 4, 2010 that India's defence industry received FDI of $8.82 million (51.93 crore) between April 2000 and December 2019. This too small looking at India's defence market, which is nothing to be happy about.