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Saturday, September 29, 2001

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India can now procure weapon-locating radars

By Pranab Dhal Samanta

DEOLALI (Nasik), SEPT. 28. With the U.S. lifting sanctions, India has a better choice of weapon-locating radars for the Army, an equipment that was missed during the Kargil conflict.

According to officials at the School of Artillery here, nearly 80 per cent of the casualties in Kargil resulted from enemy artillery fire. Since the Army could not operate beyond the Line of Control, it was impossible to physically ascertain the exact location of Pakistani guns.

In such situations, officials say, weapon-locating radars play an important role. By picking up the trajectory of an incoming artillery shell, these radars can locate the point of its origin. This automatically-generated data, sources say, would make it possible for Indian artillery guns to respond within seconds and destroy or neutralise enemy guns.

The only radar available with India is the British- made Cymbeline. This, however, is a mortar-locating radar that can only detect shells fired at a high angle. Moreover, the system failed to make any significant impact during the Kargil conflict.

It is learnt that India was looking to purchase the American ANTPQ 36/37 weapon-locating radar system before the nuclear tests in 1998. However, this was withheld following the imposition of sanctions after the tests. Subsequently, efforts to acquire such a system intensified after the high rate of casualties in Kargil.

Following the U.S. sanctions, India was forced to look at the dated Ukrainian IL-220 system. With hardly any choice at hand, the Army began considering ways of improvising it to meet the Indian needs. The urgency to procure such a system for the Army was further fuelled by the fact that Pakistan already has a few U.S.-made ANTPQ 36/37 radars.

Now with the lifting of sanctions, officials say India could go for the best weapon-locating radar system said to be available with the U.S. The latest being the upgraded ANTPQ-47 radar system that can detect guns firing from a distance of more than 30 km. Germany has brought out a similar system called Cobra. This, too, could now become available for trial for the Indian Army.

There is, however, another school of thought that is advocating a rethink on the purchase of these radar systems. According to a senior official, the use of radars can be a hazard as some countries have developed anti-radiation missiles that pick the radiations emitted by radars and home in on them. Others argue that these missiles are yet to acquire high levels of proficiency.

While concurring with the possibility of acquiring the best possible weapon-locating radar, the Commandant of the School of Artillery, Lt. Gen. Avtar Singh, said,

``Though such hopes have been raised, one will have to wait and see how the lifting of sanctions will translate on the ground. It is too soon to say anything now.''

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