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Did Indian ‘Jugaad’! IAF Converts Obsolete Russian Air-To-Air Missiles Into Surface-To-Air Systems?

If photographs taken at the most recent Defense Expo in Gandhinagar are to be believed, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has converted obsolete air-to-air missiles (AAM) into surface-to-air missiles (SAM).

The SAMAR SAM platform has been constructed from Russian-made R-27 and R-73 AAMs. However, among retired IAF fighter pilots, opinions on the system's viability are still divided.

According to a report on Air Force Technology, India purchased an undisclosed number of R-27 medium-range AAMs from Ukraine in 2013. These AAMs were created by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

It is created by Vympel Design Bureau in Russia.

Reportedly, India purchased additional R-27s worth Rs. 1,500 crores in late July 2019 under the emergency procurement authority granted to the three services.

It was impossible to verify the July 2019 purchase because some media reports claimed it was the R-73.

Following India's airstrike at Balakote, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and I engaged in an airstrike over Kashmir in February 2019. That was a response to the terror attack in Pulwama, which left 44 members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) dead.

Zee News and Sputnik said it was the R-73, with the former claiming it was the R-73ER (extended range) variant, while ANI News Agency claimed it was the R-27. The deal was made for the front-line Sukhoi Su-30 fighters of the IAF. The MiG-21 and MiG-29 fighters of the IAF are already equipped with the missiles.

The R-73 missile that downed the PAF F-16 was launched from then-Wing Commander (now Group Captain) Abhinandan's MiG-21. With an eight-kilogram warhead and an all-aspect infrared passive homing head, it has a range of 30 kilometers.

A radar proximity fuse/target sensor is additionally present. The most significant models of the R-27 are the ER and ET variations. The ET has an infrared seeker, while the ER has a semi-active radar seeker.


Two R-27s are visible in the tweet, each attached to the rail launchers found beneath the wings of a fighter aircraft and mounted on a truck. A pair of R-73s were depicted in a few more images in the tweet that followed. A plaque on the turret of the truck that was hauling the R-27 featured an IAF logo and stated that Simran Flowtech Industries and Yamazuki Denki Pvt Ltd. were responsible for its design and development.

The effectiveness of the arrangement is questioned by Squadron Leader Vijainder Thakur, a retired IAF Jaguar pilot, who primarily cites the absence of R-27 production in India.

"Relying solely on the stock in circulation would be like beating a dead horse. It certainly doesn't appear to be a functioning system. It would be a waste of the IAF's budget to turn it into an operational system, Thakur said.

The R-27ET, which is the "variant with an IR seeker" (R-27ET) and "would work like a Man Portable Air Defense (MANPAD) without the easy portability and easy cueing," according to Thakur, even the combat capability would be compromised. The best results are typically obtained when IR seeker missiles are "locked on" to the target prior to launch.

SAMAR SAM platform

Former MiG-21 pilot Group Captain TP Srivastava (Retd) stated that the guidance and tracking radar information is not available. Srivastava continued, "A SAM is only as good as its ground radar." It is not unusual for AAMs to be converted into SAMs, according to Gp Capt Johnson Chacko, who piloted Canberra bombers and the MiG-25.

He mentioned how the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System uses the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) of the United States (NASAMS). Such missiles could be economically converted to SAMs. It can be used as a SAM if the guidance system is functional and the acquisition is enabled, Chacko continued.

R-27 Was Ukraine’s Handicap

According to a Forbes article, it's interesting to note that the R-27ER, which is primarily used by the Ukrainian Air Force (UAF), was also proving ineffective against Russian Air Force (RuAF) fighters in the early stages of the conflict.

The semi-active radar seeker on the ER performs best at or beyond the missile's 96 km maximum range. However, the "passive radar receiver" that requires guidance from the launching fighter's radar and is bouncing off radar waves from the target is not in the missile itself.

The missile loses the signal and drifts off-target if the pilot who is launching it turns off his radar or even just turns his jet's nose away from the enemy, according to the report. This increases the likelihood of detection because the launching fighter must get closer to the target fighter.

Additionally, the fighter is detected when its radar is activated because it is emitting energy. It's similar to using a flashlight to find the enemy in complete darkness, but the enemy can see you because of your light.

A Four-Nation ‘Jugaad’ With The R-73

When one considers the well-known project of fusing the Russian R-73 with the French Mirage-2000 with Israeli expertise, one can see that the Indian Air Force (IAF) isn't inexperienced with mating otherwise incompatible systems with technical hacks.

The French and Russian governments opposed the IAF's decision to integrate the R-73 onto the delta-wing fighter, but it was necessary to replace the outdated R-530D Magic missiles on the Mirage-2000 in 2008.

Former Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal AK Nagalia described how Israeli engineers were given access to the Digibus on the Mirage-2000 in the book "Indian Air Force: The Case for Indigenization." Between the mission computer and the jet's various subsystems, this chipset exchanges data.

The project was carried out by the Israeli firms Elbit and Rafael, makers of the Crystal Maze air-to-surface missile (ASM) and the DASH helmet-mounted display.

On the pilot's visor, an HMD projects the flight display, readings, and other data. Consequently, flying is less stressful, and more attention is paid to the combat aspect.

The Israeli engineers were able to decode the data bus protocol using "extensive trials" using the Digibus since they did not have access to the software "source codes" for the Mirage's radar. New algorithms made it possible for the Israeli HMD and Mirage's radar to communicate with the Russian missile.

SOURCE: EurAsian Times

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