This post is a part of our current affairs series for the UPSC IAS Prelims 2022. In this post, we have covered the Science and tech current affairs of the Defence technologies section. This post covers the current affairs of September, October 2021 and April 2022 months.
Science and Tech Current Affairs 2021-22
List of Contents
- MK 54 torpedoes, P-8I, chaff and flares
- ICGS Sarthak
- Hypersonic missiles
- Hypersonic Glide Vehicle
- Long Range Bomb
- Hansa New Generation(NG) aircraft
- INS Dhruv
- INS Hansa
- LCA-Mk2 and Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA)
- Arjun Mk-1A
- Akash Prime
- INS Vagsheer
- Neptune Missile and Moska
- HELINA (Helicopter based NAG)
- Canister Launched Anti-Armour Loiter Ammunition(CALM) System
- INS Valsura
- Third Positive Indigenisation List
- Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet(SFDR)
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Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) has successfully flight-tested Abhyas High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) from the Integrated Test Range in Chandipur, Odisha.
Abhyas is an indigenously developed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle(UAV) that will be used as a target for the evaluation of various missile systems.
Developed by: It has been designed and developed by DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment(ADE).
Key Features of Abhyas
Abhyas is powered by a small gas turbine engine to sustain a long endurance flight at subsonic speed.
It is also equipped with a MEMS-based Inertial Navigation System(INS) for navigation, along with the Flight Control Computer(FCC) for guidance and control.
Moreover, the Abhyas vehicle is programmed for fully autonomous flight. The check-out of air vehicle is done using a laptop-based Ground Control Station (GCS)
MK 54 torpedoes, P-8I, chaff and flares
The Defence Minister has signed a contract with the US government to procure MK 54 torpedoes and expendables such as chaff and flares for the Indian Navy’s anti-submarine warfare aircraft P-8I.
About MK 54 lightweight torpedo
MK 54 lightweight torpedo is an anti-submarine warfare(ASW) torpedo used by the United States Navy.
The torpedoes are designed to operate in shallow waters and in the presence of countermeasures, they can track, classify and attack underwater targets.
P-8I is a long-range, multimission maritime patrol aircraft offered by US Boeing for the Indian Navy.
The aircraft can conduct Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Anti-Surface Warfare (AsuW), intelligence, maritime patrol and surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
Chaff is an electronic countermeasure technology used by militaries worldwide to protect naval ships, aircraft or other sensitive targets from radar and radio frequency guiding mechanisms of the enemy missile.
A flare or decoy flare is an aerial infrared countermeasure used by a plane or helicopter to counter an infrared homing (“heat-seeking”) surface-to-air missile or air-to-air missile.
India has successfully test-fired Agni-V Missile.
Agni-V is a surface-to-surface nuclear-capable InterContinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).
Note: ICBMs are guided missiles that can deliver nuclear and other payloads. They have a minimum range of 5,500 km, with maximum ranges varying from 7,000 to 16,000 km.
Developed by: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Range: It is capable of striking targets at ranges up to 5,000 kilometres with a very high degree of accuracy.
Speed: It can reach an exceptional Mach 24 speed, which is around 29,401 km/h.
Key Features of Agni-V
The missile uses a three-stage solid-fuelled engine
It is road-mobile and can be transported by a truck and launched via a canister.
Satellite Guidance: The missile is equipped with a ring laser gyroscope inertial navigation system (NavIC) that works with satellite guidance. So, the missile can carry nuclear warheads with advanced navigation and guidance systems.
MIRV Technology: The most striking feature of Agni-V is its MIRV (Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles) technology. In this technique, multiple weapons can be installed instead of one in the warhead mounted on the missile. That is, a missile can hit multiple targets simultaneously.
Significance of the Agni-V launch
Agni-V will put India’s credible minimum deterrence on a firm footing, as no missile in the Indian arsenal has the range to strike targets deep inside China.
Moreover, with the launch of Agni-V, India has joined an exclusive club of countries such as China, the US, Russia, Britain and France to have ICBMs.
Director-General of Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has commissioned the indigenously built Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Sarthak’ at a ceremony held in Goa.
About ICGS Sarthak
ICGS Sarthak is an indigenously built Offshore Patrol Vessel(OPV) by the Goa Shipyard Limited.
Note: Offshore patrol vessels(OPVs) are patrolling vehicles that are deployed by Indian coast guards to patrol the maritime boundary of India.
Key features of ICGS Sarthak
Firstly, the vessel is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment, machinery, sensors and weapons which enable it to undertake duties such as search and rescue, combating maritime crimes and preserving & protecting the marine environment.
Secondly, it is capable of carrying a twin-engine helicopter, four high-speed boats and one inflatable boat for swift boarding and Search & Rescue operations.
Thirdly, it is also capable of carrying limited pollution response equipment to undertake oil spill pollution response at sea.
Deployment of ICGS Sarthak
The vessel will be based at Porbandar (Gujarat) and operate on India’s Western Seaboard.
It will be deployed extensively for EEZ surveillance, Coastal Security and other duties as enshrined in the Coast Guard charter of duties, to safeguard the maritime interests of the Nation.
China’s military has carried out its first-ever test of a “nuclear capable hypersonic missile”.
About Hypersonic Missile
Hypersonic speeds are those that exceed five times the speed of sound, that is, anything that can move at speeds of Mach 5 or above, which means at least 1.6 km per second.
Types of Hypersonic Missiles: There are two types of hypersonic missiles.
Hypersonic cruise missiles: These are the ones that use rocket or jet propellant through their flight and are regarded as being just faster versions of existing cruise missiles.
Hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) missiles: This is the one that China has tested. They are launched on rockets and then orbit the earth at their own speed. They are difficult to track because, unlike ballistic missiles, they “do not follow the fixed parabolic trajectory”.
Note: Countries like the US, Russia and China are developing hypersonic glide vehicles.
About India and hypersonic technology
India too is working on hypersonic technologies. In September 2020, DRDO has successfully flight-tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle(HSTDV) with a capability to travel at 6 times the speed of sound.
In December 2020 an advanced Hypersonic Wind Tunnel (HWT) test facility of the DRDO was inaugurated in Hyderabad. It is a pressure vacuum-driven, enclosed free jet facility that simulates Mach 5 to 12.
Hypersonic Glide Vehicle
Recently China has successfully tested a new hypersonic Glide missile.
About Hypersonic Glide Vehicle
A hypersonic glide vehicle is launched by a rocket that moves in the Earth’s lower orbit. It is launched at more than five times to 25 times the speed of sound.
The vehicle is capable of carrying nuclear payloads, which gives the launching country the strategic capacity to attack almost any target across the world.
Difference between Hypersonic Glide Vehicle and ICBM
ICBM follows a parabolic trajectory, which means it goes up and then comes down in a high arc—like throwing up a ball.
On the other hand, hypersonic glide vehicles orbit the earth at a lower height and are manoeuvrable. The ability to change track or target, mid-trajectory, along with the speed, makes them tougher to track and defend against.
Moreover, hypersonic missiles can travel approximately 5,000 to 25,000 km per hour, which makes them six to over 25 times faster than modern commercial aircraft.
Hence, the mix of the high altitude, high speed and manoeuvrability of hypersonic missiles can potentially provide them to use in-flight updates to attack a different target than originally planned.
Long Range Bomb
Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) and Indian Air Force (IAF) have jointly flight-tested Long-Range Bomb(LRB).
About the Long Range Bomb(LRB)
Long Range Bomb is India’s first indigenously-developed guided bomb.It will be used to attack land-based targets at a long-range with greater accuracy.
Developed by: It has been designed and developed by Research Centre Imarat (RCI), a DRDO laboratory located at Hyderabad in coordination with other DRDO laboratories.
Range: The bomb has a range of around 100 kilometres.
Significance: This development is important as India in the past has been using Israeli laser-guided bombs. Hence, the successful test of the LR Bomb makes India capable of staying well within its territory and hitting enemy targets at 100 kilometres with high accuracy.
The 7th Indian Navy Frigate of P1135.6 class was launched at Yantar Shipyard, Russia. The ship is formally named as ‘Tushil’-a Sanskrit word meaning Protector Shield.
The construction of ships is based on an Inter-Governmental Agreement between the India and Russian Federation for the construction of two ships of Project 1135.6 ships in Russia and two ships in India at M/s Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL).
More about the Frigate-Tushil
The construction of these ships is based on Indian Navy’s specific requirements to meet the entire spectrum of naval warfare in all three dimensions of Air, Surface and Sub-surface.
The ships with a potent combination of state-of-art Indian and Russian Weapons and Sensors are equipped to operate in Littoral and Blue waters, both as a single unit and as consort in a naval task force.
They feature “stealth technology” in terms of low radar and underwater noise signatures.
These ships are being equipped with major Indian supplied equipment such as Surface to Surface Missiles, Sonar system, Surface Surveillance Radar, Communication Suite and ASW systems along with Russian Surface to Air Missiles and gun mounts.
Hansa New Generation(NG) aircraft
Hansa New Generation (NG) aircraft has successfully made its maiden flight from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) airport.
About Hansa New Generation(NG) aircraft
Hansa New Generation(NG) aircraft is an upgraded version of the two-seater Hansa trainer aircraft.
Designed by: National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Bangalore
Features: The unique features of Hansa-NG are
- Glass cockpit with cabin comfort
- Highly efficient digitally controlled engine
- Electrically operated flaps
- Long endurance
- Low acquisition and low operating cost.
About National Aerospace Laboratories(NAL):
NAL was established in 1959. It is a constituent of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(CSIR).
It is India’s only government-owned aerospace research and development laboratory in the civilian sector.
National Security Advisor has commissioned India’s first satellite and ballistic missile tracking ship Dhruv from Visakhapatnam.
Dhruv is built by Hindustan Shipyard in collaboration with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO).
Key features of INS Dhruv
Mapping: It has the capability to also map ocean beds for research and detection of enemy submarines.
Enhanced surveillance capabilities: INS Dhruv is equipped with DRDO developed state-of-the-art active scanned array radar or AESA. It has the ability to scan various spectrums to monitor spy satellites watching over India, as well as monitor missile tests in the entire region.
Surveillance: The ship will be a vital key to maritime domain awareness in the Indo-Pacific and is being commissioned at the time when the era of underwater armed and surveillance drones has dawned.
Real time warning system: It will act as an early warning system for enemy missiles headed towards Indian cities and military establishments.
Control: The nuclear missile tracking ship will be manned by Indian Navy personnel with the Strategic Forces Command (SFC).
Significance of Dhruv
Strategic significance: Both China and Pakistan having nuclear ballistic missile capability and land disputes with India.
Counter China: China has moved to sea-based military doctrine with huge investments in long-range aircraft carriers, warships and submarines. Dhruv will help India’s electronic intelligence-gathering spy agency, the NTRO, to project threat to India in real-time.
Maritime defence: It will act as a major force multiplier to India’s maritime security architecture as well add to the capability to understand the true missile capability of the adversary when they test their ballistic missiles.
India joins Premier League of Nations: The 10,000-tonne ship will be at the heart of India’s future anti-ballistic missile capability. Such ships are operated by France, the US, the UK, Russia, and China only.
Net security provider: It will add to the Indian Navy’s capability to monitor the region from the Gulf of Aden to the ingress routes to the South China Sea via Malacca, Sunda, Lombok, Ombai and Wetar straits.
Mapping ocean floor: it will help in mapping the Indian Ocean bed to help the Indian Navy plan better military operations in all three dimensions—sub-surface, surface and aerial.
Indian Navy’s premier air station INS Hansa is celebrating its diamond jubilee.
About INS Hansa
INS Hansa is an Indian naval air station located near Dabolim in Goa. It is India’s biggest naval airbase.
History of INS Hansa
INS Hansa was initially set up as a Naval Jet Flight at Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu in 1958. It was later commissioned as INS Hansa in 1961.
After the liberation of Goa, the Dabolim airfield was taken over by the Indian Navy in 1962 and INS Hansa shifted to Dabolim in 1964.
The airbase has increased its capability over the last six decades and is presently operating over 40 military aircraft, clocking an average yearly flying of over 5000 hours.
The air station also supports civil aviation by handling domestic and international flights 24×7, with an average of 29000 flights in a year.
Note: INS Hansa is the host for the prestigious event of presentation of the President’s Colour to naval aviation by the Hon’ble President of India.
LCA-Mk2 and Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA)
The preliminary design for the Light Combat Aircraft(LCA)-Mk2 and the fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) has been completed.
Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-Mk2 is a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft designed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Payload Capacity: It is a 1,350 mm longer aircraft. It can carry a payload of 6,500 kg compared to the 3,500 kg the LCA can carry.
Features: The aircraft features enhanced range and endurance, including an onboard oxygen generation system, which is being integrated for the first time.
About Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft(AMCA)
The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft(AMCA) is a fifth-generation indigenous fighter aircraft designed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).
Payload Capacity: It will be a 25-tonne aircraft with a payload capacity of 1,500 kg internally and a 5,500-kg external payload.
Features: The aircraft will have stealth and non-stealth configurations. It will be developed in two phases, AMCA Mk1 with an existing GE414 engine and an AMCA Mk2 with an advanced more powerful engine to be developed later along with a foreign partner.
Note: Stealth technology is a low observable technology that makes aircraft, fighter jets, ships, submarines, satellites, missiles less visible to radar, infrared, sonar and other detection methods.
Participation of Private Industry: The manufacturing and production of the aircraft will be through a special purpose vehicle which will have the participation of private industry.
The Ministry of Defence(MoD) has placed an order with Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), Chennai for the supply of 118 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) Arjun Mk-1A for the Indian Army.
About Arjun Mk-1A
Arjun Mk-1A is a new variant of Arjun Tank designed and developed by the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) along with the other laboratories of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Key features of Arjun Mk-1A
Arjun Mk-1A is designed to enhance firepower, mobility and survivability. It can take on the enemy during day & night conditions and in both static & dynamic modes.
It has 54.3% indigenous content, against the 41% in the earlier model.
Furthermore, it is known as the “hunter-killers” as it is equipped with a massive 120 mm rifled gun and Kanchan armour, making it the most potent armoured system in the inventory of the army.
It also has a computer-controlled integrated fire control system with a stabilised sighting that works in all lighting conditions.
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully tested a new version of Akash missile named Akash Prime.
About Akash Prime
Akash Prime is a medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) system developed by the DRDO and produced by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).
It was developed to replace the Russian 2K12 Kub (SA-6 Gainful) missile system, currently in service.
The missile is equipped with a homegrown Radio Frequency seeker which imparts an improved accuracy while intercepting targets in various conditions.
The missile will further boost the confidence of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force.
Note: DRDO has recently also tested the Akash-NG missile. Both Akash Prime and Akash NG are variants of the Akash Missile. Akash Missile is India’s first indigenously produced medium-range Surface to Air missile.
Russia has successfully tested its new Inter Continental Ballistic Missile(ICBM) named “Sarmat”.
Sarmat is an Inter Continental Ballistic Missile(ICBM) developed by Russia. The missile has been nicknamed as “Satan II” by the West.
Named After: It is named after nomadic tribes that roamed the steppes of present-day Southern Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in the early medieval period.
Purpose: It is designed to elude anti-missile defence systems with a short initial boost phase giving enemy surveillance systems a tiny window to track.
Range: It is a three-stage, liquid-fueled missile with a range of 18,000 km.
Warheads: It can be deployed with 10 or more warheads on each missile.
It will be the first Russian missile which can carry smaller hypersonic boost-glide vehicles. These are manoeuvrable and hard to intercept.
Significance of this missile
The missile is expected to pose a significant challenge to the ground-and-satellite-based radar tracking systems of the western powers, particularly the USA.
The Defence Secretary has launched INS Vagsheer. It is the last of the Scorpene-class submarines made under Project 75 and can join the Navy fleet within 12-18 months after sea trials.
About INS Vagsheer
INS Vagsheer is the sixth submarine of Project 75 of the Indian Navy.
Manufactured by: Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited(MDL) in collaboration with Naval Group, France.
Named After: Vagsheer is named after the sandfish, a deep-sea predator of the Indian Ocean. It is also named after the first submarine Vagsheer from Russia which was commissioned into the Indian Navy in 1974 and was decommissioned in 1997.
Diesel Attack Submarine: It is a diesel attack submarine designed to perform sea denial as well as access denial warfare against the adversary. It can do offensive operations such as anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering and area surveillance.
Speed: It can reach a top speed of 20 knots when submerged and a top speed of 11 knots when it surfaces.
Anti-Torpedo Countermeasure system: It is enabled with a C303 anti-torpedo countermeasure system. It can carry up to 18 torpedoes or Exocet anti-ship missiles, or 30 mines in place of torpedoes.
Superior Stealth Features: Its superior stealth features include advanced acoustic absorption techniques, low radiated noise levels, and hydro-dynamically optimized shape. It has the ability to launch a crippling attack using precision-guided weapons, underwater or on the surface.
Neptune Missile and Moska
Ukraine has claimed that it has damaged the Russian Black Sea Fleet Flagship ‘Moskva’ by Neptune Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles.
About the Neptune Missile
Neptune is a coastal anti-ship cruise missile that is capable of the destruction of naval vessels in a range of 300 km.
The missile system was inducted into the Ukrainian Defence Forces in 2021 after being in development for six years.
The design of this missile is based on a Russian Kh-35 cruise missile, which goes by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) name of AS-20 Kayak.
Moskva is a guided missile cruiser of the Russian Navy named after the city of Moscow.
The Moskva was originally commissioned as the Slava in 1983. It was recommissioned in 2000 as the Moskva with refurbished weapon systems and electronics.
It is the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Navy and carries a crew of around 500 personnel.
HELINA (Helicopter based NAG)
Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO) along with the Indian Army and Air Force has successfully flight-tested “Helina” from an advanced light helicopter (ALH).
HELINA (Helicopter based NAG) is a third-generation fire and forget class anti-tank guided missile(ATGM) system mounted on the Advanced Light Helicopter(ALH).
Developed by: Defence Research and Development Laboratory(DRDL) – DRDO.
Key Features of HELINA
Range: It has a maximum range of 7 kilometres.
It has all-weather, day and night capability and can defeat battle tanks with conventional armour as well as explosive reactive armour.
It has been developed for integration with choppers in both the Army and the Air Force. The Air Force version of Helina is sometimes referred to as Dhruvastra.
The missile can engage targets both in direct hit mode as well as top attack mode.
The missile is guided by an Infrared Imaging Seeker(IIR) which makes it one of the most advanced Anti-Tank Weapons in the world.
Canister Launched Anti-Armour Loiter Ammunition(CALM) System
The Indian Army has issued a Request for Information(RFI) for the Canister Launched Anti-Armour Loiter Ammunition(CALM) System.
About the Canister Launched Anti-Armour Loiter Ammunition(CALM) System
CALM System is a preloaded canister with loitering ammunition or a drone. Once fired it can remain aloft for a period of time over the area of operation and when a target is sighted it can be guided down to destroy the target with the explosive payload that it carries.
Usually, loiter ammunition carries a camera that is nose-mounted and which can be used by the operator to see the area of operation and choose targets.
These munitions also have variants that can be recovered and reused in case they are not used for any strike.
The top-down attack capability of the CALM System gives it a big advantage over targets such as tanks, which are vulnerable to any attack on the top where the armour protection is weak.
Deployment of the CALM System
The Army wants to deploy the CALM System in the plains and deserts along the western borders, as well as in high altitude areas up to 16,500 feet along the northern frontier.
The President has presented the President’s colour to INS Valsura, the Navy’s premier technological training establishment.
Note: The President’s Colour is the highest award bestowed on a military unit in India in recognition of its exceptional services to the nation.
About INS Valsura
Setup in: 1942.
Origin of Name: The name “Valsura” was derived from the combination of two Tamil words, ‘Vaal’ (meaning sword) and ‘Sorrah’ (shark). It was considered appropriate due to the variety of swordfish found off the coast of Saurashtra. Swordfish was also the name of the famous Second World War torpedo-carrying aircraft.
Purpose: It is the Indian Navy’s premier technological training establishment. It trains officers on the operation and maintenance of sophisticated and technologically advanced equipment on board warships.
Located in: Jamnagar, Gujarat.
About the brief history of INS Valsura
During the Second World War, HMIS Valsura was created to enhance the training facilities in the domain of torpedo handling and operations for the Royal Navy.
The establishment was built on Rozi Island in Jamnagar, donated by the ruler of Nawanagar State Colonel Digvijay Singhji Jamsaheb.
In 1948, there was a proposal to shift the Torpedo School to the Naval Base in Cochin, but the Jamsaheb was keen that Valsura continued where it was and sealed it by donating another 600 acres on the same terms.
The establishment was then commissioned on December 15, 1942 by Maharani Gulab Kunverba Sahiba of Nawanagar. After Independence, HMIS Valsura was renamed as Indian Naval Ship Valsura on July 1, 1950.
Third Positive Indigenisation List
The Defense Minister has released the third Positive Indigenisation List.
About the Positive Indigenisation List
The positive indigenisation list essentially means that the Armed Forces—Army, Navy, and Air Force—will only procure the listed items from domestic manufacturers. The manufacturers could be private sector players or Defense Public Sector Undertakings(DPSUs).
About the third Positive Indigenisation List
The third positive indigenisation contains 101 equipment and platforms, which the Services can procure only from the domestic industry.
This list follows the issue of the first list (101) and second list (108) that were promulgated in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
The third list includes items such as naval utility helicopters, light tanks, small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and anti-ship missiles among others.
These weapons and platforms are planned to be indigenised progressively with effect from December 2022 to December 2027.
Significance of the Positive Indigenisation List
Firstly, it is likely to stimulate the potential of indigenous Research & Development (R&D) by attracting fresh investment into technology and manufacturing capabilities.
Secondly, it will provide ample opportunities to the domestic industry for understanding the trends and future needs of the Armed Forces.
Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet(SFDR)
Defence Research and Development Organization(DRDO) has successfully flight-tested Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) booster at the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur off the coast of Odisha.
About the Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet(SFDR)
SFDR is a missile propulsion system being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO).
Aim: To develop critical technologies required in the propulsion systems of future long-range air-to-air missiles.
Technology: The system is based on a solid fuelled air-breathing ramjet engine. Unlike the other solid-propellant rockets, the Ramjet takes up oxygen from the atmosphere during flight without the need for cylinders. Due to this, it is light in weight and can carry more fuel, making it more efficient.
About the significance of this development
Firstly, it enables the missiles to intercept aerial threats at very long range at supersonic speeds.
Secondly, it has provided DRDO with a technological advantage that will enable it to develop long-range air-to-air missiles. At present, such technology is available only with a handful of countries in the world.