Amid the QUAD relation developments against Chinese dominance, India commissioned its first nuclear missile tracking vessel INS Dhruv. With this move, India is now the 5th country in the world after US, Russia, France and China to have such vessel in its defence arsenal. The secretive vehicle was under construction since 2014.
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According to an Economic Times report, India will be commissioning INS Dhruv to track strategic missile movement, satellites and map the entirety of the Indian Ocean bed. According to officials aware of the developments, the vessel is also known as the ‘ECG’ of Indian Ocean, a reference to the device that can diagnose problems in heart. The INS Dhruv will be an aid to Indian Navy as it will help them with planning out operations across all 3 spaces –sub surface, surface and aerial.
The oceanic surveillance ship INS Dhruv was under development with a secret code VC-1118 since 2014. The ship was originally planned to be commissioned in October 2019 but due to some hindrances, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the commissioning process was delayed. In March 2021, the vessel cleared all its trial tests and will be put into service soon.
The main purpose of the ship will be to provide an ‘early warning’ for incoming nuclear missiles on India. Additionally, the INS Dhruv will also increase the efficacy of the ballistic missile defence (BMD) which is already operated by India. Currently the BMD system makes use of its satellite-based sensors that detect flashes of a missile launch. Once the BMD system confirms a missile launch, long-range Air Defence Missile Prithvi and shorter-range Advanced Air Defence missile can be launched by the nation to defend itself.
The vessel is developed as a long-term shield for India against Pakistan and China. It should be noted that Pakistan and China both have nuclear warheads with China having 350 nuclear warheads and Pakistan possessing an estimated 160.
The jewel in the INS Dhruv is a huge X-Band radar aptly supported by multiple sensors, precision scanner, an S-band radar that’s used for scanning large areas. The X-Band and S-Band radars are electronically scanned array systems that possess the capability of maintaining tracks, resisting jamming and producing higher resolution imagery.
So far, no performance data from testing has been publicly released. But the radars on the INS-Dhruv are based on the L-Band Multi-Object Tracking Radar. To understand how powerful these tracking radars are, one should know that the L-Band Tracking Radar is also used by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The sensors aboard the INS-Dhruv are so powerful that there are 3 power generators on the vessel that add as supplementary electricity generator combined with the twin diesel engines on the ship. This brings the total electricity output of the vessel to 14 MW.
The INS Dhruv also comes with C$ communication system (command, control and communication). Additionally, the vessel makes use of ESM (Electronic Support Measure) antennas that allows it to stealthily spy on electromagnetic emissions generated by neighbouring country’s ships and jets. This capability of a vessel is also known as electronic intelligence.
Taking a deeper look at the vessel reports indicates that the vessel incorporates acoustic sensors, landing pad and aircraft hangar facilities. Through landing pads and hangers, the vessel will be able to support an IAF aircraft like Chetak or Dhruv.
According to reports, the INS Dhruv will welcome people from National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) and the officials handling the ship will be reporting directly to Ajit Doval, the nation’s National Security Advisor. The INS Dhruv will also be able to serve as a missile test range instrumentation vessel. Meaning, the sensors onboard the ship can be used to collect data from tests conducted by land-based or submarine-based ballistic missiles. These missiles are currently in development.
According to Hindustan Times, the INS Dhruv once operational would go on to serve as a “force multiplier” for the nation’s navy as it can be used in planning submarine, land and aerial operations.