Since lending arms to Ukraine, America’s venerable AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) has become a new standard for the best tactical, air-to-surface anti-radiation missile (ARM) that has reliably intercepted electronic transmissions of Russian radars and then took them out. The rocket is just one of the many munitions the US and its allies have provided Ukraine since the war broke out in February.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) sought the same system after recognizing its effectiveness on the battlefield, but instead of buying the American ARMs, it is looking to acquire its homegrown Rudram anti-radiation missile.
According to reports, the IAF recently submitted the budget proposal for procuring India’s next-generation anti-radiation missiles for Rs 1,400 crore (around $1.7 billion) in a continuing effort to induct more indigenously-made weapons into its defense systems.
Defense officials also noted IAF’s plan to equip the procured Rudram to its fleet of Sukhoi-30 fighter jets, allowing the service branch to boost its search-and-destroy capabilities against enemy radar systems.
The design and development of Rudram were led by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in the early 2010s as part of New Delhi’s ambition of creating its own tactical, anti-radiation missile having the American AGM-88 as one of its models. After years of trial and error, the now-called Rudram-1 was officially unveiled as the country’s first-ever ARM in August.
The project stalled for two years but soon resumed, where it successfully live-tested the next-generation ARM in October 2020 using a Sukhoi-30 fighter jet and showed a promising performance of pinpoint accuracy. The missile has a reported launch speed of up to Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound, and a range of 100-250 km, depending on the fighter jet’s altitude. It measures about 5.5 m (18 ft) and weighs around 600 kg (1,300 lbs) with a pre-fragmented warhead weight of 55 kg (121 lbs). It also has a dual-pulsed rocket motor, a passive homing head that tracks radiation sources across a wide frequency range, and a shutdown capability that allows it to hit its target even if the enemy’s radar is turned off before or after the missile is launched. Besides the Sukhoi-30, Rudram-1 can use other combat jets, such as MiG-29, Dassault Mirage 2000, and SEPECAT Jaguar, as its launch platform.
Rudram-1’s prominent feature focuses on Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD) missions that would allow the IAF to strike enemy targets without detection, as well as take down surveillance radar installations and disrupt communication systems.
Clearly, the Indian Defense Ministry has been taking notes on the lessons learned as the Russia-Ukraine war unfolds. But upgrading its military equipment and the force itself has been an ongoing mission since the Modi administration took over in 2014. The war catapulted New Delhi into inducting more “made in India” weapons and reducing its arms imports from other superpowers, particularly from Russia.
Russia has been India’s “most preferred” arms supplier since at least the 2000s, accounting for more than 46 percent of the latter’s arsenals, but the performance of this equipment in Ukraine against even 30yr old Western weapons tech has been so dismal that India has good reason to wonder if they are really getting their money’s worth.
The AGM-88’s Pivotal Role in Russia-Ukraine War
In August, the US began sending AGM-88 HARMs to Ukrainian troops to counter Russia’s fire control radars for their surface-to-air missiles. The mere presence of these missiles on Ukrainian fighters has frustrated the Russian claims that they enjoy air superiority over Ukraine. As best we can tell, Russian jets do not venture far beyond the front lines of the conflict.
The AGM-88, like the Rudram-1, is a supersonic tactical air-to-surface ARM designed specifically to intercept electronic signals emitted by enemy surface-to-air radar systems. It was originally developed by Texas Instruments in the 1980s to replace AGM-45 Shrike and AGM-78 Standard ARM system and has proven itself a reliable weapon since. Previous wars it played a pivotal role include the Gulf Wars, Kosovo Wars, Iraq War, and the 2011 Military Intervention in Libya where it served to suppress enemy air defenses.
Throughout the years, AGM-88 has gone through tons of upgrades and spawned several variants, including the modern AGM-88E Advanced Antiradiation Guided Missile (AARGM), which can bypass the switch-off strategy of the enemy—the inspiration for the DRDO’s Rudram.
With AGM-88 making it dangerous for Russian air defense radars as well as counter-battery fire radars, Ukrainian troops are able to operate High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) more easily.
So far, this has been an advantage for Ukraine. However, as the war drags on for months, supplies running low as the US and other Western allies struggle to meet the demand.
Representative Mike Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN earlier this month how meeting the demand of sending weapons to Ukraine has been “getting harder and harder.”
“This is a war we thought would be over in days, but now could be years. At a time when global supply chains are melting down, the West is going to have a very difficult time to meet demands at this very high level,” Quigley said.
And this is something India would not want to avoid itself in the event of a future conflict with its China or Pakistan, its regional rivals.
Nonetheless, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder has assured that the US will continue to support Kyiv while ensuring that the assistance is not affecting the country’s military readiness.
“DoD takes into consideration the impacts on our own readiness when drawing down equipment from US stocks,” Ryder told CNN. “We have been able to transfer equipment from US stocks without degrading our own military readiness and continue to work with industry to replenish US inventories and backfill depleted stocks of allies and partners.”
US stocks of these weapons are not disclosed publically but are believed to be a supply of at least three months of wartime expenditures, giving time for the US to ramp up expanded production of replacements. The new stock being made right now will enter the US military inventory while older stock will be sent to Ukraine. There is also chance that some of these last generation weapons, like the Javelin and Stinger missiles may go back into production as they been shown to still be highly effective against even the most modern Russian weapons.
Winter is coming in Russia and Ukraine. Will the cold weather finally put an end to the long-running conflict? Read our take here.