India deployed huge spy ship designed to track nuclear missiles

According to Hindustan Times on 10th September, the Indian Navy officially commissioned a large high-tech surveillance ship INS Dhruv formerly only known by the code designation VC-11184.

The Indian Navy is expected to be able to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond with the likes of INS Dhruv in its arsenal, considering largely persisting threats from its neighbours China and Pakistan.

In what comes as a significant boost to the country’s naval power, India is all set to launch its first satellite and ballistic missile tracking ship Dhruv on Friday. The 10,000-tonne vessel was commissioned from Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh in the presence of senior officials from the Indian Navy, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), among others. INS Dhruv lies at the heart of India’s future anti-ballistic capabilities and the ship will play a key role in advancing the country’s presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

INS Dhruv was laid down June 2014 under a covered drydock in Visakhapatnam by government-owned Hindustan Shipyards Limited. After some delays, it was delivered in 2018 and completed sea trials the year after. The ship, measuring nearly the length of two football fields long at 175 meters, has a crew complement of 300, and reportedly cost 1.5 million rupees crore ($206 million) in total.

INS Dhruv during trials
INS Dhruv during trials

The Dhruv’s huge radar domes includes an X-Band radar, a class of sensor apt for focused, precision scans, and a longer-range S-Band radar (or some sources claim an L-Band) useful for scanning large areas. Both are Active Electronically Scanned Array systems, the most advanced type of radar in use due to their higher resolution, jamming resistance and ability to maintain many tracks simultaneously.

INS Dhruv: A key contender in anti-ballistic warfare  

  • INS Dhruv, with its anti-ballistic missile capabilities, will act as an early warning system for enemy missiles headed towards Indian cities and military establishments.
  • Dhruv also possesses a state-of-the-art active scanned array radar (AESA), developed by the DRDO, which will enable it to scan various spectrums and monitor spy satellites watching over India, as well as monitor missile tests in the entire region.
  • Dhruv is India’s first naval vessel that is capable of tracking nuclear missiles at a long range, which assumes a special significance with an increasing threat of nuclear ballistic warfare in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • In addition to these, INS Dhruv is also equipped with the capability to map ocean beds for research and detection of enemy submarines.
Close look of INS dhruv X-band radar
Close look of INS dhruv X-band radar

How will India benefit from the addition of INS Dhruv to its arsenal?

The Indian Navy is expected to be able to increase its presence in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond with the likes of INS Dhruv in its arsenal, considering largely persisting threats from its neighbours China and Pakistan. Here’s a look at how the country is likely to benefit from the addition of INS Dhruv to its arsenal of naval warfare instruments:

  • INS Dhruv will play a key role in India’s maritime awareness in the Indo-Pacific since it is being commissioned at a time when an era of underwater warfare and surveillance drones with the use of advanced submarines has arrived.
  • Both China and Pakistan currently have nuclear ballistic capabilities and harbour land disputes against India. In such a scenario, INS Dhruv arrives as a major upgrade to India’s fortification and force multiplier in the maritime security architecture.
  • INS Dhruv, with its state-of-the-art detection facilities, will also help the country’s defence and military researchers understand the true missile capability of the adversary when they test their ballistic missiles.
  • With Dhruv monitoring the seas for spy satellites across a variety of spectrums, the Indian Navy can now keep an eye out in the entire region from the Gulf of Aden to the ingress route to the South China Sea via Malacca, Sunda, Lombok, Ombai and Wetar straits. India’s electronic intelligence-gathering spy agency, the NTRO, will be able to gather more data across these regions and be on the lookout for threats.
  • Moreover, with INS Dhruv on its side, the Indian Navy can now strategise its military operations better across all three dimensions of naval warfare – sub-surface, surface, and aerial. This is especially important since China has recently moved to a ‘sea-based military doctrine’ with huge investments in long-range aircraft carriers, warships, and submarines.

New Delhi has spent several decades assembling the components of a ballistic missile defense apparatus to protect against the formidable long-range missile arsenals of China and Pakistan—both conventional and nuclear-armed. Though India’s “missile shield” currently will protect only a few major cities (currently New Delhi and Mumbai, though others may follow), it remains a capability possessed by only a handful of other countries.

Currently India’s BMD system relies on satellite-based sensors to detect the flash of a missile launch combined with huge Swordfish surveillance radars to acquire tracking data which can be used to cue two layers of interceptor missiles—the high-altitude, long-range Prithvi Air Defense missile and the lower-altitude, shorter-range Advanced Air Defense missile.

By providing an additional long-range radar system scanning from a different vantage than India’s land and space-based sensors, the Dhruv could theoretically both extend the missile defense system by providing earlier warning and targeting data, as well as “thicken it” by transmitting additional targeting data improving the accuracy of interceptor missiles launched to shoot down incoming strikes.


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