We all know that DRDO currently was in the mood of celebrating Diwali by bursting firecrackers. Among those firecrackers, one cracker of a missile that DRDO tested recently was the SANT (Stand-off Anti-tank) missile, also called HELINA.
SANT or Standoff Anti-tank Guided Missile is a fourth generation upgraded variant of HELINA missile developed for long distance airborne anti-armour role. In November 2018, DRDO developed SANT was successfully tested at Pokhran range. The upgraded version of the missile is equipped with a new nose-mounted active radar homing seeker with an extended range of up to 7 km to 8 km.
On 19 October 2020, SANT was again test fired by the DRDO at Chandipur test range. It is developed for the Indian Air Force and Army Aviation Corps with Lock-on after launch and Lock-on before launch capabilities
Diving deep into the technical details of this missile, SANT is an improved version of the HELINA missile which stands for Helicopter launched NAG missile which is an air-launched version of the NAG anti-tank missile. Just like the HELINA, this missile also has ‘fire-and forget’ capabilities along with ‘lock-on before launch’ and ‘lock-on after launch’ capabilities as well.
Lock-on before launch feature
- In this, the operators of the missile identify the enemy tanks first with the help of thermal imaging and then the image is captured and uploaded on the Nag’s seeker system.
- Thereafter, the missile is launched towards the target which continues capturing target images and cross-checks them continuously with the reference image.
- The missile operators can deviate the missile from its original path as and when required.
Lock-on after launch feature
- This feature allows the missile operators to lock-on the target after launching the missile in a general direction.
- In this, the missile scans the area before acquiring the target, lock-on itself and changes its path accordingly.
- This helps the helicopters from which they are launched to effectively shoot and scoot.
This missile has a range of 15 – 20 kilometres whereas the original HELINA was have a range of 7-8 kilometres, while the range of Amrican Hellfire missile is 8km only. SO this missile can be considered as a considerable upgrade over the original HELINA missile. This missile carries as wideband millimetre wave radar (seeker) in its nose cone which provides exceptional accuracy for this missile in neutralizing its target in stand-off ranges. This missile is touted to have a speed of 830 mph.
Details about the existence of this missile started to flow into the public domain for the first time in 2018 when this missile was tested aboard an IAF’s Mi-35 helicopter. The recent test conducted is the final development trial and from this stage the missile will move on to user trails. As IAF’s help was used for this trail, it is believed that this trial was conducted from Mi-35.
Parallels can be drawn between SANT and US’s Hellfire missile which also has millimetre wave radar. SANT is better in terms of range when compared to Hellfire missile. There are a lot of variants in the Hellfire missile and this missile is way better than Hellfire in many ways. This can also have a price advantage over Hellfire missiles as these can be produced cheaply.
The SANT Missile is equipped with the MM wave seeker that allows the missile to have a larger stand off range. This stand off range allows the launch platform to launch the offensive without getting into the range of the target platform.
IIR guidance system offers the advantage of high resolution. However, in bad weather, the attenuation of the IR radiation even at 8-12 micron increases, thereby deteriorating the range performance considerably. On the other hand, an MMW-based guidance system has relatively less attenuation, thereby enabling all-weather capability.
The use of such high frequencies at MMW is essential to accommodate active seeker. especially the antenna within the permissible diameter /dimensions of the ATGM. For the antitank role, the use of a W-band seeker is considered essential to achieve the required beam width with the limited size of the antenna.
The immunity to attenuation helps MMW seeker to have a larger stand off range when compared with IIR seeker.
According to many defence experts associated with the missile, SANT is one of the best airborne anti-armour guided missiles in the world.
As this is an air-launched anti-tank missile, this can provide close air support to our ground forces on the battlefield. This can be mounted on different platforms such as Rudra, Rustom, LCH,ALH and Mi-35. This can also be mounted on the upcoming Ghatak stealth UCAV and Rustom-2 male UCAV which can increase the armament capability of the UCAV. If this missile can be integrated with Apache helicopters, this can make the Apaches even more deadly.