Saturday, December 4, 2021

After Rafale Fighters, India’s LCA Tejas To Get Powerful Bunker-Buster Missiles That Can ‘Hammer’ Chinese PLA Positions

As part of the Indian efforts to improve the lethality of indigenously developed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the country’s air force has placed orders for French AASM HAMMER missiles that are also used in Rafale fighters. 

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The orders were placed under the emergency procurement route granted to the armed forces amid a continuing standoff with China’s People’s Liberation Army PLA at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The HAMMER, when integrated with the LCA Tejas, will allow it to hit ground targets and hardened bunkers at ranges up to 70 km.

This development comes at a time when China is flexing its muscle at the disputed border and a few days after India deployed other advanced missile systems such as the BrahMos, Pinaka, and Smerch along the LAC, as previously reported by EurAsian Times.

“The HAMMER missiles are in the process of being integrated with the LCA Tejas and it will significantly enhance its capability to take out hardened targets from standoff distances”, government sources told the ANI.

HAMMER missiles
HAMMER missiles. (via Twitter)

Even though no country was directly named, the acquisition apparently points to the LAC stalemate with China’s PLA as it enters its second winter.

With no sign of de-escalation forthcoming and rapid mobilization of troops and armament on the Chinese side, the Indian military has been strengthening its offensive and defensive capabilities.

The French HAMMER

The Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range (HAMMER), the export version of the French Armement Air-Sol Modulaire (AASM), is a new generation modular air-to-surface missile developed by the Safran Group.

It has a range of over 70km, according to Safran, thereby, making it ideal for hitting ground positions. The propulsion capability of the HAMMER missile means it can be used in low altitudes and hilly terrains like the Indo-China border.

AASM Hammer is compatible with different standard bomb bodies (125, 250, 500 and 1000 kg) and is autonomous and resistant to jamming.

It is a fire-and-forget missile and has the capability to strike multiple targets at a time, both mobile as well as immobile. For a typical deep strike mission that it might have to carry, the missile uses single, double, or triple store adaptors, as well as Sagem’s Hemispheric Resonating Gyro, inertial / GPS hybridization.

Rafale-HAMMER
A Rafale fighter jet, armed with HAMMER missiles. (via Twitter)

It also uses strap-down infrared imagers and accompanying algorithms. All of these features allow it absolute precision striking power. HAMMER is an add-on kit to an existing Israeli SPICE ‘gravity’ bomb that was used by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the Balakot strike on Pakistan ‘terror’ hideouts.

The HAMMER combines the features of a missile and a glide bomb which mainly refers to a bomb that has a gliding path for striking ground targets / bunkers with precision. Even though there are differences between the two, both are ideal for standoff situations, explained TheWeek.

Earlier, the first lot of HAMMERS was procured by the Indian Air Force for the Rafale fighters that were delivered to India. Considering the urgency for India to strengthen its air-to-surface targeting capabilities amid rising Chinese aggression, the French authorities had decided to supply the missiles at a short notice, the ANI report said.

“The order for the HAMMER missiles is being processed and the French authorities have agreed to supply them to us at a short notice for our Rafale combat aircraft,” government sources told ANI last July. 

In view of the urgent requirement for these missiles by the Air Force, the French authorities would be delivering the missiles to India from the existing stock meant for some other customer, they said.

LCA Tejas To HAMMER Ground Positions 

The IAF and the Indian government have been making concerted efforts to enhance the capability of their indigenous Light Combat Aircraft. Under the emergency powers granted to each service, IAF chose to further arm the Tejas, the two squadrons of which were operationalized in Final Operational Clearance in 2019.

The IAF is also set to receive 83 Mark-1A of Tejas in a couple of years from now which might also see the integration of HAMMER when they are commissioned.

The LCA Tejas is a single-engine, multi-role, supersonic light combat fighter that was developed by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautic Limited (HAL) to replace the aging MiG-21 fighters. The aircraft can be armed with air-to-air, air-to-ground and anti-ship missiles, precision-guided munitions, rockets as well as bombs.

The HAMMER missiles assume significance especially because the India-China border confrontation refuses to die down. The HAMMERS will allow the IAF to quickly hit the PLA’s ground infrastructure and paralyze the possible Chinese invasion.

The Defence Ministry had granted emergency capital procurement power to the three services for any purchase of weapons of up to Rs 300 crore. These powers were delegated after the Galwan valley clashes last year and have been extended for the third time up to December 31.

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