The aerial combat challenges have evolved from a dog fight to beyond visual range combat and now electronic warfare. Be it F-35, or Gripen or Rafale, the secret of their success lies in the better electronic warfare capabilities. India’s premier Defense research institute DRDO has made significant progress in electronic warfare segment which are not only designed to handle present threat but will also be able to deter the future challenges. The two most important electronic warfare components are Self-protection Jammer (SPJ) pods and Radar Warning receiver (RWR).
Self-Protection Jammer Pod & RWR – works in tandem
The Self Protection Jammer is an ECM (electronic countermeasure) system that jams the signal of hostile radar and thus provides protection to the aircraft. The jammer first detects the radiation of enemy emitters and compares it with its integral threat library. If the transmission either is confirmed to be hostile or is an unknown threat, the jammer radiates and jams the enemy receiver(s) and thus attempts to protect the aircraft.
At the same time, an RWR systems also detects the radio emissions of radar systems, but their primary purpose is to issue a warning when a radar signal that might be a threat is detected.
DRDO has developed indigenous ASPJ(Advance Self Protection Jammer) pod and Dhruti digital RWR for Indian fighter jets. Both these systems are completely indigenous be it hardware or software. The Dhruti RWR detects the hostile RF signal and transfers that data to ASPJ which in turn jams the incoming hostile RF signal. The purpose of the system is to provide protection to the aircraft against ground based acquisition radars, fire control radars, anti-aircraft artillery and airborne multimode radars.
Advance Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ)
DRDO’s ASPJ is developed on Gallium Nitride based solid-state AESA jammer transmitters. ASPJ is based on Active Phased Array (APA), ultra wide band DRFM(Digital Radio Frequency Memory) and inbuilt cooling system. The DRFM jammers are famous for their capability to severely degrade the adversaries’ radars and missile seekers.
Cooling system is another important component of ASPJ which was earlier imported but now has been developed completely indigenously. The ASPJ pods radiates lot of energy which in turns generate lot of heat internally. In order ensure the proper functioning of the on-board electronics it’s important to cool down these systems which is where cooling systems are used. ASPJ is going to be a single POD.
EW for LCA Mark 1A : Internal Receiver + ASPJ
Indigenous EW Suite developed for LCA Mk1A consists of internal Receiver unit and External Podded Jammer. The internal receiver unit is a new generation EW receiver system which operates in a wide frequency range. It is an internal system and fully digital receiver based solution with powerful, real-time signal processing using complex and adaptive algorithms. The external podded jammer is going to be the Indigenous Advanced Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ) Pod.
The ASPJ designed for SU-30 MKI is a podded jammer configured in an LH & RH configuration and will always be installed as a set (i.e one set consists of both LH & RH pods). As per latest update from DRDO, the development of POD structure is complete and its undergoing qualification.
Dhruti Digital RWR or DR118
Dhruti is a state-of-art six-channel digital RWR that not only offers a wide dynamic range & large bandwidth of detection, but also offers good sensitivity, selectivity & wide instantaneous bandwidth. It is a multi-bit digital RWR and can intercept a wide range of band widths & track emitters in real time. The 6 RWR can provide coverage of 360 degree.
Back in August 2021, it was reported that the Indian Air Force is going ahead with Rs 1000 crore project for the upgrade of RWR for the fleet of 125 SU-30 MKIs. It is not clear as how many SU-30 MKIs have been upgraded with Dhruti RWR, however we have been seeing it integrated with most of the SU-30 MKI.
Recently during Aero India 2023, it was reported that 129 Dhruti RWR has been cleared for production. Dhruti even works fine with the Russian SAP-518 jammers with causing any interference in its working.
In November 18th, 2022, BEL has signed a Licensing Agreement for ToT with Combat Aircraft Systems Development and Integration Centre (CASDIC), DRDO, for the transfer of technology of Digital Radar Warning Receiver.