PC : Guarding India

On 19 October 2020, in what may be considered as a major achievement, India successfully test-fired a SANT missile from Dr. Abdul Kalam Island, Balasore Odisha. SANT stands for “Stand-off Anti-tank” is a new anti-tank missile of India. This Guarding India Exclusive covers the capabilities of the SANT missile in great detail.

You can watch the Guarding India YouTube video on SANT Missile at this link or continue reading this article.

SANT Missile is part of DRDO’s Nag anti-tank missile family. Nag family has two air-launched missiles. The first is Helicopter-launched Nag which is called HELINA in short form. HELINA will be launched from the HAL Rudra armed helicopter and Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) of the Indian Air Force and Indian Army. The second air-launched missile of the Nag family is called Stand-off Anti-tank or SANT. All missiles of the Nag family are made for the Indian climate as these missiles are designed with a ten-year storage life and require no maintenance during this period. Besides this, all missiles of the Nag family have a kill probability of more than 90 percent.

SANT missile is an advanced version of the helicopter launched HELINA missile. While the HELINA missile has a range of 7-10 kilometers, the SANT missile has a 20-kilometer range. The biggest difference between other missiles of Nag family and SANT is its sensor as other missiles of Nag family use imaging infra-red (IIR) sensor while SANT missile has been fitted with millimetric-wave (mmW) active radar homing seeker.

Helina Missile Being Fired from ALH Rudra
Helina Missile Being Fired from ALH Rudra | PC : Indian Army

There is a fascinating story behind the use of different sensors of the SANT missile. Initially, when DRDO was developing the Nag missile, the range requirement was just 5 kilometers and that is why the imaging infra-red (IIR) sensor has only been used in Nag and Prospina versions of the Nag missile family. For the HELINA missile which has a range of 7 to 10-kilometer range a new advanced version of imaging infra-red (IIR) sensor was developed which can work till 10 kilometers. However, for the 20 Kilometer range of the SANT missile, a brand new millimetric-wave (mmW) active radar homing seeker was developed as the old seeker could only work till a 10-kilometer range.  

This Missile is a fire and forget anti-tank missile which has both Lock-on After Launch and Lock-on Before Launch capability due to which it can be launched without a target lock. This saves critical seconds in life-threatening situations besides reducing launch platforms exposure to the target as no time is wasted in target locking. 

The design of the Missile resembles the US AGM-114 Hellfire missile which has a range of 11 kilometers and the British MBDA Brimstone missile which has a range of more than 20 kilometers. SANT missile will be amongst the most advanced missiles of India as even during its development it has been considered amongst the most advanced anti-tank missiles of the world. Currently Indian Air Force AH-64E Apache attack helicopters use Hellfire missile and in the future SANT missile will be fired from the Apache helicopters.

Apache AH-64E with Hellfire Missile
Apache AH-64E with Hellfire Missile | PC : Indian Air Force

Besides this, Team Guarding India is confident that the SANT missile will be fitted on the Indian Air Force fighter jets like Dassault Rafale, Mirage 2000, Sukhoi Su-30 MKI, Mig-29 UPG, and Jaguar Ground attack fighter. This will enable these fighters to target enemy tanks and targets from standoff ranges while remaining outside the range of enemy short-range air defence systems. For this, the SANT missile will be launched from a triple launcher akin to that of the Brimstone missile.

Brimstone Missile with Triple launcher
Brimstone Missile with Triple launcher | PC : Guarding India/Reuters

Currently, DRDO is developing Rustom and Ghatak drones which may be fitted with 20-kilometer range SANT missiles as US Predator drones are fitted with Hellfire missiles. Presently, the Indian Armed Forces require around 4,000 SANT missiles which will be fired from attack helicopters, fighter jets, and UCAVs.

Finally, Team Guarding India is confident that the SANT missile will prove to be a very effective standoff air to ground anti-tank missile, and after this India would not purchase US Hellfire missile as indigenous SANT missile with 20-kilometer range will be far more effective than US Hellfire missile.