By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore\Hyderabad: Akash – the fifth and last missile project under India's ambitious Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) had a happy ending with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army placing bulk orders in the last three years. The IAF has ordered for eight squadrons (2 + 6) of Akash systems and the Army for two regiments. The combined value for both orders stand at Rs 23,500 crore and Bharat Electronic Ltd (BEL) and Bhart Dynamics Ltd (BDL) will execute the orders.
Akash is a supersonic surface-to-air missile (SAM) system with a range of 25 km, similar to the SAM systems of Russia (Buk) and the US (Patriot). The all weather area/air-defense system is useful for defending vulnerable areas (VA) and vulnerable points (VP) against air targets penetrating from low, medium and high altitudes. All-the-way-powered flight till target interception, multiple target handling, digitally-coded command guidance and fully automatic operation are some of the unique features of the system.
The system was put through an electronic warfare (EW) trials conducted to assess the weapon system's survivability in dense jamming environment expected in a battlefield. Multiple aerial jammers (both noise and deception) were flown simultaneously in attack from different directions on the Akash group deployed in combat pattern. Sources claim that the radars of Akash could hold track of all aerial targets despite the jammers, conclusively establishing the operation of built-in electronic counter-counter measures (ECCM) features.
Though it took 25 years for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to finally get firm orders for Akash (2008), since the project inception (1983), it is now being branded as the single biggest order placed by the Indian armed forces on a home-grown tactical missile project. The numbers of the current combined orders will definitely make any desi defence devotee proud: 2,500 missiles, 112 launchers, 28 multi-functional phased array radars (MPARs) and 100 3-D Central Acquisition Radars (3-D CARs).
Akash's is a happy hour story for the Indian industries (around 200) too, considering that over 70 per cent of the work is being executed by them. This is in addition to the work-share of 13 DRDO labs, BEL, 19 public sector undertakings, three ordinance factories, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, National Aerospace Laboratories, IITs (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kharagpur) and the Indian Institute of Science.
“For the Indian industries it has been a huge learning curve considering the complexities involved in a weapon system, its integration and aerospace standard procedures. It augurs well for India, as the industries will be fully geared up to undertake production of next-generation tactical missile projects,” says G. Chandramouli, Project Director, Akash.
The production centers are currently abuzz with activities to ensure that the first squadron of Akash is inducted into the IAF by June 2012. “The first firing unit will be ready by March, 2012 and the second squadron will be ready by October 2012,” sources at the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), said.
While the DRDO officially refused to part with any information on a possible Mk-II version of Akash with a higher range (35-45 km), sources confirmed to Express that the Services have expressed interest. “We have the confidence, tech know-how, capabilities in design, development and production and capabilities of excellent validation and tests. We will have to get a firm written commitment from the Services so that we are sure about the road ahead,” sources said.
|To be continued | Copyright@The New Indian Express |
(CRACKING INDIA'S MISSILE CODE is an exclusive series currently on in The New Indian Express. In the days ahead, you will get to read a mix of news-breaks and tech-upgrades on current and futuristic missile programs of India, in addition to some human-interest pieces. Email your thoughts on this long-range series to email@example.com and point out factual errors, if any, that might have crept in despite my best efforts.)