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The Akash SAM system is capable of intercepting multiple manoeuvring aerial targets, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and air-tosurface weapons launched by enemy aircraft from stand-off ranges
|By Air Marshal S.B.P. Sinha (Retd)
Deputy Chief of the Air Staff and Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Central Air Command, IAF.
On May 25 and 27 this year, India successfully test-fired two prototypes of Akash missile integrated with indigenously developed seeker off the coast Odisha. Both prototype missiles achieved the desired test results, indicating successful integration of the indigenously developed seeker on Akash missile. The seeker will further increase the Single Shot Kill Probability (SSKP) of Akash missile, presently designed for ‘Command Guidance’. Encouraging performance of Akash had led the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) to embark on the development of a more potent Akash Mk 2 with indigenous seeker to improve accuracy and improved propulsion to increase kill range to 40 km. After successful seeker tests, the DRDO would now be able to offer Akash Mk 2 missile for user trials in the near future. The DRDO and all agencies involved in the development, manufacture and enhancement of Akash, need to be commended for this marvellous ‘Make in India’ effort that also enhances the indigenous Air Defence capability.
The Akash surface-to-air missile (SAM) system was developed indigenously by the DRDO to intercept and destroy targets up to a distance of 28 km flying at ultra-low levels to an altitude of 18 km in all-weather conditions. The Akash SAM system is the first such weapons system designed, developed and manufactured in India. Its induction will significantly enhance the robustness of Indian Air Defence grid. The IAF initiated the induction of the Akash in March 2012 and after successfully validating all mission parameters over three years, operationalised it in July 2015. Impressed by the performance of this weapon system, the IAF withdrew from the joint Indian Navy and IAF programme for procurement of short-range SAM from the global market and instead opted for the procurement of Akash SAM systems in larger numbers. The IAF today operates eight Akash squadrons with another seven on order. The Indian Army has inducted two Akash regiments and is likely to order two more. It is learnt that a number of friendly foreign countries have evinced keen interest in purchasing the Akash.
The Akash SAM system is capable of intercepting multiple manoeuvring aerial targets, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles and air-to-surface weapons launched by enemy aircraft from stand-off ranges. The Akash missile that is supersonic, uses state-of-the-art integral ramjet rocket propulsion and carries a 55 kg pre-fragmented warhead that is triggered by digital radio proximity fuse. For target acquisition, the Akash uses ‘3D Central Acquisition Radar’ (3D CAR) capable of detecting, tracking and processing up to 200 targets in ‘Track While Scan’ mode up to 180 km in azimuth, range and height, which are used for cueing ‘Rajendra’, the phased array Tracking & Missile Guidance radar capable of tracking 64 targets up to 60 km and simultaneously guiding eight missiles fired in ripples against four targets. Both, 3D CAR and Rajendra have advanced ECCM features. Presently, the Akash has a SSKP of 88 per cent that increases to 98.5 per cent for salvo launch. The Akash Mk 2 will have further improved SSKP. The Akash is mounted on tracked or wheeled vehicles giving it rapid deployment flexibility and cross-country mobility.
The Akash system generates coherent, fused air picture based on data from multiple sensors when networked with other radars and control centres and processes the entire data to identify targets and cue the tracking & missile Guidance radars. The advanced ‘Battlefield Management Software’ on the Akash, enables hands-free operation from target detection to its interception and destruction through automated threat computations, pairing targets with missile launchers, enabling fire control decisions and monitoring health of all combat elements. The Akash system has inbuilt simulation facility to conduct realistic operator training. All elements of the Akash system are linked through a secure communication network.
13 DRDO laboratories have contributed to the successful development of the Akash system. Both 3D CAR and ‘Rajendra’ radar are designed by LRDE and manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) while the Akash missile itself is manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL)). Both BEL and BDL are supported by ECIL, L&T, Tata Power. Around 300 public and private sector enterprises have been involved in the production of the Akash SAM system.
Graded improvements in the Akash SAM system have helped India indigenously develop complex technologies and gradually build an industrial complex to support advanced Air Defence missile system production. The day is not far when India can embark on a programme for the development of indigenous medium and long range SAM systems.