The Lohegaon base of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will soon get air defence (AD) cover from the indigenous Akash surface-to-air missile (SAM). The airbase will induct a squadron of the missile weapon system, the development of which has contributions from three Defence labs in Pune.
The Gwalior airbase has already inducted a squadron of the medium-range SAM while several squadrons are being stationed at IAF bases along the Northeast.
Talking to reporters on Wednesday in the backdrop of Air Force Day celebrations to be held on October 8, Air Commodore V R Chaudhari, Air Officer Commanding of the Lohegaon-based 2 Wing said, “The Akash weapon system will be inducted here. The induction is in the final stages and the entire equipment is expected in a few months.” Akash system is expected to replace the Russian Pechora SAM system of the IAF, phasing out of which is long overdue.
Akash has been developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.
The system integration has been done by DRDL, Hyderabad. Three DRDO laboratories in the city too have contributed to development of the missile. While the launcher has been developed by the Research and Development Establishment (R&DE) in Dighi, the warhead has been developed by the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE). The High Energy Materials Research Laboratory developed the propellant.
The all-terrain weapon system can simultaneously engage several air targets in fully automated operations mode.
The missile system underwent user trials in 2007 and IAF placed an order for eight Akash Missile Squadrons, the second of which is being inducted in the city after Gwalior. The system will also be deployed at forward airbases in the Northeast. A senior IAF official said, “The deployment at Pune airbase was always in the plan. The advantages of Akash is that it is indigenous, modern and a technologically advanced air defence system. It should be fully operational in three-four months.”
A senior retired IAF official said, “Pune is an important airbase. The system is crucial for safeguarding IAF Lohegaon station assets from aerial threats.”