India's Akash Missile Capable Of Kill At 30-Meter Altitude; Finds Takers Abroad Too
Indian Army has inducted its first Akash Surface-To-Air Missile System that boasts of a kill range as low as 30 meters in altitude. The first regiment of the Akash missiles will be deployed at the Amritsar airfield in Punjab along the borders with Pakistan.
It has also found takers among friendly foreign nations such as Thailand and Belarus, which have shown and expressed interest in acquiring the Akash missile system.
Akash is now being produced, after over two decades of Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) work, with contribution from 61 Indian public and private sector companies. Among them are Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), BEML, Midhani, Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), Ordnance Factory Board, Tata Power SED, L&T, TAL and Balchand Industries.
The missile system's keys were received by Army chief General Dalbir Singh on May 5, 2015 here from BDL Chairman and Managing Director V.Udaya Bhaskar to mark its formal induction. Singh handed over the keys to Army Air Defense Director General Lieutenant General V.K.Saxena, in the presence of BEL Chairman and Managing Director S.K.Sharma and DRDO's Director General Missiles and Strategic Systems V.G.Sekaran.
"Akash's distinction is its kill range.
It is designed to kill adversaries at an altitude as low as 30 meters to as high as 18 to 20 km," Udaya Bhaskar said at the event.
The all-weather missile, enjoying high immunity against active and passive jamming, can target multiple threats from helicopters, combat planes and unmanned aerial vehicles. The fully automatic system is easily adaptable to existing and futuristic air defense environment and is highly mobile by road and rail system for quick mobilization and deployment.
Akash, with an inbuilt 'Identification Friend or Foe' safety features, was designed by Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program. India has already successfully developed, produced and deployed the air force version of Akash. Taking off from that experience, it re-engineered the missile to meet the qualitative requirements of the Army for a surface-to-air missile system.
BDL produces the army-version of the missile and 20 per cent of the missile's critical components in value. BEL, the production agency of the missile's air force version, provides the Phased Array Radar. BEML supplies the Tatra trucks for the missile, radar and control station for the entire system. The command and control platform is supplied by the ECIL.
The Army had visualized the Akash missile's qualitative requirements two decades ago and after facing several challenges, setbacks and failures in its development journey, the missile has been successfully validated in all its configurations -- far boundary high altitude, near boundary low altitudes, cross over targets, incoming and outgoing targets.
The Army has placed a Rs.19,000 crore order for two regiments of the Akash missile. But, BDL is hoping for more orders to come in the near future, due to the massive air defense requirement faced by the army to protect its strategic assets, vital installations, vulnerable areas and points, all along the Indian borders with traditional rivals, Pakistan and China.
Sekaran noted that the Akash missile is comparable to any other air defense missile of this class, with its multiple target tracking ability, network interface that would be important in a network-centric warfare of the future, and engagement of targets at supersonic speeds.
"The Akash missile has a vast potential in the overall framework for Army Air Defense. It has given us confidence on our indigenous systems leading to production, being 96 per cent indigenous," Sekaran said.
"The army version of the Akash missile was quickly re-engineered from the air force version, within two years. It met all the qualitative requirements of the army, which is not an easy task, considering that the modifications from the air force version," he said.
The best take away from the Akash experience for DRDO is the coordinated work with other agencies, including the users. "The DRDO is currently working with the Army on on several other missile systems such as Quick Reaction SAMs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles. Akash model can be applied to the new projects too. We will try to provide what Army needs in a short period of time or within time," he said.
Saxena, in his remarks noted that Akash missile development journey had been "long and arduous, replete with numerous challenges, setback, failures, cost and time overruns.
"At the end of it all, the missile system has been realized. Akash will now provide area air defense cover for Army's strategic assets, critical for achieving the war potential of the Army," he said.
The army version of the Akash missile went through a three-stage limited validation trials -- system integration trials at Original Equipment Manufacuturer location, integration trials at missile test facility as a whole system, and firing of the missile system at multiple targets. It also went through several other quality trials before being declared ready for induction.
Saxena said with the Akash missile system going through production now, the Army was in the process of creating storage and deployment facilities at relevant locations.
The first set of Akash missiles will be deployed by the 27 Air Defense Regiment based at Amritsar air field, he said.
"A number of countries have shown interest in Akash, such as Thailand and Belarus. This shows Akash is a world class contemporary weapon system," India's Defense Production Special Secretary Ashok Kumar Gupta said.
The indigenous missile system perfectly fits into the Narendra Modi government's 'Make in India' initiative, he added.
With the participation of such a large number of Indian public and private sector companies in the Akash program, a good eco-system for the missiles has been established, he said.
The Army chief described the Akash missile system as the "most attractive and sleek piece of weapon" he had seen.
"It marks the beginning of a new era for the Indian Army and the Army Air Defense in terms of modernization," Dalbir Singh said.
The Army Air Defense modernization, he said, is being addressed through upgrade of existing weapons and induction of new short, medium and long range weapons. Army is also in the process of revamping the command and control and the battle management system.
"India is a power house and will play a major role in the new world order. If that is so, we have to be ready to take up challenges. In fact, air attacks have gone beyond deployment of helicopters and aircraft and hence, we require a modern air defense. It has been one of the seven critical areas of focus under the army modernization program," he said.