DRDO successfully flight-tests new Akash missile off Odisha - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 12 January 2024

DRDO successfully flight-tests new Akash missile off Odisha

Lighter, faster, more accurate and more deadly, the Akash-NG will protect airfields in the northeast


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 13th Jan 24


The New Generation Akash (Akash-NG) missile, being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was successfully flight-tested from the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur, off the Odisha coast on Friday.


“The flight-test was conducted against a high-speed, unmanned aerial target at a very low altitude. During the flight-test, the target was successfully intercepted by the weapon system and destroyed. [The test] has validated the functioning of the complete weapon system consisting of the missile with indigenously developed radio frequency seeker, launcher, multi-function radar and command, control and communication systems,” the DRDO stated after the test.


“The system’s performance was also validated through the data captured by a number of radars, telemetry and electro-optical tracking systems deployed by ITR, Chandipur,” it said.


The Akash surface-to-air missile (SAM) is one of the early successes of the DRDO’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). The Indian Air Force (IAF) has already bought five units of the Akash for defending its airfields in the northeast from enemy fighter aircraft. Meanwhile the army bought two units of Akash and ordered another two.


The Akash NG is a major improvement over the older Akash. Its weight has been halved to 350 kilogrammes (kg) from the Akash’s 700 kg. The lighter Akash-NG flies up to an altitude of 25 km and has a range of 30 km; a significant improvement over the Akash’s altitude ceiling of 20 km and its range of 25 km.


Some of this performance comes from the brand new, two-pulse, solid rocket motor that replaces the old ramjet on the legacy Akash missile. In addition, the Akash-NG incorporates a DRDO-developed seeker in the missile’s warhead that locks onto the target at the terminal phase, continuously guiding the Akash-NG to the impact point.


This performance enhancement underlies the DRDO’s post-test statement: “The Akash-NG is a state-of-the-art missile system capable of intercepting high speed, agile aerial threats. The successful flight test has paved the way for user trials.”


The Akash-NG detects, tracks and shoots down enemy aircraft in seconds. The surveillance radar detects enemy fighters at ranges out to 80 km and initiates the launch sequence. By the time the enemy aircraft is 50 km away, the Akash NG’s computers have calculated the launch trajectory and impact point and launched the missile. Within a minute, the missile reaches the impact point 30 km away and strikes the target.


Bharat Electronics Limited builds the Akash missile system for the IAF, while Bharat Dynamics Limited is the prime integrator for the army. The MoD has earlier announced that the Akash has indigenisation levels above 96 per cent


In December 2020, the Union Cabinet approved exporting the Akash missile system and, in January 2021, the missile was on display in the Republic Day parade. East Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, which are wary of Chinese aggression, have displayed interest in buying the Akash SAM. There is also interest from several African countries.

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