Thursday, November 12, 2009

Akash, India’s Home-grown “Patriot” Missile (SAM)

The Indian Air Force (IAF) just placed an order to the Indian state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) for two squadrons of the Akash missiles. The Akash missile is a medium range surface-to-air missile (SAM), which is developed by the Indian Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) as part of the India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP).

Because more orders will come from the India’s armed forces for this indigenous missile system in the next three years, the state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) is working with private Indian companies Larsen & Toubro, Tata Power, Walchand Industries, and state-owned Electronic Corporation of India (ECIL) for the production of the Akash missile systems.

The Akash missile system consists of radars, mobile launchers, control canters, battlefield management software, and other support systems (see the picture above). Its radars simultaneously can track 64 objects and guide 12 missiles at most. The Akash missile is 5.78m long and weighs 700kg with a warhead of 60kg. It can destroy targets 25 km away and has a supersonic speed of 600m/s (1.8 mach). It has an 85 per cent kill probability.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) will primarily use the system for attacks from unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV), aircraft, and missiles. The indigenous Akash is said on the same class as the U.S. Patriot, Israel’s Barak, and U.K.’s SAM missile systems, but its speed and range are actually much less. Compared with Akash’s 25km and 1.8 mach, all these foreign medium range missiles feature a range of 70 to 150 km and a speed of 4 to 5 mach.

The IAF had been ever reluctant to acquire the Akash missile system before. In 2008, several senior officers of the Indian Air Force expressed their un-satisfaction to the Akash system in the Indian Western Air Force Command Meeting. One senior officer suggested the Indian air force not to purchase the Akash, saying the IAF needed more maneuverability and greater range from the missile system.

After the IAF has been assured that the missile system will be improved batch by batch and will go concord with the operating requirements of the IAF, the Akash finally was allowed to join into the IAF family.

Besides placing the order to the indigenous Akash, the IAF still has not slowed its steps to buy air defensive missiles from abroad. According to Israel media, in Nov. 2009 Israel and India has just signed a 1.1 billion US dollars contract for purchasing Israeli Barak-8 surface-to-air missile systems, which will be handed over to the IAF six to eight years later before 2017.