Missiles in news

India today successfully test-fired indigenously developed ballistic missiles 'Prithvi II' and 'Dhanush' from different locations off the Orissa coast, adding more firepower to the armed forces.

"The tests were successful. Both the missiles test-fired early today met all the parameters," the director of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, S P Dash, told PTI.

While the 'Prithvi II' was test-fired from complex-3 of ITR Chandipur, 15 km from here, from a mobile launcher at around 0548 hours, the 'Dhanush' was fired from INS-Subhadra in the Bay of Bengal near Puri at around 0544 hours by the Navy personnel as part of user training exercise.

The test firing of the short-range, surface-to-surface 'Prithvi II' ballistic missile having a range of 295 km, which has already been inducted into the armed forces, was a user trial by the Army.

The sleek missile is "handled by the strategic force command", the sources said.

Prithvi, the first ballistic missile developed under the country's prestigious Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), has the capability to carry 500 kg of warhead and has liquid propulsion twine engine.

With a nine-metre length and one-metre diameter, Prithvi II uses an advanced inertial guidance system with manoeuvring trajectory and reach the targets with a few metre accuracy.

The entire trajectory of today's trial was tracked down by a battery of sophisticated radars and an electro-optic telemetry stations were positioned in different locations for post-launch analysis, defence sources said.

The nuclear-capable 'Dhanush', the naval version of Prithvi, followed the pre-designated trajectory with text-book precision and two naval ships located near the target have tracked the splash, sources said.

The 350-km range missile will give the Navy the capability to attack enemy targets with great precision.

The sophisticated radar systems located along the coast monitored its entire trajectory, the sources said.

The single stage missile, weighing six tonnes, is powered by liquid propellants.

India plans to progressively base six surface-to-air Akash missile squadrons in the North-East to counter the threat posed by Chinese fighters, helicopters and drones in the region.

Sources say IAF will get eight Akash tactical air defence squadrons by 2015, with the first one becoming operational by 2011 itself, at a cost of over Rs 6,100 crore. Every squadron will have two `flights' of four Akash launchers each. Moreover, the Army is now poised to order two Akash regiments, with six firing batteries each, for around Rs 4,000 crore.

With an effective interception range of 25 km, the DRDO-developed Akash system with supersonic missiles and a network of radars is designed to neutralise multiple aerial targets attacking from several directions simultaneously in all-weather conditions. With an 88% "kill probability'', it can even take on sub-sonic cruise missiles.

The plan to base Akash squadrons in North-East constitutes yet another step to counter China's massive build-up of military infrastructure all along the unresolved 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Though it woke up quite late, India is now fastracking measures like raising of two new specialised infantry mountain divisions and an artillery brigade for Arunachal Pradesh and basing of two Sukhoi-30MKI squadrons (36 fighters) each at Tezpur and Chabua in Assam.

India is also looking to deploy the 3,500-km Agni-III and the under-development over 5,000-km Agni-V ballistic missiles as soon as possible. While Agni-III will be operationally ready by 2011-2012, the two new infantry divisions, with 1,260 officers and 35,011 soldiers, will be in place by 2012.

The government, of course, likes to downplay all this. Defence minister A K Antony on Monday said the two new divisions were part of the overall strategy to strengthen the armed forces.

"It's not directed at China or any country. The aim is to have an effective deterrent against any threat or eventuality,'' said Antony, after inaugurating DefExpo-2010, which has attracted a record 650 companies.

India is not "a war-mongering country'', nor does it covet "even an inch'' of any country's territory. "But we are ready to defend every inch of our territory... Our aim is to give the most modern equipment to our armed forces so that they can meet any challenge from any quarter at any time,'' said Antony.

Yes, there is the long-pending border dispute with China, but both New Delhi and Beijing are trying to "amicably resolve'' it through talks. Relations with China in other sectors like trade have dramatically improved, said Antony.

While this is certainly true, China is upgrading as many as 14 airfields in Tibet, of which at least half are now fully-operational. Its Linzi airbase, for instance, is not even 30 km away from the LAC in Arunachal.

With straight double-digit hikes in its defence budget for over 20 years, the 2.25-million strong People's Liberation Army has swiftly enhanced its transborder and `area-denial' military capabilities as well as bolstered its nuclear missile arsenal.

Brimming with confidence after last week's successful Agni-III test, India now hopes to test its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) within a year. This nuclear-capable Agni-V missile will be able to hit even northernmost China.

Moreover, in the backdrop of Beijing testing anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons and ballistic missile defence (BMD) systems, DRDO chief V K Saraswat on Wednesday said India already had the 'building blocks' for ASAT weapons and was far ahead of China in the BMD arena.

DRDO, in fact, will conduct the fourth test of its two-tier BMD system, designed to track and destroy hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere, towards end-March/early-April. But all eyes are now on Agni-V, which with a range of over 5,000-km can arguably be called an ICBM, usually used to denote a missile capable of hitting targets over 5,500 km away.

Why is India not developing true-blue ICBMs, especially since Chinese missiles like Dong Feng-31A have a range of 11,200-km?

"We have the capability. But the missile's range and lethality is based on the immediate objective of threat mitigation. Agni-V suits our present requirements," said Saraswat.

Being designed by adding a third composite stage to the two-stage 3,500-km Agni-III, the 17.5-metre tall Agni-V will be a canister-launch missile system to ensure it has the requisite operational flexibility to be swiftly transported and fired from anywhere. Consequently, if launched from near the Line of Actual Control, the solid-fuelled Agni-V will be able to hit China's northernmost city of Habin. Both Agni-III, which DRDO says is now 'mature' for induction, and Agni-V will add muscle to India's 'dissuasive deterrence' posture against China.

Moreover, DRDO is also developing MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) warheads for Agni missiles. An MIRV payload on a missile carries several nuclear warheads, which can be programmed to hit different targets. A flurry of such missiles can hence completely overwhelm BMD systems.

But unlike China, which fired a missile to bring down a satellite in January 2007, India will not test a 'real' ASAT weapon. "It will lead to debris in space. We can simulate a test on ground using an 'electronic' satellite. We have the building blocks for it," said Saraswat.

"Agni-III's propulsion system coupled with the BMD system's 'kill vehicle' will compose an ASAT weapon. The propulsion system is adequate to carry the ASAT warhead to 1,000-km altitude," said Saraswat.

India today "successfully" test-fired its nuclear-capable Agni-III ballistic missile with a range of more than 3,000 km from the Wheeler Island off Orissa coast.

The indigenously developed surface-to-surface missile was tested from a rail mobile launcher near Dhamara, about 100 km from here, at about 1046 hours, defence sources said.

"All mission parameters were met," they said, adding the test was a success.

This was the fourth flight test in the Agni-III series carried out to establish the "repeatability" of the missile's performance, they said.

The entire trajectory of today's trial was monitored through various telemetry stations, electro-optic systems and sophisticated radars located along the coast, in Port Blair and by Naval ships anchored near the impact point in the down range area for data analysis, the sources said.

Agni-III missile is powered by a two-stage solid propellant system. With a length of 17 metres, the missile's diameter is 2 metres and launch weight is 50 tonnes.

It can carry a payload of 1.5 tonnes which is protected by carbon-carbon all composite heat shield.

India on Sunday became the first country to have a 'maneuverable' supersonic cruise missile when it successfully test-fired the vertical-launch version of 290-km range BrahMos from a warship in the Bay of Bengal off the Orissa coast.

"The vertical-launch version of missile was launched at 1130 hours today from Indian Navy ship INS Ranvir and it maneuvered successfully hitting the target ship. It was a perfect hit and a perfect mission," BrahMos aerospace chief A Sivathanu Pillai said.

After today's test, India has become the first and only country in the world to have a "maneuverable supersonic cruise missile in its inventory," he said in New Delhi.

In separate messages, President Pratibha Patil and Defence Minister A K Antony congratulated the BrahMos scientists and the navy for the successful test-launch. Pillai said the software of the missile was improved and today's test proved its capability of maneuverability at supersonic speeds before hitting the target.

"During the test, the missile hit a free-floating ship piercing it above the waterline and destroying it completely," BrahMos officials said.

The test-firing was part of the pre-induction tests by the Navy as moves are afoot to deploy the vertical-launch version of the missile in ships. The weapon system has been designed and developed by the Indo-Russian joint venture company.

All the three Indian Navy's Talwar class ships, under construction in Russia, have been fitted with vertical launchers and many other ships will also be equipped with them, officials said.

The navy had earlier carried out several tests of the BrahMos but most of them had been done from inclined launchers abroad INS Rajput. The missile is already in service with the Navy and its Shivalik class frigates have been equipped with it.

BrahMos has also been inducted into the Army and preparations are on to develop its air-launched and the submarine-launched versions, officials said.

In a significant step towards boosting ''second-strike'' capabilities, India on Wednesday tested a new 600-km range 'Shaurya' ballistic missile, which can fired from underground silos unlike the Prithvi and Agni missiles.

The surface-to-surface missile, capable of carrying a one-tonne conventional or nuclear warhead, was successfully fired from a 30 to 40-feet deep pit with an in-built canister to mimic an underground silo at about 11.25 am.

''The successful test-firing of the new state-of-the-art canisterised missile marks another milestone in the country's missile programme,'' said defence minister A K Antony.

The Prithvi (150-350-km range), Agni-I (700-km) and Agni-II (2000-km-plus) missiles already inducted into the armed forces, as also the almost-ready Agni-III (3,500-km), are all transported on special vehicles or trains. Though this gives them flexibility in deployment, it also makes them vulnerable to enemy pre-emptive strikes.

Conversely, Shaurya missiles can remain hidden or camouflaged in underground silos from enemy surveillance or satellites till they are fired from the special storage-cum-launch canisters. ''Consequently, the Shaurya system will strengthen our second-strike capabilities,'' said a top official.

Silos are the primary basing system for land-based ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles, with strike ranges over 5,500-km) of countries like the US, Russia and China.

Defence scientists admit that given Shaurya's limited range at present, either the silos will have to be constructed closer to India's borders or longer-range canisterised missiles will have to be developed.

''Wednesday's test was part of the ongoing technology development work by DRDO. The Shaurya system will require some more tests before it becomes fully operational in two-three years,'' he added.

The composite canister make the missile much easier to store for long periods without maintenance as well as to handle and transport. It also houses the gas generator to eject the missile from the canister before its solid propellant motors take over to hurl it at the intended target.

Moreover, defence scientists say the high-speed, two-stage Shaurya has ''high manoeuvrability'' which also makes it ''less vulnerable'' to existing anti-missile defence systems.

The absence of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), the most reliable and survivable nuclear strike weapons, has long troubled the Indian defence establishment, especially since India has a ''no first-use'' nuclear doctrine.

It is, therefore, important to have nuclear-powered submarines armed with nuclear-tipped missiles, remaining quietly underwater for long periods, to deter an adversary from launching first strikes or to carry out a second-strike in retaliation.

The Shaurya project is intended to plug this gap somewhat. The Shaurya missile system has clear parallels with the under-development K-15 SLBM, as part of the overall secretive Sagarika project, with an initial 700-km strike range.

The canisterised K-15 missiles will arm the indigenous nuclear-powered submarines being built under the 26-year-old ATV (advanced technology vessel) programme at Visakhapatnam, with the first vessel slated to begin sea-trials in early 2009.

The around 10-metre long Shaurya, in turn, will be operated by the Army. ''Like Sagarika, which is fired from an underwater silo in the shape of a submarine, the Shaurya comes out from an underground silo on land,'' said a scientist.

In Wednesday's test, the missile took off vertically and its entire trajectory was tracked through an integrated system of radars, electro-optical tracking instruments, telemetry stations and two naval ships located close to the impact point deep in Bay of Bengal. ''With a flight duration of 485 seconds, it reached the full range and hit the target as intended,'' said the official.

The test comes at time when India is finally getting ready to gate-crash into the exclusive club of the Big Five countries -- US, Russia, China, France and UK -- which field SLBMs.

The 'K-15' is near-about ready after over a decade of hits and misses, and four tests from 'submersible pontoon launchers' in the last couple of years, for integration with the 6,000-tonne ATVs, each designed to carry 12 vertical-launched nuclear-tipped SLBMs.

India will then finally achieve its long-standing aim to have an operational nuclear weapon triad -- the capability to fire nukes from the land, air and sea.

A 700 to 750-km SLBM will, of course, still fall short of the over 5,000-km range SLBMs deployed by countries like US and Russia. But, as reported earlier, DRDO is already working on a submarine-launched version of Agni-III, which is to be followed by the Agni-V missile with a strike range of 5,000-km.

India is developing a sub-sonic 1,000-km range cruise missile "Nirbhay" which can be used for a "variety of applications", a top military scientist said today.

The 1000-kg "missile is getting into some shape", Dr V K Saraswat, Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister and Chief of Defence Research and Development Organisation said.

He also said the flight-trial of air-to-air missile 'Astra', having a range of 45 to 100 km, is on the cards.

Saraswat was delivering the keynote address at a national convention on 'The Frontiers of Aeronautical Technologies', organised by the Aeronautical Society of India here.

He said India's armed forces are looking for long duration loitering missiles which can enter "enemy territory", search targets such as radars, concentration of assets and "a variety of movements of enemy", "home-on" the targets and "bang" them.

"We need to develop (loitering missiles)", he said. Saraswat made a strong push for deploying space-based sensors to keep tab on "adversaries" and gather intelligence via-a-vis defence surveillance.

He said space-based sensors are a must for tracking and detection of movements of enemies. Unless it have space-based sensors, India would not be able to make its ballistic missile defence system a "potent weapon", the scientist said.

India is launching a major programme for surveillance, particularly space-based, in terms of electro-optical payload and synthetic aperture radar. "So, unless we prepare ourselves for future space-based systems, security is going to be a major issue," he said.

The third successful test of the ballistic missile defence (BMD) system on Friday has put India into an exclusive club of countries such as the US, Russia and Israel which are developing Star War kind of capabilities.

With this test, India reached another milestone towards making the home-grown BMD system operational by 2011-12.

The test was carried out from Wheeler Island in Orissa around 4.30 pm when the two-stage "exo-atmospheric" hypersonic interceptor missile fitted with advance systems hit the target at an altitude of 75 km.

A complex and expensive technology, the BMD system provides India an effective defence shield against both China and Pakistan fielding a wide variety of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

Though these capabilities are a crucial necessity, a BMD system can be overwhelmed by a flurry of ballistic missiles. It's quite vulnerable to cruise missiles since they fly at low altitudes.

The two-tier BMD system being developed by DRDO, capable of tracking and destroying hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere, has already been tested two times — the exo-atmospheric test at 48-km altitude on November 27, 2006, and the endo-atmospheric at 15-km on December 6, 2007. The two tests had demonstrated India's capabilities akin to the Israeli Arrow-2 BMD system and the US Patriot system.

After the third test, DRDO plans to test both the "exo" and "endo" interceptor missiles together in an integrated mode by September-October. In Phase-I, a BMD system capable of taking on "2,000-km class targets" is being developed. Phase-II, in turn, will be geared towards tackling threats from missiles up to 5,000-km, said sources.

DRDO chief controller for missiles, V K Saraswat, had earlier told TOI that the BMD system of Phase-I should be ready for deployment by 2011 or so, after several tests against a variety of missiles to ensure "a kill probability of 99.8%".

There have been some Israeli and French imprints in the ongoing development of India's BMD system. The crucial long-range tracking radars (LRTRs) used to detect and track the `enemy' missile as well as guide the interceptor to it, for instance, can be traced to the two Israeli Green Pine early-warning and fire control radars imported by India in 2001-2002.

Similarly, some guidance and other technologies like IIR (imaging infra-red) seekers will require international collaboration in Phase-II.

After Israeli UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or spy drones which act like cruise missiles, the Indian armed forces are looking to induct `loitering' missiles that hover before selecting and hitting targets of greater priority.

Army has issued a global RFI (request for information) about medium-range loitering missile systems, seeking details about their day and night camera payloads, ground control stations, data links, launchers and the like. Only a few armament majors like Israeli Aerospace Industries and Raytheon make such missile systems.

"The RFI was issued earlier this month. The loitering missile is basically a UAV which can transmit data after hovering over a target undetected for about 20-30 minutes and then hit a selected target,'' said an officer.

The RFI has sought details on the missile's cruising speed, maximum range at which it can engage a target, its loitering time, data link's range and the like. The system should also have the capability to abort an attack after locking on to a target and then later hit another redesignated target.

Army wants the loitering missile to have a conventional warhead, apart from anti-tank and anti-material warheads with deep armour-penetrating capabilities.

The armed forces, of course, are still some years away from inducting combat UAVs like the American Predators, which let loose Hellfire missiles with devastating effect, which are being used in operations against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

They are, however, inducting some loitering killer drones like the Israeli Harpy UAVs, which are designed to detect and attack enemy radars as anti-radiation missiles.

Such a UAV first tracks and verifies hostile radar emissions after being launched in any kind of weather. It then enters into an attack mode to dive almost vertically and finally, detonates its warhead just above the enemy radar to effectively `kill' it.

IAF has also ordered the advanced version of these UAVs, called Harop, which add electro-optical sensors to the radio-frequency seekers to ensure they can hit even enemy missile sites and other important military installations.

Since the 1999 Kargil conflict, Indian forces have inducted over 100 Israeli Searcher-II, Heron and other UAVs as `force-multipliers' in reconnaissance missions as well as for precision-strike operations.

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