The Akash surface-to-air missile defence system is once again in the news with the Army looking to order another batch, despite having previously discarded the idea in favour of Israel’s quick-reaction surface-to-air missiles (QR-SAMs).
Confirming that a new order is in the works, a Defence Ministry official said the missiles would be “greatly enhanced” to perform to their fullest capability.
“Akash can fly at supersonic speeds, ranging from Mach 2.8 to 3.5, and engage aerial targets up to a range of 30 km. The kill probability of the missile is 88 per cent and can be increased to 98.5 per cent by launching a second missile after five seconds of launching the first. These features will enhance the system,” said the official. The indigenous missile was officially inducted into the Indian Army in 2015. Though the Army initially planned to add additional Akash batteries, repeat instances of the system not meeting operational requirements as it failed mobility tests, led the Army to announce in 2016 that it would not order any more batteries.
Ministry order ::
The decision dealt a body blow to state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which designed and is developing the missile. However, last year, the Defence Ministry cancelled a global tender for surface-to-air missile system in favour of the Akash missile system.
Russia’s Rosonboronexport, Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems and Swedish Saab were competing for the tender, with decisions weighing in favour of Israel’s QR-SAMs.
At the same time, the ministry also allocated $2.8 billion for the procurement of two regiments of the Akash missile systems for the Indian Army. A regiment has 240/288 launchers and 625/750 missiles.
Developed under the integrated guided-missile development programme (IGMDP), which also involved the development of the Nag, Agni and Trishul missiles, as well as the Prithvi ballistic missile, the Akash missile has an indigenous content of 96 per cent.
“Last year, Akash was tested successfully with an indigenous seeker for the first time. This has given us the confidence to make any type of surface-to-air missile,” said a DRDO official, pointing out that it is the first indigenous weapon system developed by the DRDO to get production orders worth more than ₹25,000 crore.
As of now, 8/8 squadrons of Akash missile systems have been delivered and inducted into the IAF. “All Akash systems are independently operated by the IAF and the Army,” the official said.