AKASH AIR DEFENCE WEAPON SYSTEM
Akash is an all weather area air defence weapon system for defending vulnerable areas against medium range air targets penetrating from low, medium and high altitudes. The system is designed to neutralize multiple aerial targets attacking from several directions simultaneously. The system is autonomous and its operation is fully automated. The system is configured to be cross country mobile on tracked chasses for the Army or road mobile on Tatra chasses. This provides flexibility in deployment.
The weapon system consists of a network of radars and control centers which enables it to work in a network centric manner. It also enables robust and reliable operations, as data from multiple sensors are fused into a coherent single integrated air picture for the commander. The system can also integrate legacy and futuristic radars. Computers process information from several radars and also help in automatically classifying the targets as friendly or otherwise. The system also provides for cued acquisition of multiple targets by weapon control radar based on data from surveillance radars.
Advanced Battlefield Management Features
The system has advanced battlefied management software, which carries out relative threat computation and pairing of targets and missiles. It also enables fire control decisions such as direction of missile launch, number of missiles to be launched and instant of missile launch. The system also helps to assign specific launchers and missiles and monitors the health of the various combat elements and reports them to the war fighter. The control center provides “fire request” cue to the commander at the earliest instant ensuring high kill probability. The system has inbuilt simulation facility as well as self-testing before clearing the missile for launch.
The communication between various elements of the weapon system is provided by frequency hopping secure RF links. The system can operate in a totally automated hands free operation mode from target detection to kill .
The supersonic surface to air missile has a range of about 25 km and carries a 55 kg fragmentation warhead that is triggered by proximity fuze. The missile uses state-of-art integral ram jet rocket propulsion system and the onboard digital autopilot ensures stability and control. The missile has all the way command guidance for full range of operation. Electro-pneumatic servo actuation system controls cruciform wings for agile response, and thermal batteries provide onboard power supply. The Radio Proximity Fuse has advanced signal processing features. Together with the pre fragmented warhead and safety arming mechanism, a high kill probability of maneuvering targets is assured.
Battery Level Radar
The Battery Level Radar (BLR) is the heart of the weapon system as it tracks the targets and missiles and guides the missiles towards the targets. The multifunction phased array radar can simultaneously track upto 64 targets. In addition it can guide eight missiles towards four targets at the same time. Electronically steered beams enable agility in switching between various functions of the radar. It has a slewing antenna which enables 360o coverage in azimuth. It has been designed with advanced ECCM features.
Several development flight tests were conducted during 2005, 2006 in which the Akash missile successfully intercepted flying targets consistently at different altitudes and ranges. The tests included simultaneous launch of two missiles from two launchers against two targets using the same fire control radar and fire control center. All the flight tests were conducted at the missile flight test range ITR, Chandipur which is extensively instrumented and is one of the world’s best test ranges.
In recent tests in realistic desert terrain combat conditions, the complete group of Akash Weapon System was fielded and its mobility assessed. The rigorous trials have established the ruggedness of various electronic and mechanical packages of the ground systems. Also the response of the Akash weapon system to various air threat scenarios has been assessed in detail. The tests have been conclusively proved the combat worthiness of hardware and software integration of Akash weapon system. The immunity of Akash weapon system to electronic countermeasure environment was separately tested and proved at Gwalior Airforce base.
IAF had evolved the user Trial Directive to verify the consistency in performance of the total weapon system against low flying near range target, long range high altitude target, crossing and approaching target and ripple firing of two missiles from the same launcher against a low altitude receding target.
The user trials of intercepting flying targets were conducted at ITR, Chandipur during 14-21 Dec 2007. Akash missile has successfully intercepted targets fifth time in a row in this campaign. Fifth and last trial successfully took place at 2.15 pm on 21st Dec at Chandipur on sea. The Akash missile destroyed an Unmanned Air Vehicle (Lakshya) which was flying a path simulating an air attack. The target vanished from the radar screen when the missile was guided precisely in close proximity and warhead blast occurred destroying the target instantaneously. This is the grand finale of the tend days users campaign meticulously planned by the Indian Air Force.
Indian Air Force officials witnessed user trials. With the conclusion of Akash evaluation now onus lies with Indian Air Force and Indian Army as the state-of-art surface to air missile as required by services is available for indigenous production in India.
The ten day user trials saw participation of 300 reps from DRDO, PSUs, Private Industries and MSQAA. Dr. Prahlada who conceptualized the Akash weapon system and headed the project for nearly for two decades and currently the Chief Controller at DRDO HQrs provided the leadership during the campaign. Dr RR Panyam has been the Project Director of Akash since 2002. The multifunction phased array radar has been developed by LRDE Bangalore and about 1000 scientists from 13 DRDO laboratories have contributed to the development of this weapon system.
M/s. BEL, Bangalore has been identified as the Nodal production agency for Akash weapon system. M/s. BDL, Hyderabad, M/s. ECIL, Hyderabad, M/s. L&T Mumbai and M/s. TPCL Mumbai are the major production partners. About 300 industries in Public and Private sectors contribute to the production of the weapon system. Concurrent engineering practices have been adopted to minimize the learning curve in production. The vendors have been carefully chosen for their familiarity with critical technologies, manpower and quality management systems. Production documentation containing detailed specifications of raw-materials processes and products.
The weapon system is now ready for production and induction. This is a major milestone for DRDO and its industry partners. It is also an essential step towards indigenously developing more complex air defence weapons for the future.