AKASH Missiles – The Protector of Indian skies.
The Akash (sky) is a mid-range indigenous supersonic short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. It is one of the five missile projects of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) of the DRDO. The objective of the project Akash was to develop critical and sophisticated technologies for a ground system and a missile system and integrate these technologies into a state-of-the-art SAM air defence system capable of destroying multiple aerial targets simultaneously.
India initiated a project to develop a Surface to air missile in the early 1990’s , as a Result of the Program the Akash project was born, and DRDO successfully test fired the First Akash missile in early 1990. the Akash missile was developed by jointly with the effort of BDL and OFB with the supports from DRDO, as each contributed by integration, development and manufacturing. Akash missile system has the capability to “neutralise aerial targets like fighter jets, cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles” as well as ballistic missiles.
There was two projects in Akash, one is mark 1 another is mark 2 but both are same, However Mark two has increased range by adding active seeker in the missile. The Akash Mk 1 need continuous radar guidance to hit the target, a bit older technique. That means someone need guides the missile to hit the target.
While Akash Mk 2 missile with an active seeker uses command guidance for the initial phase of interception and then switches to a miniaturized radar fitted in its nose cone for terminal phase (end game) interception. (The current Akash missile uses command guidance for the entire interception phase which limits its effective range.)
Akash missiles are designed to be launched from static or mobile platforms, including battle tanks and wheeled trucks, providing flexible deployment. It can handle multiple targets and destroy manoeuvring targets, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, fighter aircraft, cruise missiles and missiles launched from helicopters.
The missile is capable of destroying aircraft within the range from 30km to 35km and at altitudes up to 18,000m. It renders multidirectional and multitarget area defence. It can carry conventional and nuclear warheads weighing up to 60kg. The integration of nuclear warhead allows the missile to destroy aircraft and warheads released from ballistic missiles. It can operate in all weather conditions.
It can operate autonomously, and engage and neutralise different aerial targets simultaneously. The kill probability of the Akash is 88% for the first and 99% for the second missile on a target. The Akash SAM is claimed to be more economical and accurate than the MIM-104 Patriot, operated by several nations including the US, due to its solid-fuel technology. The Akash can intercept from a range of 30km and provide air defence missile coverage of 2,000km².
The Akash system is fully mobile and capable of protecting a moving convoy of vehicles. The launch platform has been integrated with both wheeled and tracked vehicles. While the Akash system has primarily been designed as an air defence SAM, it also has been tested in a missile defense role. The system provides air defence missile coverage for an area of 2,000 km². The missile has a 60 kg (130 lb) high-explosive, pre-fragmented warhead with a proximity fuse.
A digital proximity fuse is coupled with a 55 kg pre-fragmented warhead, while the safety arming and detonation mechanism enables a controlled detonation sequence. A self-destruct device is also integrated. It is propelled by an Integrated Ramjet Rocket Engine.
The use of a ramjet propulsion system enables sustained speeds without deceleration throughout its flight. The Missile has command guidance in its entire flight.
The Akash missile has the range of 30 kilometers, and can engage targets up to 59,000 feet and as low as 100 feet. Akash can fly at the speed of twice of Sound, means more than 2.5 mach speed. the missile can sustain 15 G, gives it better maneuverability against highly agile aircraft. The the Akash warhead weights some 55 kg of fragmentation. With the use of ramjet engines, Akash can maintain top speed at all altitudes and maneuverable in any altitudes. The entire flight can be controlled by the command control computer and the controller can order the missile self destruct in mid-air if missile was wrongly fired.
One battery is capable of engaging up to 64 targets (a single radar can track up to 16 objects) and attack 12 different intruders simultaneously, including enemy fighters, helicopters, drones, and sub-sonic cruise missiles. The Akash supersonic missile can reach a top speed of up to Mach 2.5 and can be fired from both tracked and wheeled platforms, with command guidance throughout its entire flight.
According to army-technology.com:
The most important element of the Akash SAM system battery is its high-power, multi-function Rajendra phased-array radar.The 3D passive electronically scanned array Rajendra radar (PESA) can electronically scan and guide the missile towards targets. It provides information on the range, azimuth, and height of a flying target.
The air force version of the Rajendra radar is capable of tracking 64 targets within a range of 60km in range, azimuth and height.
The army variation of the Akash will use a Rajendra radar which can track 40 targets in range and azimuth with up to 100km in tracking range.
The Akash is powered by Ramjet-rocket propulsion system which renders thrust for the missile to intercept the target at supersonic speed without any retardation.Akash can fly at supersonic speeds ranging from Mach 2.8 to 3.5, and can engage aerial targets up to a range of approximately 25km.The kill probability of the missile is 88% and can be increased to 98.5% by launching the second missile after five seconds of launching the first.
The army version of the SAM system consists “of surveillance and tracking radars, control centers and ground support systems mounted on high mobility vehicles.” Each battery consists of four 3D passive electronically scanned array radars and four launchers with three missiles each.
For Air force all the systems comes in a wheeled platform, each squadron consists of two Akash Systems, and four Akash system comes as a Regiment under Army classification, one Akash System can cover an area of 5000 square Kilometers, with a probable reliability of 80 to 100% successful management rate. with the quick mobile configuration option the system can be deployed remote places and can be operated very quickly. with the Army, Akash systems comes in Tracked platform it can be deployed all over the tough terrains unlike the Air force’s wheeled platform, all the systems in Akash is indigenous and tested in all tough Indian Conditions.
Compared to all other systems the Akash is much more cost-effective, missiles are less than half a million dollars, unlike the western and Russian missiles costs double than the Akash.
The Indian Air force and Army tested the Akash missile extensively before inducting in the force, the trials include command and control launch from Remote Control center, firing as a group of Missiles from different launchers. conducting tests in tough Electronic counter measure scenario’s to kill more modern Fighters who uses advanced electronic counter measure systems. Striking nearby targets in very low altitude and Long range High altitude targets, and ripple firing missiles to strike a single target/Multi Target scenario, in all such scenario’s Akash performed well and satisfies the users Evaluation trials.
So far IAF has eight Squadrons of Akash missiles systems, and the Army has two regiments of Akash missiles, each regiments consists of six Squad of Akash systems
On Dec 5 2017 India has successfully test fired Akash missile fitted with a new domestically developed radio frequency seeker that purportedly improves the missile’s accuracy and range from a test site in Odisha
“The surface to air missile AKASH with indigenous radio frequency seeker against target Banshee [an unnamed aerial vehicle], has been successfully launched from the Launch Complex-III at ITR [Integrated Test Range] Chandipur today at 1338 h[ours],” the official statement reads. “The radars, telemetry and electro-optical systems along the coast have tracked and monitored all the health parameters of the missile.”
The test was conducted by India’s Defense Research & Development Organization (DRDO), which developed the missile in cooperation with the Ordnance Factories Board, Bharat Electronics, and Bharat Dynamics Limited.As a result of the successful test of the Akash missile system, “India has achieved the capability of making any type of Surface to Air Missile,” the press release reads.