How is AKASH MDS in comparison to other missile defence systems?
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.
Going by the specs of each known SAM around the world, the one which justifiably come in the comparison zone with Akash SAM would be our old ally, Israel’s Spyder QR-SAM.
Israeli Spyder QR-SAM Vs India’s DRDO Akash
The SPYDER is an Israeli short and medium range mobile air defence system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems with assistance from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
Akash is a medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile defence system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO),Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) for missile system,Ordnance Factories board and Bharat electronics(BEL) for other systems in India.
The SPYDER is a low-level, quick-reaction surface-to-air missile system capable of engaging aircraft, helicopters, unmanned air vehicles, drones, and precision-guided munitions. It provides air defence for fixed assets and for point and area defence for mobile forces in combat areas. The system is fitted atop a Tatra truck, a Mercedes-Benz Actros truck, a MAN TGS truck, Scania P-series truck, or a Dongfeng truck.
The Akash Missile can be launched from static or mobile platforms and can handle multi target and destroy manoeuvring targets such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), fighter aircraft, cruise missiles and missiles launched from helicopters.The SAM system also defends vulnerable areas in all weather conditions against medium-range air targets being attacked from low,medium and high altitudes.
Missiles and Guidance System
The Israeli made SPYDER (Quick Reaction SAM) or QRSAM is a network-centric, multi-launch and self-propelled missile system. A typical battery consists one central command and control unit, six missile firing units, and a resupply vehicle.
There are two variants of the SPYDER: the SPYDER-SR (short range) and the SPYDER-MR (medium range).The SPYDER-SR uses the EL/M-2106 ATAR radar while the SPYDER-MR incorporates the EL/M-2084 MMR radar. The latter is the same radar used by the Iron Dome system currently in service with the Israel Defense Forces.
Whereas The Akash SAM can operate autonomously and engage and neutralise different aerial targets simultaneously. The integral rocket motor/ramjet booster and sustainer motor propel the Akash SAM system .It also consists of a switchable guidance antenna system, a command guidance unit, an on board power supply, a system arming and detonation mechanism, digital autopilot, radars and C4I centres.
Little confused, which one is better, let me help you out, If one goes by the specification chart, one can easily contemplate the Length, Weight and Warhead Capacity brought down the speed of Akash SAM, but it gave us one vital benefit, RANGE. Also, Flight ceiling also got a boost. Now, one must question, why Indian Army is impressed with Spyder but not Akash SAM.
The reason zeroes down to battle strategy, where seconds between decision turn the results. Army wants QR-SAMs to defend “forward tactical battlefield area” formations. Akash system does not have the much-needed 360 degree coverage, or the 3-4 second reaction time, which the Army wants.
Moreover, Akash missile systems are not single container units, but need several vehicles for missile launchers, radars and has a large radar ground signature too. Which turns out to be a quite big green dot on radar screen of enemy, which Battle commanders, would not want.
So, whether one should just drop down the Akash SAM, which would be of course a big blow to the “Make In India” campaign. Of course we couldn’t afford abandoning this up, instead, we used multi layered air defence to our advantage.
India, is one of the very few nations in the world, to have the advantage of both the western systems (USA) and eastern systems(Russia) plus, indigenous tech development is a bonus.
See, the logic, is no one can depend 100% on single Air Defence Cover, not even US, that is why we have concept of Medium Range SAM (MRSAM) and Long Range SAM (LRSAM). Combination of all this Air Defence Systems, gives us multi layered air defence cover, which is more robust to various types of Aerial Threat, and as of now, we have Akash SAM at 25 km Air Defence Layer, and kept Spyder as the last line of defence, which is of course very tricky to breach, even by the most sophisticated missiles in the world.
India’s state-owned Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has tested the indigenously designed quick-reaction surface-to-air missile (QRSAM) system from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Chandipur on the country’s east coast
The system that uses a solid-fuel propellant and has a stated strike range of 25-30 kilometer was launched from a truck-mounted canister. The system is capable of surveillance, target acquisition, and tracking while on the move.
The QRSAM is a quick reaction, all-weather and network-centric search-on-the-move missile system. It can engage multiple targets at a range of about 30 km with two vehicle configuration for area air defence.
The missile is a truck-mounted one with 360 degree rotatable, electronic-mechanically operated, turret-based launch unit..
QR-SAM missile uses solid fuel propellant and has a stated range of strike range of 25-30 km. Truck-mounted canister makes the missile system increase the mobility of the missile system ten fold over Akash Air Defence System and there are also many other factors which hint that QR-SAM missile will be game changer missile system for Indian Armed forces and will be bigger Success then Akash Air Defence System.
QRSAM is a highly mobile air defence system which comes with 100 percent kill probability, and has the capability to neutralise aerial targets like fighter jets, cruise missiles and air to surface missiles as well as short-range ballistic missiles. QRSAM is also a vital component in India’s “Cold Start” Doctrine which will ensure the safety of forward Army formations in Enemy territories.The Mach 1.8
Akash SAM, part of India’s one of the biggest missile programme , Integrated Guidance Missile Defence (IGMD) programme, has come a long way, even with shortfalls, it has proved to be meeting its developmental objectives and few with future upgrades, would of course, with no doubt, fulfill the operational requirement of Indian Army too. As of now, 25 km Air Defence Layer is covered profoundly by AKASH to keep out akash clear of enemy attacks.