Hours Before Republic Day, India’s DRDO Conducts Maiden Test Of New Akash Missile

Hours before the Republic Day celebrations, India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully conducted the maiden test launch of the Akash next-generation surface-to-air missile system (SAM) from its facilities off the Odisha coast. 

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Meant for Indian Air Force, this is an improvised version of the original Akash missile, whose export was recently approved by New Delhi in December 2020.

The test was carried out by the DRDO at 2.30 pm on Monday, via a mobile launching platform positioned at Launching Complex-III of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) against an electronic target, and marked the first test in the system’s development

According to the DRDO, this new system is designed to intercept highly maneuverable aerial threats. A defense official from New Delhi was quoted as saying, “The mission was 100 percent successful as the missile intercepted the electronic target as simulated. The missile will significantly bolster India’s air defense system.”

The Akash-NG (Next-Generation) combines a host of improvements over its predecessor. While the earlier Akash missile system shared its resemblance with the cold-war era non-canister SAM systems like Kub or the MIM-23 Hawk having exposed missiles, the NG has a canisterized launcher. 

The new missiles have an increased range capable of intercepting targets up to 70 kilometers away, more than double the range of 30 kilometers of the earlier version of Akash.

A major improvement is its engine, which now uses the ramjet dual-pulse solid rocket motor, which is lighter instead of current air-breathing engines, increasing the overall reaction time and higher level of protection against saturation attacks. 

The new missile, as per photos released by DRDO, bore no resemblance to the original Akash, hinting at a significant improvement in the missile’s characteristics.

The Akash-NG has also got an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar seeker, a significant development from the command-guided Akash currently in production and in service with the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army. 

Reportedly, the new missiles will also incorporate an optical fuse instead of a proximity fuse, making it much more efficient.

Akash is India’s first indigenously-designed, developed, and produced air defense system capable of engaging aerial threats. It is the cheapest surface-to-air missile ever produced in the world capable of intercepting the target at supersonic speed.

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