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India’s Missile Programme
News: The Defence Minister has encouraged scientists to work towards developing hypersonic missile technology after China’s successful demonstration of hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV).
• Before Independence, several kingdoms in India were using rockets as part of their warfare technologies.Mysore ruler Hyder Ali started inducting iron-cased rockets in his army in the mid-18th century.By the time Hyder’s son Tipu Sultan died, a company of rocketeers was attached to each brigade of his army, which has been estimated at around 5,000 rocket-carrying troops.
• At the time of Independence, India did not have any indigenous missile capabilities.The government created the Special Weapon Development Team in 1958.This was later expanded and called the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), which moved from Delhi to Hyderabad by 1962.
• In 1972, Project Devil, for the development of a medium-range Surface-to-Surface Missile was initiated.By 1982, DRDL was working on several missile technologies under the Integrated Guided Missiles Development Programme (IGMDP).
• India is considered among the top few nations when it comes to designing and developing missiles indigenously.However, it is way behind the US, China and Russia in terms of range.DRDO is working on multiple varieties of missiles:
Anti-Tank Guided Missile:
• Nag has already been inducted into the services. Nag is the only fire-and-forget ATGM meeting all weather requirements for its range (around 20 km).
• Recently Heli-Nag was tested, which will be operated from helicopters and will be inducted by 2022.
• There is also a Stand-off Anti-Tank (SANT) missile, with a range over 10 km.
• Short-range SAM system: Akash has already been inducted in the Army and the Air Force.
• For Akash 1, which has a seeker, the Army has already got the Acceptance of Necessity from the government.
• For Akash (New Generation), the first tests were conducted in July this year and a couple more trials are to be done.
• Medium-Range SAM: Production of MRSAM systems for the Navy is complete, and it is placing its order.
• Astra, India’s Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM), has been completely tested and is under induction.It has a range of around 100 km, and DRDO is trying to now induct it with more IAF platforms, including the domestically developed light combat aircraft Tejas.
• A long-range Astra is also being developed, for which initial tests have been conducted.The missile uses solid fuel ramjet technology, which enhances speed, and will have an indigenously-built seeker.
• Rudram, a New Generation Anti-Radiation Missile (NGRAM), has cleared initial tests and some more tests will be conducted soon.With a maximum range of around 200 km, the missile mainly targets communication, radar and surveillance systems of the adversary, and was tested from the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet last year.
• BrahMos, which India developed jointly with Russia, is already operational.It has a 300 km to 500 km range, and is a short-range, ramjet-powered, single warhead, supersonic anti-ship or land attack cruise missile.
Other Missile systems:
• The two most important are Agni and Prithvi, both being used by the Strategic Forces Command.
• Agni (range around 5,000) is India’s only contender for an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), which is available in only a few countries.
• Prithvi, although a short-range surface-to-surface missile with a 350 km range, has strategic uses. India also tested an anti-satellite system in April 2019.
• A modified anti-ballistic missile named Prithvi Defence Vehicle Mk 2 was used to hit a low-orbit satellite.
• It put India only behind the US, Russia and China in this capability.
• India has been working on this for a few years, and is just behind the US, Russia and China.
• DRDO successfully tested a Hypersonic Technology Demonstrated Vehicle (HSTDV) in September 2020, and demonstrated its hypersonic air-breathing scramjet technology.
• India has developed its own cryogenic engine and demonstrated it in a 23-second flight.
• India will try to make a hypersonic cruise missile, using HSTDV.Only Russia has proven its hypersonic missile capability so far, while China has demonstrated its HGV capacity.India is expected to be able to have a hypersonic weapons system within four years, with medium- to long-range capabilities.
• Missile technology is one field in which India has made very positive and substantial progress.
• Under the IGMP then headed by A P J Abdul Kalam, later India’s President, first came Prithvi, then Agni.
• BrahMos, at 2.5-3 times the speed of sound, was among the fastest in the world when developed.
• After the nuclear blast in 1998, cryogenic etc were not given to us by developed countries. Kalam and others, they made it a point that they developed it within the country.
Comparison with China and Pakistan:
• While China is ahead of India, a lot of things about China are psychological.China may have either achieved parity or even exceeded the US in land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missile capabilities.
• China’s missile development is definitely a concern for us, but we will definitely evolve.
• It has given the technology to the irresponsible hands of Pakistan. But getting technology and really using it, and thereafter evolving and adopting a policy is totally different.