Hello defence lovers! Recently DRDO has successfully tested Akash prime Surface to air missile system from the integrated test range of Chndipur Odisha. In this article, we are going to discuss what makes Akash Prime different from the original Akash SAM system. We will also discuss what advantages it will provide to the Indian armed forces in Ladakh against China.
A new version of the Akash Missile — `Akash Prime’ has been successfully flight tested from Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur, Odisha on 27 September 2021 at around 4:30 pm. The missile intercepted and destroyed an unmanned aerial target mimicking enemy aircrafts, in its maiden flight test after improvements.DRDO PRESS RELEASE on 27 September 2021
In comparison to existing Akash System, Akash Prime is equipped with an indigenous active RF seeker for improved accuracy. Other improvements also ensure more reliable performance under low temperature environment at higher altitudes. Modified ground system of the existing Akash weapon system has been used for the current flight test. The range stations of ITR comprising of Radars, EOTS and Telemetry stations monitored the missile trajectory and flight parameters.
Battery of Akash System
Let us first understand the structure of the battery of the Akash system. This will help us to understand the advancements made in Akash Prime. Each battery of the Akash missile system consists of 4 launchers. Each launcher carries 3 missiles. Thus there are always 12 missiles ready to be fired. Apart from these missiles each battery also carries loaders with extra missiles. The total number of missiles in each battery is 48. Each battery contains the main radar. This main radar is Rajendra Radar which is a 3D PESA radar. It provides command guidance to the missile. Each launcher is also equipped with its own fire control radar which works with the Main radar and Battery Search Radar in a synchronized manner. All these systems are governed by Battery Command and Control Centre. So that was the composition of a typical Akash battery.
The Indian air force already operates 10 squadrons of Akash missile systems. Each Squadron has two batteries and a total of 125 missiles each. The army has two operational regiments of the Akash system with 2000 missiles in total.
Improvements In Akash Prime
The first generation of Akash prime missiles relied on the Rajendra Radars of their batteries for Command Guidance. That means that the missiles had no seeker of their own and were guided to the targets by the Rajendra radar throughout their trajectories. DRDO previously worked on Akash 1S variant with a radio frequency seeker for terminal guidance. Now, this Akash Prime variant is a further improved variant of the 1S variant. It is equipped with an improved indigenous RF seeker for terminal active radar homing. Previously the missile had a single-shot kill probability of 88%. Now with terminal guidance, it will increase even further making the missile deadlier.
The new system is optimized for low temperatures and higher altitudes. That means it is now more suitable to be deployed in Ladakh. All the components of the Akash systems can be mounted on BMP chassis if required. Thus the system is highly mobile and can be deployed rapidly. In general, the components of the systems are mounted on BEML Tatra trucks.
Keeping China in mind this is a significant development as this system can be now deployed in harsh terrains like Laddakh. Last year there were reports that the Indian Army had deployed Akash SAMs in Ladakh during the standoff. But keeping the missiles battle-ready in such tough terrain is a difficult task. Moreover, Akash missiles are not packed in canisters which makes the maintenance even tougher. We can definitely say that DRDO has worked hard to make the system much more reliable for low-temperature operations.
Akash NG will be the next significant development of the system. It is altogether a different system. The Akash gen 1 missiles were powered by single-pulse solid rocket motors and by ramjets in the later stage. Akash NG will have a dual pulse rocket motor which will make the missile much more compact and lighter. It will also have an improved range of 80+ kilometers along with an active electronically scanned array Multi-Function Radar (MFR) and optical proximity fuse.
Once inducted Akash Prime will be a crucial weapon for high altitude warfare. No additional infrastructure will be needed as it will be compatible with the current launchers and other components of its batteries. Akash Prime will play a crucial role in defending India’s airspace in future conflicts and standoffs in areas like Ladakh.