Indian Defence

IGMDP: India’s Deadliest Missile Program

Hello Defence Lovers, Today, we will discuss IGMDP: India’s deadliest missile program. Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) was an Indian Ministry of Defence programme to research and develop a comprehensive range of missiles. The Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme starting in 1983, accomplished its design objectives by March 2012.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and erstwhile Ordnance Factories Board (OFB) managed the programme with other Indian government political organizations. The project started in 1982–1983 under the leadership of Dr Abdul Kalam.

The Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme made our beloved late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam the missile man of India. The integrated guided missile programme was complete, as DRDO announced on January 8 2008. Most of the missiles in the programme were successfully developed and inducted into service by the Indian armed forces.

History & Hurdles

A young Dr. Abdul Kalam with Space pioneer Satish Dhawan and PM Indira Gandhi.
The then PM Indira Gandhi with young APJ Kalam and Satish Dhawan. (Source – The Better India)

By the 1980s, the DRDL had developed competence and expertise in propulsion, navigation, and aerospace materials based on Soviet rocketry technologies. Thus, India’s political leadership, including Prime Minister Indira GandhiDefence Minister R VenkataramanV S Arunachalam (Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister), decided to consolidate all these technologies.

The scientists first proposed that each missile system be developed consecutively. The then Defence Minister R. Venkataraman asked them to reconsider the proposal and simultaneously work on all the missiles. The Interim Test Range (ITR) at Balasore in Odisha was also designed for missile testing as part of this programme.

India test-fired the Prithvi missile for the first time in 1988 and then the Agni missile, in 1989. Following this, the Missile Technology Control Regime (then an informal group) decided to restrict access to any technology that would help the Indian missile development program.

To counter the MTCR, the IGMDP team formed a consortium of DRDO laboratories, industries and academic institutions to build these sub-systems, parts and materials. Though this slowed down the program’s progress, India successfully developed, indigenously, all the restricted components denied to it by the MTCR.

In 2011, the DRDO Chief V K Saraswat stated that “indigenous content” in India’s strategic missiles had gone up to such a level, including but not limited to ring-laser gyros and composite rocket motors, micro-navigation systems, among various other things, that “no technology control regime” could derail them any longer.

Five Missiles Developed Under The Programme Were

Various Missiles developed under the programme. (Source – AP Heritage)

PRITHVI (Short range surface-to-surface ballistic missile)

AGNI (medium to intercontinental surface-to-surface missile; a technology demonstration project for re-entry technology, later upgraded to a ballistic missile family with different ranges)

TRISHUL (Short range low-level surface-to-air missile)

AKASH (Surface-to-air missile having a range of up to 25 Km and multi-target handling system)

NAG (Third generation “fire & forget”, “top attack” anti-tank missile)

By 1999 the Government approved funding to develop the Second Phase of AGNI as a separate program. It was after the completion of the Phase-I of AGNI, in which three tests demonstrated re-entry technology. The Trishul missile system was a successful technology demonstrator.

Prithvi Missiles

Prithvi II missile being test-fired (Source – DRDO GODL- India)

The Prithvi missile system comprises various tactical surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM). Its development began in 1983, and it was India’s first indigenous ballistic missile. It was first test-fired on February 25 1988, from Sriharikota, SHAR Centre. It has a range of from 150 to 300 km.

The naval variant of Prithvi I and Prithvi III class missiles have the code-name Dhanush. The propulsion technology was likely based on the Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missile. Developed as a missile for the battlefield, it could carry a nuclear warhead in its role as a tactical nuclear weapon.

The initial project framework of the IGMDP planned the Prithvi missile as a short-range ballistic missile with variants for the Indian Army, Air Force and the Navy. Over the years, however, the Prithvi missile specifications have undergone several changes.

The Prithvi I missiles have been in service with the Indian Army since 1994. Reportedly, Prahar missiles are replacing with Prithvi I missiles. Prithvi II missiles have been in service since 1996. Prithvi III having a more extended range of 350 km, was successfully test-fired in 2004.

Agni Re-Entry Technology Demonstrator (eventually the Agni series of missiles)

First test flight of Agni-V ICBM on 19 April 2012 from Integrated Test Range, Wheeler Island, Orissa.
First test flight of Agni-V ICBM on April 19 2012, from Integrated Test Range, Wheeler Island, Orissa. (Source – DRDO / Ministry of Defence, Government of India)

A technology demonstrator for re-entry technology, named Agni, was included in the programme. It resulted from the inability to develop a longer-ranged Prithvi missile, due to a lack of improvement spaces on the system. The first flight of Agni with its re-entry technology took place in 1989. The re-entry system reportedly used resins and carbon fibres in its construction and thus, could withstand a temperature of up to 3000°C. The technologies eventually led to the Agni missile family.

The first missile of the series, Agni-I, developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program, was tested in 1989. The success led to the separation of the Agni missile programme from the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme because of its strategic importance. Designated as a unique program in India’s defence budget, it was provided with adequate funds for subsequent development.

Trishul Short Range Surface to Air Missiles

Trishul short range surface to air missile technology demonstrator.
Trishul short-range surface to air missile technology demonstrator. (Source – Social Posts)

Trishul was a short-range surface-to-air missile developed by India as a part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program. The objective was to defend against low-level (sea-skimming) targets at short ranges with a reaction time below 6 seconds.

In 1985, Trishul made its first unguided flight from Satish Dhawan Space CentreSriharikota. However, the missile made its first full range guided flight in 1989 without Television guidance (TVM). The missile range is reportedly 12 km and came with a 15 kg warhead.

Indian Army and Indian Air Force (IAF) wanted Trishul to replace the Soviet-era 9K33 Osa. On the other hand, the Indian Navy wanted to purchase Barak 1 and Kashtan CIWS for the point-defence role since Pakistan began acquiring Harpoon and Exocet in the 1980s. By the late 1990s, DRDO pushed Trishul as an alternative to Barak 1 for the Indian Navy.

In 1992, variation in altimeter led to testing failure. In 1997, the associated radar systems for detecting the incoming sea-skimmer were operational at INS Dronacharya. Still, the Indian Navy expressed its displeasure in the developmental delay of Trishul for the Brahmaputra-class frigates and finally opted for Barak 1.

Trishul could not complete all the static trials from a fixed launcher till 1998. A review by DRDO and the Indian Armed Forces in October 2001 found the missile system was deficient as the tracking radar beam was getting intermittent breaks, thus, resulting in the missile missing the target. The heavy BMP-2 chassis did not meet the General Staff Qualitative Requirements for swift mobility also.

India officially shut down the project on February 27, 2008. It, thus, continued as a technology demonstrator.

Akash Medium Range Surface to Air Missiles

Night launch of Akash missile in Vayu Shakti Exercise 2019. (Source – Indian Air Force)

Akash is a medium-range surface-to-air missile system. It was developed as part of India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme to achieve self-sufficiency in Surface to Air Missile systems. The Akash system is fully mobile and it is capable of protecting a moving convoy of vehicles.

Akash flying at supersonic speeds, can reach around Mach 2.5. It can hit its target up to an altitude of 18 km and have an intercept range of 30 km. It has a digital proximity fuse coupled with a 55 kg pre-fragmented warhead.

The Akash missile’s use of a ramjet propulsion system allows it to maintain its speed without deceleration, unlike the Patriot missiles. The missile system consists of a multi-target and multi-function phased array fire control radar called the Rajendra. It has ranges of about 80 km in search and 60 km in terms of engagement.

The missile, entirely guided by the radar, does not have any active guidance of its own. As a result, it is more excellent against jamming as the aircraft self-protection jammer would have to work against the high-power Rajendra radar.

The design of the missile is externally similar to that of the Soviet SA-6, with four long tube ramjet inlet ducts mounted mid-body between the wings. For pitch/yaw control, four clipped triangular moving wings are mounted on the mid-body. Four inline clipped delta fins with ailerons are scaled before the tail for roll control. However, the internal schema shows a thoroughly modernized layout, including an onboard computer with specially optimized trajectories and an all-digital proximity fuse.

Different Variants of the System

Mark-I

The first test flight of the Akash missile was conducted in 1990, with development flights up to March 1997.

Two Akash missiles intercepted two fast-moving targets in simultaneous engagement mode in 2005. The establishment of 3-D Central Acquisition Radar (3D-CAR) performance in group mode also occurred.

The Akash Missile Development cost of Rs 1,000 crores (US$200 million), including the project sanction of Rs 600 crore (US$120 million), is 8-10 times lower than the cost of a similar type of system development in other countries.

Akash has unique characteristics like mobility, all-the-way-powered flight till target interception, multiple target handling, digitally-coded command guidance and fully automatic operation.

Akash-1S

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test fired AKASH-MK-1S missile from ITR, Chandipur in Odisha on May 27, 2019.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test-fired AKASH-MK-1S missile from ITR, Chandipur in Odisha on May 27, 2019. (Source – Ministry of Defence GODL-India)

Indian Armed Forces requested a missile with a seeker to target inbound targets more accurately. To this, DRDO offered an upgraded Akash, with an indigenous seeker, designated as Akash-1S.

DRDO tested Akash-1S on May 25 and May 27 2019, with a strike range of 30 km that can carry a warhead of 60 kg from Integrated Test Range (ITR), ChandipurOdisha. The overall performance of the indigenous seeker and guidance system was consistently established during the period.

Akash-1S, fired five times against multiple targets, successfully completed the trials. It supports both command and active terminal seeker guidance to enhance the single-shot kill probability. It can strike down fighter jets and drones at a distance of around 18 to 30 km while fired from both tracked and wheeled platforms for greater mobility.

Akash Prime

Akash Prime test launch on 27 September 2021.
Akash Prime test launch on September 27 2021. (Source – DRDO)

On September 27 2021, the DRDO test-fired a new missile version called Akash Prime. It intercepted and destroyed an unmanned aerial target in its maiden flight.

Akash Prime is also based on the existing Akash SAM. The missile equips an improved active radio-frequency (RF) seeker to increase the accuracy further.

Akash Prime is also optimized for low temperature and high altitude operations with a modified ground system.

Akash-NG

DRDO conducted the successful maiden launch of Akash-NG (New Generation) Missile from Integrated Test Range off the coast of Odisha on January 25, 2021. (Source – Ministry of Defence – GODL-India)

A successor missile with a new design, Akash – New generation abbreviated as Akash-NG, was approved in September 2016 with a funding of Rs 470 crores (US$76 million, in 2020) to succeed Akash and Akash-1S with many improved capabilities.

Akash-NG will have a greatly improved reaction time and a higher level of protection against saturation attacks. The second stage uses a lighter dual-pulse solid rocket motor instead of an air-breathing solid ramjet engine. It increases the overall range from current 40 km to 70 km. An active electronically scanned array Multi-Function Radar (MFR) and optical proximity fuze will further make the system more lethal.

Rigorous Testing Phase

Akash missile test-fired for very low altitude near boundary mission on June 18, 2014. (Source – Ministry of Defence, Government of India )

By December 2007, the Indian Air Force completed user trials for the Akash missile system. The tests, spread over ten days, were successful, with the missile hitting its target on all five occasions. Before the ten-day trial at Chandipur, the system’s Electronic Counter-Counter Measure (ECCM) Evaluation tests were carried out at the Gwalior Air force base. The mobility trials for the vehicles in the system were done at the Pokhran range.

The IAF evolved the user Trial Directive to verify Akash’s consistency in engaging targets. The rigorous testing phase included: a low-flying near-range target, a long-range high-altitude target, crossing and approaching target and then ripple firing of two missiles from the same launcher, in quick succession, against a low-altitude receding target. 

Following this, the Air Force declared that it would initiate the induction of this missile system’s two squadrons strength (each squadron with two batteries). Further orders would replace the old SA-3 GOA (Pechora) SAM systems. In February 2010, the Air Force ordered six more squadrons of the Akash system, taking orders to eight of the type.

Status

Akash Missiles on a BMP-2 chassis. (Source – Frontier India Defense and Strategic News Service)

On 28 and 29 November 2017, the IAF carried out three missile tests from Launch Complex number 3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) against electronic targets.

On December 3 2020, the Indian Air Force carried out ten missiles firing at Suryalanka to bolster its capability during the ongoing Indo-Sino border tension. The missile test took place to validate different scenarios, and the most of the missiles scored a direct kill, establishing the efficacy of the Akash missile.

Export Potentials

As per reports in the media, the PhilippinesBelarusMalaysiaThailandUAE, and Vietnam have shown interest in purchasing the Akash missile system.

On December 30 2020, Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared the exports of the Akash missile defence system. The Philippines signed an arms agreement with India in March 2021 to potentially acquire Indian weapons, including the Akash Missile.

Nag Anti tank Guided Missile

Inside view (front end); ILA Berlin Air Show 2012 NAG (Nag (missile) – India)

Nag is India’s third-generation “Fire-and-forget” anti-tank missile. It is an all-weather, top attack missile with a range of 0.5 to 4 km.

The missile reportedly uses an 8 kg high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) tandem warhead. It can defeat modern armour, including Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) and composite armour. Nag system uses Imaging Infra-Red (IIR) guidance with day and night capability. The mode of launch for the IIR seeker is LOBL (lock-on before launch).

The Nag has many variants under development: a land version, the helicopter-launched Nag (HELINA), also known as Dhruvastra, a “man-portable” version (MPATGM), an air-launched version which will replace the current imaging infra-red (IIR) to millimetric-wave (mmW) active radar homing seeker, and the Nag Missile Carrier (NAMICA)

Trials

NAG Missile test from NAMICA. (Source – Ministry of Defence-GODL-India )

On September 8 2017, MoD announced two successful flight-tests of the missile against two different targets in two tests in the ranges of Rajasthan. The missile successfully hit both targets at various ranges and under different conditions with very high accuracy, as desired by the armed forces.

Again, the missile was declared ready for induction on February 28 2018, after a test in which it destroyed two tanks in desert conditions. In 2018, the single-shot hit probability was about 77%, further increasing to 90%. In 2018, the DRDO chief said that the Nag system would begin inductions into the Indian Army by 2019. On July 7 2019, the DRDO carried out three successful trials of the Nag missile in the Pokhran firing range. The missile test took place during both day and night.

The Nag missile was victorious 12 times between 7 and 18 July 2019. It was tested under extreme weather conditions. During day and night, indirect attack mode and top attack mode achieved a direct hit on each target.

On October 22 2020, India successfully carried out the final trial of the Nag anti-tank guided missile from NAMICA. The weapon system is now finally ready for induction into the Indian Army.

The Future

The completion of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme made India one of seven countries globally with ICBMs. Since 2016, India has been a Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) member. As discussed in the previous blog (About Indian Ballistic Missile Development Programme), India is one of four countries with anti-ballistic missile systems.

India has developed, tested, operationalized, and is developing several missile systems limited to only a select number of countries, including ICBMsASATsSLBMs and hypersonic weapon systems. The Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme played a critical role in this progress.

The future is, thus, quite clear; the development of Submarine-launched Ballistic Missiles and Hypersonic weapons are our prime focus. Next-generation Akash PrimeVertical Launch – Short Range Surface to Air Missile, or VL-SRSAMMedium Range Surface to Air Missile, or MR-SAMBrahmos-NGAgni prime are a few programmes under development. These will eventually supplement Submarine-launched Ballistic Missiles and Hypersonic weapons in future.

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Sparsh

My name is Sparsh, and I am currently studying at IIT Dhanbad. I like to blog on topics ranging from defence to coding, technology to cosmos!

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