The fresh success of the interceptor missile mission on Sunday has demonstrated the country's capability to neutralise adversarial satellites in space, according to V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister.
India has “all the technologies and building blocks which can be used for anti-satellite missions” in the low-earth and polar orbits. However, “India's policy is that it will not weaponise space, and we are committed to the peaceful uses of outer space,” he said.
Out of the six interceptor missions conducted so far by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), five have been successful.
Dr. Saraswat, who is also the DRDO Director-General, called Sunday's mission “a fantastic success.” The interceptor boasted new technologies such as directional warhead, fibre-optic gyroscopes and a radio-frequency seeker that guided the interceptor to attack the incoming “enemy missile” at an altitude of 16 km above the Bay of Bengal.
The incoming missile, a modified Prithvi, blasted off at 9.32 a.m. from the launch complex III of the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, Orissa. It mimicked the trajectory of a ballistic missile with a 600-km range. In no time, radars at different locations swung into action, tracking the “enemy” missile, constructing its trajectory and passing on the information in real time to the Mission Control Centre (MCC) to launch the interceptor, an Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile. It had a directional warhead to go so close to the adversarial missile before exploding to inflict the maximum damage on it. The interceptor had state-of-the-art guidance systems to achieve a manoeuvrable trajectory.
The MCC identified the attacker as a ballistic missile and assigned it to the Launch Control Centre (LCC) on Wheeler Island. After making quick calculations, the LCC launched the interceptor “right on the dot at the required instant,” Dr. Saraswat said. The AAD soared into the sky at 9.37 a.m. from Wheeler Island to take care of the “threat.”
The interceptor manoeuvred in the direction of the target, which was called the “least energy manoeuvre,” he said. The interceptor raced into the sky at 4.5 Mach. In the terminal phase of the attacker's flight, as it was hurtling towards the earth, the interceptor's radio frequency seeker “acquired the target, rolled the interceptor in the right direction and, when it was a few metres from the target, gave the command to the directional warhead to explode,” Dr. Saraswat explained.
The warhead detonated, blasting the attacker to pieces. The ground-based radars and the sensors on board the targeted missile tracked the debris, which rained down over the Bay of Bengal, “confirming a very good kill,” the DRDO Director-General said. “Based on the data from the target, a 100 per cent kill was achieved.” The radars were located at Konark and Kendrapara, near Paradip, in Orissa.
V.L.N. Rao, Programme Director; Avinash Chander, Director, Advanced Systems Laboratory, DRDO, Hyderabad; K. Sekhar, Chief Controller (Missile Systems and Low Intensity Conflict), DRDO; and S.P. Dash, Director, ITR, were present on Wheeler Island. Defence Minister A.K. Antony congratulated the DRDO missile technologists on the successful demonstration of the ballistic missile defence system.
Dr. Saraswat said the next test would be done later this year to intercept a 2000-km-range incoming missile at an altitude of 150 km. India's plans for putting in place the first phase of the two-layered ballistic missile defence shield by 2012 and the second phase by 2016 were on course. This would be done by integrating it with the Air Defence System of the Indian Air Force and the Army.
Only the U.S., Russia, France, Israel and India have the capability to put in place a ballistic missile defence shield. China is still developing it. It conducted an anti-ballistic missile test on January 11, 2010. The target missile, launched from Xichang, was intercepted and destroyed at an altitude of 700 km by a KT-2 variant missile that took off from near Korla in Xinjiang province.