Validating Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) capability, India successfully launched an interceptor missile to destroy an incoming target missile in a direct hit at an altitude of 15 km over the Bay of Bengal on Friday.

The target missile mimicked an incoming enemy missile with a range of more than 2,000 km.

A few minutes after the ‘hostile’ missile, a modified surface-to-surface Prithvi, took off at 10.10 a.m. from Launch Complex-3 at Chandipur, the interceptor missile, Advanced Air Defence (AAD), was fired from the Wheeler Island. As the target missile climbed to a height about 100 km and began descending at rapid speed, the interceptor travelling at supersonic speed homed on to the target and smashed it to smithereens around 10.15 a.m. at a 15-km altitude in the endo-atmosphere.

The crucial test was conducted as part of India’s plans to deploy a two-tiered BMD system to engage and kill incoming enemy missiles in the endo-atmosphere and exo-atmopshere.

This was the seventh interceptor mission and the fifth endo-atmospheric interception. Six of the tests to date have been successful, including the first three in a row.

Immediately after the modified Prithvi was launched, the Long Range Tracking Radars near Puri picked up the target missile as also the Multi Functional Radar at Paradip tracked the missile and passed on the information to guidance computer, which gave the command for launching of AAD after computing the target’s flight. Equipped with inertial navigation system, a hi-tech computer and a radio-frequency seeker the AAD locked on to the target missile and blasted it in the terminal phase.

Scientific advisor to Defence Minister V.K. Saraswat, Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO) Chief Controller for missiles and strategic systems, Avinash Chander and other top missile scientists were present.

Scientists laud successful launch

T.S. Subramanian adds:

Mr. Saraswat called it “a good launch.” The success of the interception “confirms” that India’s Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) programme in the endo-atmosphere (that is, below an altitude of 50 km) “is now ready for deployment and the country is in a position to take it to the next phase of production and induction,” he asserted. The entire operation including the launch of the attacker missile from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur and the interceptor taking off from the Wheeler Island, 70 km away, and the interception were “carried out in the deployment mode,” he said. A user team from the Army, which was present in the Wheeler Island, watched the entire operation.

The two launches - that of the attacker missile and of the interceptor - took place independently and they were controlled by radars at different places in the country and by the Mission Control Centre and the Launch Control Centre. Fifteen computers stationed at Hyderabad, Balasore, Chandipur, Konark, Puri, Wheeler Island and so on worked in unison and made the mission a complete success. “We saw the fragments of the target missile forming a track on the computer screen, confirming that the target was destroyed,” said Dr. Saraswat, who is also Director-General of DRDO.

Mr. Chander, DRDO's Chief Controller for missiles and strategic systems, called it “an excellent interception” and that “the entire interception was automated with radars tracking the incoming target missile.” While the Launch Control Centre was situated in the Wheeler Island, the Mission Control Centre was situated a few “thousands of kilometers away from the launch point” of the attacker missile, he claimed.

D.S. Reddy, Programme Director, BMD programme, said the success of the interception proved that India had graduated “from the experimental mode to the deployment mode” of its interceptors. While the target missile belonged to 600 km range class, the interceptor missile was capable of taking on missiles which had a range of 2,000 km. “We met all the objectives we had as part of the mission and we have demonstrated to the user [the Army] whatever we were claiming,” Mr. Reddy said.