The Strategic Forces Command, which is in charge of nuclear weapons, successfully fired the surface-to-surface Prithvi-II missile from Chandipur in Odisha’s Balasore district on Saturday, confirming yet again that the armed forces are capable of launching nuclear missiles independently.

The missile, drawn from the inventory of the armed forces, lifted off from a road-mobile launcher at 11.04 a.m. at the Integrated Test Range. It crossed the entire range of 350 km and smashed the targeted area with a dummy payload in the Bay of Bengal, with an accuracy of less than 10 metres.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed three Prithvi variants: Prithvi-I for the Army; Prithvi-II for the Indian Air Force; and the Dhanush for the Navy. All the three have been inducted into service. Prithvi-II, a single-stage missile using liquid propellants, can carry a 500-kg warhead and is meant for deep interdiction.

V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, who was present at the launch, said all the stages, from the lift-off to the impact, went off with precision. Five radars and five electro-optical tracking systems along the coast and two ships tracked the missile’s trajectory all through the flight, which he termed “an outstanding success.” “Prithvi-II is a user-friendly missile, which has a completely guided trajectory all through,” said Dr. Saraswat, who is DRDO Director-General and architect of the Prithvi variants. It is guided by a sophisticated inertial navigation guidance system (INS) and controlled by thrust vector and aerodynamic control systems.

G. Satheesh Reddy, Associate Director, Research Centre, Imarat (RCI), Hyderabad, said the entire avionics system functioned perfectly, helping the missile reach its targeted area with a single-digit accuracy of less than 10 metres. The RCI, a DRDO facility, developed Prithvi-II’s avionics.

The teams from the armed forces and the DRDO were led by Project Director N. Sivasubramanyam and Programme Director Adalat Ali. The Director of the Hyderabad-based Defence Research and Development Laboratory, A.K. Chakrabarti, and Integrated Test Range Director M.V.K.V. Prasad witnessed the launch.

Dr. Saraswat said the arrival in Bangalore of the fully modified Embraer-145 aircraft from Brazil on August 22 “marks the beginning of the integration phase” of the indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW and C) system, an “eye in the sky” that will track hostile and friendly objects in the air and on the ground.

The Embraer aircraft has already been integrated with the indigenously developed Active Electronic Scanning Array (AESA) radar with dummy electronics. The AESA radar is a joint project of the Centre for Airborne Systems and the Electronics and Radar Development Establishment, both DRDO laboratories, based in Bangalore. The AESA radar has a power amplifier that uses gallium arsenide-based transmit modules. This will enable the radar to have a more sustained life than the conventional tube-based radars. “Our AESA radar is contemporaneous with the best in the world,” Dr. Saraswat said.

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