A flight-trial by the Army of the surface-to-air missile Akash failed to hit the target after it was launched from the Integrated Test Range at Balasore in Orissa on Saturday. The target was a pilotless aircraft, Lakshya. It was a post-induction trial by the Army. The medium range Akash has already been inducted into the Army and the Indian Air Force. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had developed the missile.

While the flight-trials done by the Army on Thursday were successful, what disappointed it on Saturday was that the missile failed to home in on Lakshya, which was flying over the Bay of Bengal. But the missile's flight was reportedly good. DRDO sources said data would be analysed to find the reasons for the failure. Lakshya is a cost-effective, re-usable aerial target system. It flies at less than the speed of sound, the maximum being 0.65 Mach. It can climb to an altitude of nine km.

The Army will conduct three more trials of Akash before May-end. “These are routine post-induction flight-trials. They went off well on Thursday. The missile is tested in actual conditions as far as possible,” the sources said. The Army and the IAF have placed orders for the production of Akash systems, totally valued at Rs. 23,000 crore. Each system consists of the missile, its launcher, ground system and radar.

It is an anti-aircraft defence system which can simultaneously engage several targets. With a ramjet rocket propulsion system and a warhead weighing 60 kg, the maximum interception range of Akash is 25 km. Rajendra, a radar developed by the Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), a DRDO facility situated in Bangalore, forms part of the system. The radar can perform multiple functions — it can keep surveillance over the sky, search for the target, acquire it and track it. It can guide in real time 12 Akash missiles towards the intruders until the warhead explodes. The radar's instrumented range is 80 km and the height coverage 18 km.

Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad, manufactures Akash, while Bharat Electronics Limited, Bangalore, assembles Rajendra. Several public sector units and private industries are engaged in the manufacture of various items that make up the missile system.

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