The interceptor missile launch scheduled for November 23 from the Wheeler Island off the Odisha coast will be a novel mission. It will feature an electronically simulated attacker missile coming from a distance of 2,000 km and also a real missile launched from Chandipur in Odisha.

While no interceptor will be fired against the imaginary attacker everything will be simulated up to T minus zero second as if commands were given to bring it down. A real interceptor will take off from the Wheeler Island to bring down the actual missile launched from Chandipur. This interceptor will pounce on the real attacker at a height of 15 km to 16 km in what is called the endo-atomosphere. “This is the first time we will be testing a scenario in real time where everything will be done as if we are launching a missile against an electronic target missile and launch in parallel an actual missile against a real target missile,” said Avinash Chander, Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The simulated and the real scenarios would be running in parallel. Since no distance of 2,000 km was available in the country from where a real missile, simulating the trajectory of an enemy missile, could be launched, it would be a simulated missile, he added. Two radars will process the simulated and real missiles and assign the launchers to take care of them.

“The Mission Control Centre will process the two missiles and identify in real time which launcher is best suited to fire its missile against which target. Since one of the two attackers is an imaginary [electronically simulated] missile, we will not be firing a missile against that. But we will be going to the point of firing up to T-0,” Mr. Chander said.

The missile trial on November 23 aimed at “a deployable configuration” to intercept multiple adversarial missiles raining down on India. “We are not able to launch live targets simultaneously because of the limitations of range and geometry. That is, since distances are not available, we are not able to fire two target missiles simultaneously,” he explained.

Mr. Chander said: “In a real scenario, multiple ballistic missiles may be coming towards India which need to be handled. Our radars can track more than 200 missiles simultaneously. When multiple launchers are deployed, they can handle multiple missiles fired at us. We should be able to track them, process the signals, identify which is a threat and assign the specific launcher-missile that is best suited to intercept them. So far all our interceptor flight-trials have been one missile against one target … So the forthcoming interceptor mission would give the DRDO team a lot of confidence to simultaneously handle multiple targets.”

The DRDO was trying to get a floating test range [ship], and radars and launchers would be based on that vessel, he said. The ship could be stationed far away and if adversarial missiles were to come from different directions, interceptors could be fired from the ship to handle them.

The November 23 launch is India’s eighth interceptor missile mission. Out of the previous seven missions, six have been successful, signalling that India has a credible ballistic missile defence shield, which is ready to be deployed.