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Interceptor missile scores ‘direct hit’

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V.K. Saraswat
V.K. Saraswat

Y. Mallikarjun and T.S. Subramanian

Future missiles will be equipped with technologies to achieve “near zero missed distance”

Wheeler Island: Elated by the success of the interceptor missile test on Thursday from Wheeler Island, off Orissa, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is planning to take on “harder challenges” of engaging Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) as part of its Area Defence programme.

In an interview to The Hindu after the interceptor missile, called the Advanced Air Defence (AAD-02), scored a “direct hit” and destroyed a target missile over the Bay of Bengal, V.K. Saraswat, Chief Controller, DRDO R&D (Missiles and Strategic Systems), said future missiles would be equipped with technologies to achieve “near zero missed distance” (four to six metres).

Future plans

In April next, the DRDO would launch two interceptor missiles to intercept a single incoming target missile in both exo-atmosphere (above 40 km altitude) and endo-atmosphere (below 30 km altitude). However, there would be no endo-atmospheric interception if the exo-atmospheric test achieved a kill.

Good accuracy

According to Dr. Saraswat, the AAD-02 was capable of intercepting M-9 and M-11 class of missiles “which are with our adversaries.”

The AAD-02 was slightly better than the PAC-3 (Patriot Advanced Capability) of the U.S. in terms of range and altitude. The direct hit compared very well with the PAC-3 in terms of accuracy.

Avinash Chander, Director, Advanced Systems’ Laboratory (ASL), Hyderabad, said, “I don’t think any country [other than India] was able to achieve a direct-hit in the first attempt” in endo-atmosphere.

“The interceptor crossed the target missile at the correct point. The target missile went into fragments thereafter.”

The ASL, a DRDL unit, had contributed significantly to the mission.

The AAD-02 was specifically designed and developed by the DRDO for endo-atmospheric interception of an incoming missile at an altitude of around 15 km. It is a single-stage missile powered by solid propellants. It is 7.5 metres tall and weighs around 1.2 tonnes. It had a diameter of less than 0.5 metres.

M. Natarajan, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, who watched the two lift-offs and the interception live on a video-screen at DRDO Bhawan in New Delhi, likened the interception to “almost hitting a bullet with a bullet.”

The mission’s success had boosted the confidence of the DRDO scientists in networking an array of radars, optics, command, control and communication systems to track an incoming missile in real time, validate all the software computation and send the command to the seeker to home in on the target, he said.

The mission “signified the DRDO’s capability to network massive software with hardware actuation,” he added.

Totally new missile

Mr. Natarajan called the interceptor “a totally new missile,” which had “a massive software integration and high manoeuvring capability.”

The centrepiece of the interceptor was its seeker, a radio frequency device that passed on information on the position, velocity and direction of the target missile to the AAD-02.

The target missile is a modified single-stage Prithvi missile, fuelled by liquid propellants. It is 11 metres tall and weighs five tonnes. Its diameter is one metre.

On Thursday, the Army launched the target missile from Chandipur-on-Sea, Orissa, in an independent manner. The Mission Director for the target missile was Lt. Gen. (retired) V.J. Sundaram.

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