Indian Scientist have successfully intercepted a ballistic for the third time in actual firing tests, promoting confidence towards building an indigenous ballistic missile shield beginning 2011.
The interception was conducted March 6th,2011
at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Wheeler island in Orissa with the two-stage Interceptor missile scoring a direct hit on a Dhanush missile at a height of 75 km. The Dhanush, a naval version of the Prithvi Missile already in use by the armed forces, was fired from a ship to a mimic a hostile target. Before its disintegration, it went to a height of 120 km.
DRDO's Chief Controller and Air Defence programme Director VK Saraswat told newsmen after the test that India would need a multi-layer approach to neutralize hostile ballistic missiles at different ranges and heights, and that indigenous building blocks were already in place.
"But there would have to be more tests" towards building the Anti Ballistic Missile (ABMs). The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) would conduct atleast five more endo-and-exo atmospheric tests, including in this year, to validate the indigenous technology, and then it would be up to the government to order the induction of the system by the country's strategic forces.
Asked if a single missile would be sufficient to neutralize a single hostile target, he said that there had to be multiple engagements. Sometimes, one would need to launch a proximity fuse ABM and sometimes a direct hit ABM, and sometime both. The ABM with proximity fuse would explode within five metres of reaching a target.
Defence Minister A K Antony has congratulated DRDO, which has already conducted two interception trials, first in exo-atmospheric region at 48 Km altitude on 27th November 2006 and second in endo-atmospheric region at 15 km using Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile on 06 Dec 2007.
Dr Saraswat said that tests in future would cover attacking multiple targets at different heights.
“All the building blocks of the BMD are ready at the moment. Only part that remains to be developed is the interceptor missile and by the time they are in place, we will have our full mechanism in place. We have a programme till 2011 to complete this,”
he said, pointing out that the process of refining the indigenous capability would continue.
“But the technology we have is robust,” and there was no need to import any system. “Different countries develop their capabilities according to their own needs, and in the same way, India needs to develop what is required according to the hostile environment around us,” he said.
Dr Sarawat said that the interception test achieved “all the mission parameters”
and that as soon as the milestone was achieved, there was joy in the scientific community. DRDO chief M Natarajan and senior defence officials were present to witness the test, conducted at 1624 hours.
Video footage of the engagement and destruction of the Dhanush missile by the Interceptor was presented before the media. Dhanush was fired from a mobile launcher (a ship some 100 km off the Orissa coast) in the Bay of Bengal.
Significantly, said Dr Saraswat, the Interception missile was built with (mostly) Indian components, and that they were well advanced in technology.
DRDO though is known to use Commercially Available Off the Shelf Components (COTS) both from India and abroad, but in the recent past, private sector Indian companies have been involved in their manufacture.
A key component of the missile programme is the homing or seeker technology, and DRDO is laying emphasis on achieving self-sufficiency in this. Notably, many countries have also offered to share sophisticated anti-missile technology with India.
Dr Saraswat said that the new seeker in the Interceptor enabled the missile to match the maneuvers of a hostile missile – like the zig zag movement of the Russian Topol missile.
DRDO, known in the past for delayed programmes, has shown remarkable progress in missile technologies, and nearly all its tests, and resultant missiles, are being successfully deployed. Nonetheless, for such a serious programme as building a missile defence shield, it would have to conduct many tests and maybe acquire some sophisticated systems from outside, now that the technology denial regime against India has eased after the nuclear deal.
According to Dr Saraswat, the Interceptor warhead weiged just 30 kg but generated an impact of a 150 kg omni-directional warhead. The system had been modified and we “provided it with higher energy, an improved guidance and control system and on top of it all, we have integrated a Gimbaled Directional Warhead with it.”
Pointing out that in a missile threat scenario, defensive action has to be super fast, and accordingly, the Interception system is fully automated, requiring no human intervention.
“Under the present system, the interceptor missiles are on ‘Hot Stand-by mode’ and can take-off within 120 seconds of the detection of the incoming missile by the tracking radars,”
he said adding that it automatically keeps track of the target and calculates the best possible point to destroy it.
In the overall process of tracking, airborne and ground-based radars would play an important role to update the Interceptor about its target. This data link is vital, and the only one, and nearly impossible to jam. Effective counter-measures against jamming are already incorporated.
Dr Saraswat also said that given government clearance, DRDO could work on developing hypersonic interceptors with six to seven times the speed of sound to neutralize longrange hostile missiles with a range of 5000-6000 km.