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The underdog Rudram missiles: India’s mysterious anti-radiation munition

These missiles depend on a navigation mechanism consisting of a satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) and an inertial navigation system.

The missile is reported to have an operational range of more than 100 km, based on the launch parameters from the fighter jet.
The missile is reported to have an operational range of more than 100 km, based on the launch parameters from the fighter jet.

By Girish Linganna

Media reports revealed that the tests of at least three weapons- the ASTRA-1 and ASTRA-2 beyond visual range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAMs) and the new generation anti-radiation missile (NGARM) Rudram-1- were slated to happen last month. While the first two have garnered their fair share of attention, the Rudram missile has remained elusive.

Features

Rudram (meaning “remover of sorrows”) is India’s first anti-radiation missile (ARM). It is an Air-to-Surface missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). ARMs like Rudram are designed to detect, track and neutralise the enemy’s radio frequency sources that form a part of its defence systems. These include radar, communication assets and other radio frequency sources. These missiles depend on a navigation mechanism consisting of a satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) and an inertial navigation system. The latter is a computerised mechanism.

For guidance, Rudram uses a system that can detect, classify, and engage radio frequency sources over a broad band of frequencies. This system is called a “passive homing head”. Sources have revealed that once the Rudram missile locks on the target, it can strike accurately even if the radiation source switches off in between. The missile is reported to have an operational range of more than 100 km, based on the launch parameters from the fighter jet.

The first rendition, the Rudram-1 missile, primarily aims at Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD). This consists of destroying enemy communication systems, surveillance radar stations with an operational range of approximately 250 km and a maximum speed of 2 Mach- double the speed of sound. Beyond this, Rudram-2 and Rudram-3, with ranges of 350 and 550 km, respectively, are also under development.

While developed by DRDO, the indigenous weapons are jointly produced by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

Official sources revealed that DRDO began the development of ARMs of this kind around eight years ago. The projectile’s integration with fighter aircraft has been a collaborative effort of various DRDO facilities and formations of the IAF and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

Tests and Induction

Rudram-1 was tested in its anti-radiation mode for the first time on October 9 in 2020. It was fired from a Sukhoi-30 fighter jet against a target on Wheeler Island off the coast of Odisha. Rudram reportedly hit the radiation target “with pinpoint accuracy.”

The missiles need to be carried and launched from extraordinarily complex and sensitive fighter aircraft. This resulted in the development being full of challenges, such as integrating the munition with the fighter and developing radiation seeker technologies and guidance systems. The difficulty of integrating this missile with an aircraft is further compounded by the fact that the Indian government’s plan to upgrade the Su-30 fighter fleet has taken a backseat in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Officials had told the media two years ago that the plan was to carry out six or seven more tests before announcing the weapon’s readiness for induction by 2022. 

The induction plan is good news for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Rudram will provide air superiority tactical capability to the IAF jets. The addition of this munition is beneficial to an aircraft in a real fight. This has multiple backing reasons. One, a pilot can use the projectile in the initial part of air conflict to hit at the adversary’s air defence assets. Two, it can lead to increased survivability if used in the later parts of the fight. And most importantly, in the era of network-centric warfare, the abilities of communication, detection, and surveillance systems that the weapon system is integrated with will surely increase the power of the Indian Armed forces. 

 Advanced models coming up?

Little is known about the features of the advanced versions of Rudram- namely, Rudram-2 and Rudram-3. It is believed that both also have INS-GPS navigation and come equipped with a passive homing head.

Last month, sources told the media that trials of Rudram-2 should begin soon. Reports about Rudram-2 being an air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) are in circulation. However, this claim has not been acknowledged by any official sources so far. An even lesser amount of information is available about Rudram-3. Unconfirmed reports suggest that this missile’s development began in 2017, and its trial will cost the government 485 crores. Only confirmation from officials of involved companies, or the government, can clear the air.

(Author is Aerospace & Defence Analyst. The views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).

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