Giving India a rare and incredible capability, the DRDO has successfully test fired the indigenous interceptor missile Advanced Area Defence (AAD). This was the second test-firing of the missile system in less than a month. As PM Narendra Modi has said, with this India has demonstrated its ballistic missile defence capability. India has also joined the select group of five nations – US, Russia, Israel and China – that have such a system.
The milestone ballistic missile defence system provides a two-layered shield – ‘exo’ and ‘endo’. What this effectively means is that the system provides protection both against ballistic missiles that are outside (exo) as well as inside (endo) the earth’s atmosphere. In the March 1 test, the endo-atmospheric missile, capable of intercepting incoming targets at an altitude of 15 to 25 kms successfully destroyed the incoming missile. All the mission objectives were successfully met, says DRDO.
The interceptor is a 7.5-meter long single stage solid rocket-propelled guided missile. It is equipped with a navigation system, a hi-tech computer and an electro-mechanical activator. The interceptor missile has its own mobile launcher, secure data link for interception, independent tracking and homing capabilities and sophisticated radars. The interceptor destroyed an incoming Prithvi missile during the test. On February 11, an incoming hostile ballistic missile target was successfully intercepted at a high altitude. This was done above 50 km of the earth’s atmosphere by an exo-atmospheric interceptor missile. The system has been tested in the past, but has failed many times.
Shield against Pakistan
Avinash Chander, Former DRDO chief is of the view that the indigenous system will help India on the western front. “This is a huge achievement for India. This interceptor missile defence system gives us multi-layered capability, both for medium and short range missiles. For India, this means protection primarily on the western front, that is against Pakistan,” he told FE Online. Lauding Indian scientists, Chander said, “Some more tests need to be conducted to check the consistency and reliability of the system. But, the fact that we have hit the missile directly is a rare achievement.”
Avinash Chander also points to a big boost that the interceptor system will give. “This helps India create a credible defence system against rogue attacks. With the new interceptor missile defence system, India is set to get 24/7 vigilance, practically with no single person needed,” said Chander who is also the architect of India’s Agni missiles.
Colonel (Retd) KV Kuber, Independent Consultant Defence and Aerospace also believes that India has showcased its missile supremacy to the world. “There is little doubt that India has now entered an exclusive elite club. We have made a statement to the world by showcasing our supremacy in the missile space. It is a great step that will help counter any incoming threats,” Kuber told FE Online.
Integrated defence strategy
India is already in the process of buying Russia’s S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems – widely known to be one of the most modern defence systems in the world. This means that Russia would be giving India such a powerful deterrent that has already rattled the NATO countries. Russian experts proclaim that the S-400 system can shoot down fifth-generation fighter jets, like America’s most advanced F-35s!
Watch now! S-400 Triumf hits moving targets in dark
With the S-400 Triumf coming to India, and the interceptor missile system being ready in the next few years, India is set to plug in a gaping hole in its air defence. “One of the basic weaknesses of India’s defence is the air defence system. We have not been doing enough procurements on that front. There are multiple vulnerable points and areas that have been identified by our security forces. Now, with the S-400 Triumf, our indigenous interceptor missile Advanced Area Defence, and the impending upgrade of AD – overall we will have a reasonable defence system against the enemy,” Colonel (Retd) KV Kuber believes.
Make in India – creating an ecosystem
The successful development and tests of the interceptor system also give wings to the ‘Make in India’ drive of the defence sector. According to Avinash Chander, India can now start thinking of an interceptor for long ranges as well. “Chinese missiles are generally of longer range, but with the current success, India definitely gets the confidence to build a new more advanced system that will eventually counter those too. This is a totally indigenous system, builds long-term self reliance and with the ecosystem, it feeds in to complement other defence systems as well,” he noted.
Kuber sees this as a definite step forward for the indigenous defence industry. “Once the system is tested and goes into production, it will create an entire indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem that will go a long way in helping India,” he concludes.