Bangalore: In a significant development for the country's indigenous missile development effort, the Indian Air Force has finally placed an order worth Rs1,200 crore for the supply of two squadrons of the medium range, surface-to-air Akash missiles with Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL). The order comes hot on the heels of a $260 million order for the supply of 18 SPYDER Low Level Quick Reaction Missile systems with Israeli firm Rafael.
The Rs. 1,200-crore order also comes some 14 months after field trials at the Pokhran test range in Rajasthan.
Developed by Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Akash is part of India's Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme and each unit of the system is equipped with radars, mobile launchers, control centres, battlefield management software and other support systems.
The system is fully capable of taking on unmanned combat aerial vehicles, aircraft and missiles.
The 5.78-metre long, 700-kg Akash can engage targets as far away as 25 km and generate supersonic speeds of 600 metres a second.
BEL is contracted to deliver the two squadrons in 36 months and has tied up with Larsen & Toubro, Tata Power, Walchand Industries and ECIL for the supply of sub-systems.
The DRDL will not only transfer technology but will also oversee the weapons system integration and provide support throughout the 20-year lifecycle of the missile.
DRDL officials said that it was for the first time that the country's armed forces had placed an order for such a sophisticated, indigenously developed weapon system. They also said that the IAF could expect a consistent and reliable missile system.
While the IAF is expected to expand its initial order the Indian Army is also expected to acquire a modified version of the system.
According to Dr Prahalada, chief controller, DRDO, the missile had an 85 per cent kill probability, which could be enhanced to 99 per cent with the firing of two missiles at the same target.
The Akash system can be deployed from both trucks and tracked vehicles.
Though the costliest missile system developed by the country the Akash is expected to more than pay off in terms of per unit price which will be less than half of comparable missile systems. The development of the Akash missile system, according to a statement made by defence minister AK Antony in the Rajya Sabha, cost the exchequer Rs 516.86 crore.