The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is set to conduct its eighth ballistic interceptor missile test any day between November 19 and 22.
V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, said that while the attacker, a modified Prithvi missile, would take off from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, Odisha, the interceptor would blast off from the Wheeler Island and pounce on the attacker in endo-atmosphere at an altitude of 15 km to 16 km. The interceptor missile is called Advanced Air Defence (AAD) system. While the attacker would mimic the path of a ballistic missile launched from a hostile country, the AAD would race at a supersonic speed to intercept the attacker and destroy it.
As the crow flies, the Wheeler Island, off Dhamra village on the Odisha coast, is 70 km away from Chandipur.
Asked what improvements were made in this interceptor mission, Dr. Saraswat said the modified Prithvi missile would have a higher velocity.
“We have improved the accuracy of the interception in the endo-atmosphere… The interceptor will be launched in a hit-to-kill mode,” he added.
The Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) programme aims at protecting India’s vital assets from being targeted by the ballistic missiles launched by hostile neighbours.
Of the seven interceptor missiles tests conducted by the DRDO so far, six have been successful. The first interceptor mission took place in November 2006 in exo-atmosphere at an altitude of 48 km and it was successful. The second test, again successful, took place in December 2007 in endo-atmosphere at an altitude of 15 km. Out of the seven tests, five took place in endo-atmosphere at a height less than 20 km.
After the seventh interceptor missile test on February 10, 2012, Dr. Saraswat asserted that the success confirmed that India’s BMD programme in the endo-atmosphere “is now ready for deployment and the country is now in a position to take it to the next phase of production and induction.”
The maiden launch of Nirbhay, India’s sub-sonic cruise missile, has been further delayed. The launch, which was to take place in November this year, will now be done in January 2013, Dr. Saraswat said.
A DRDO official said the Nirbhay launch was delayed because modifications had to be made in the launcher. While India already had had a successful supersonic cruise missile in BrahMos, it felt the need to develop a sub-sonic cruise missile. Hence the development of Nirbhay, which would fly at 0.65 Mach. The Aeronautical Development Establishment, a DRDO unit in Bangalore, designed Nirbhay, which had been derived from Lakshya, a pilotless target aircraft. Nirbhay is a two-stage, surface-to-surface, terrain-hugging missile. “It takes the oxidiser from the air. So it can travel for a longer duration and a longer distance. Its range is around 1,000 km.”