Friday, March 13, 2009

Advanced Missile Defence Shield

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will soon test new interceptor missiles capable of shooting down nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles with a range of 6,000 km. Having recently successfully developed the indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) shield for 2,000-km-range enemy missiles, the scientists are ready to secure the country’s strategic assets like nuclear plants, on and off-shore oilfields and metro cities. The capability to shoot down a missile, which can hit a target at a range of 2,000 km, has already placed India in the elite league of nations possessing the BMD shield. The other countries are the US, the UK, France, Russia and China.

Hypersonic Missiles
Scientists are confident of developing the interceptor missile for these hypersonic missiles (6,000-km range) travelling at six times the speed of sound after successfully testing the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile on March 6, 2009. The PAD is capable of providing a BMD shield over 200 sq km and the DRDO scientists have developed the capability of hitting missiles within a range of 2,000 km. These missiles travel three times faster than sound and the PAD and other interceptor missiles can neutralise them within two minutes.
Unveiling the salient features of the indigenously designed and developed BMD shield programme, India “need not beg” for this sophisticated technology, adding that the DRDO missile system was better than many other such systems in the world.

Two-Tier Project
The phase two of the interceptor missile capable of shooting down a 6,000-km-range missile would start soon. The existing range (200 km) of the radars would be augmented to 1,000 km within the next couple of months. Phase one of the BMD shield to shoot down a 2,000-km-range incoming missile would be over by 2010 as two more tests are to be conducted. The DRDO has carried out three successful tests in the last four years in endo and exo-atmospheric conditions. The future tests would be conducted in both endo and exo-atmospheric conditions simultaneously.

The phase two of the BMD systems, likely to be deployed by 2014, will be an important part of India's defence as both China and Pakistan possess nuclear capable missiles. Once the BMD is in place it will place India in a fairly exclusive club alongside the US, Russia and Israel. India will be playing catch up with China which stunned the world by shooting down a weather satellite with a missile in January 2007. Putting in place a system capable of intercepting inter-continental ballistic missiles would enhance India's strategic prowess.

The latest PAD test, the interceptor missile was fitted with gimballed directional warhead, which detonated in proximity of the enemy missile and destroyed it at an altitude of 75 km. The proportional divert and altitude control thrusters and gimballed warheads were integrated into the missile for the fresh time. The third consecutive interception of the ballistic missiles demonstrated the robustness of the Indian system.

There will be another interesting spin-off from the indigenous two-tier BMD system, capable of tracking and destroying hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere. It will give India a potent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon since technology required for "neutralisation'' of a ballistic missile or a satellite is somewhat similar.

Exo-atmospheric means that a missile goes beyond the atmosphere, generally at altitudes beyond 50 km, and then re-enters the atmosphere. Endo-atmosheric means the weapon system operates within the atmosphere.

In the earlier tests, in November 2006 and December 2007, the enemy missiles had been "killed'' at altitudes of 48-km and 15-km respectively The next test, with both exo and endo interceptor missiles in an integrated mode, is slated for September 2009.

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