Akash Missile

Designed to provide air defence against a wide range of aerial threats, including aircraft, helicopters, drones, and cruise missiles, the Akash Missile is a sophisticated and indigenously developed Indian surface-to-air missile (SAM) system exclusively used by the Indian Armed Forces. The missile system is renowned for its versatility and effectiveness.

It was initially developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and is manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) in India. The Akash Missile serves as a unique means of countering the nefarious designs of India’s adversaries.

Akash Missile
Akash Missile

The Akash missile system consists of a multi-target, multi-directional launcher, a radar system for target detection and tracking, and command guidance capabilities. It employs an advanced guidance system with onboard computers and radars that enable it to engage multiple targets simultaneously, making it a potent defence asset.

Characterized by its high manoeuvrability, quick reaction time, and ability to engage targets at varying altitudes and ranges, the Akash missile system plays a crucial role in safeguarding Indian airspace and protecting vital installations. The system can neutralize not only aerial targets like fighter jets and cruise missiles but also air-to-surface missiles as well as ballistic missiles. It has been in operational service since 2009 with the Indian Army and the Air Force. Its successful integration into India’s air defence network underscores its significance as a reliable and indigenous defence solution.

Photo Credit: Vayu
Photo Credit: Vayu

This missile system was designed and developed by DRDO and produced by Bharat Dynamics Ltd ( BDL ). Its production license is under three organisations: Bharat Electronics Ltd ( BEL ), Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division and Larsen & Toubro for  _  Surveillance and Fire Control Radar, Tactical Control And Command Centre and Missile Launcher.

An Akash battery consists of a single Rajendra 3D passive electronically scanned array radar, four interconnected launchers, and three missiles. Each battery possesses the capability to engage up to 12 of the 64 targets it can track. The missile’s warhead weighs 60 kg (130 lb) and is pre-fragmented high-explosive with a proximity fuse. Remarkably, the Akash system can provide air defence for a moving convoy, and it is entirely mobile, with both wheeled and tracked vehicles linked to the launch platform. While the primary purpose of the Akash system is air defence, it has also been tested in a missile defence capacity.

The system provides accurate air defence missile coverage for an area of 2,000 km

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Photo Credit: DRDO / image special effects by PV.

About The Missile

The intercept range of the surface-to-air missile Akash is 25 kilometres ( Mark-1 ). Its diameter is 35 cm, its length is 5.78 metres, and its launch weight is 720 kg. Akash travels through the air at a speed of about Mach 2.5. It can be fired from both tracked and wheeled platforms and has a 20-kilometre altitude capability. The missile can be manoeuvred up to 15g loads and has a tail chase capability for end-game engagement thanks to an onboard guidance system and actuator system.

A 55 kg pre-fragmented warhead is connected with a digital proximity fuse, and a safety arming and detonation system allows for a controlled detonation sequence. There is also a self-destruct mechanism built in. An Integrated Ramjet Rocket Engine powers it. Ramjet propulsion allows for constant speeds throughout the flight without slowdown. The whole flight of the missile is under command guidance.

The design of the Akash missile is a replica of the Russian SAM, 2K12 Kub (SA-6 Gainful), which was developed by the USSR during the Cold War.

Photo Credit: Vayu
Photo Credit: Vayu

As of 2023, the Akash Missile has four variants: Mark-1, Mark-1S, Akash Prime, and Akash NG

Akash possesses a number of distinctive qualities, including mobility, totally autonomous operation, powered flight up to target interception, management of numerous targets, and digitally coded command guidance.

Mark-1S: In response to the Indian Military Forces’ request for a missile capable of precision targeting of inbound threats, the DRDO introduced an upgraded version of the Akash missile known as Akash-1S. This indigenous variant boasts a striking range of 30 kilometres and has the capacity to carry a 60-kilogram warhead. The Akash-1S underwent testing by the DRDO on May 25 and May 27, 2019.

It is engineered to intercept and neutralize fighter jets and drones within a range of approximately 18 to 30 kilometres, and it can be launched from both tracked and wheeled platforms, ensuring enhanced mobility. The Akash-1S incorporates a combination of command and active terminal seeker guidance to significantly improve the probability of a successful single-shot kill.

Photo Credit: IAF / image special effects by PV.

Akash Prime: On September 27, 2021, the DRDO conducted a successful test of a newly developed missile known as Akash Prime. In its maiden flight, Akash Prime effectively intercepted and destroyed an unmanned aerial target designed to simulate an enemy aircraft. This advanced missile is an evolution of the existing Akash Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system, with notable improvements geared towards enhancing its precision.

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Notably, Akash Prime is equipped with an upgraded active radio-frequency (RF) seeker, a feature designed to improve its targeting accuracy significantly. Additionally, the missile’s ground system has been modified to enable effective operations at high altitudes and low temperatures. Akash Prime boasts an impressive maximum striking range of up to 40 kilometres, further solidifying its capabilities.

Akash-NG: The latest iteration of the Akash missile system, known as Akash-NG, features a completely redesigned design and functionality. Notably, it has been engineered to launch from a canister, a significant advantage when it comes to the system’s mobility and adaptability for deployment in various locations. Launching from a canister also ensures the missile’s safety in diverse weather conditions. A notable successful test of the Akash-NG occurred at Pokhran on April 26, 2022.

Akash-NG offers a quicker response time and increased protection against saturation attacks. Its second stage utilizes a dual-pulse solid rocket motor, which is notably lighter than an air-breathing solid ramjet engine. Additionally, it incorporates an active electronically scanned array Multi-Function Radar (MFR) and an optical proximity fuze, contributing to an overall extended range from the current 40 kilometres to an impressive 70 kilometres. These advancements make Akash-NG a formidable and versatile missile system.

Photo Credit: DRDO

Real-Time Deployment of the Akash SAM System

The Akash Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system has been strategically deployed at several airbases under the jurisdiction of the Indian Air Force. These bases include Gwalior (Maharajpur AFS), Jalpaiguri (Hasimara AFS), Tezpur, Jorhat, and Pune (Lohegaon AFS). Moreover, the Indian Army has also implemented the Akash air defence system along the Line of Actual Control in the regions of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Photo Credit: DRDO, Akash NG
Photo Credit: DRDO, Akash NG

Specifications of the Akash SAM System

  • Country Of Origin: India
  • Weight: 720 kg
  • Length:  19 ft
  • Diameter:  12 in
  • Warhead:  High Explosive Pre-fragmented, weighing 60 kg
  • Detonation:  Radio proximity fuse
  • Engine:  Solid propellant Air-augmented rocket & Ramjet sustainer motor
  • Range:  Maximum of 30 km
  • Speed:  Mach 3
  • Guidance:  Mid-course-  Command guidance with data link & Terminal-  Active radar homing
  • Launch Platform: BMP-2 chassis of armoured vehicle and Tata Heavy Mobility Trucks

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In conclusion, the Akash missile system stands as a remarkable testament to India’s technological prowess in defence research and development. With its exceptional versatility and capability to effectively counter a wide array of aerial threats, it plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the nation’s airspace and vital installations. Its indigenously developed design and multi-target engagement capabilities make it a formidable asset in the arsenal of the Indian Armed Forces.

The Akash missile system not only enhances India’s defence capabilities but also serves as a symbol of self-reliance and innovation in the field of military technology. As India continues to strengthen its national security, the Akash missile remains a shining example of indigenous excellence in the realm of air defence. Its continued development and integration into the country’s defence infrastructure reaffirm its significance in protecting the sovereignty and security of the nation.

Akash Missile
Photo Credit: DRDO / Akash Surface-to-Air Missile

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