Akash rescues Indian air defence after delays hit Israeli Spyder missile purchase

New Delhi, Dec 27: The induction of one squadron of Akash surface-to-air missiles by the Indian Air Force will come as a major relief for the air defence system planners in the country after the rupees 1800-crore deal with Israel for procuring Spyder missile system came to a naught.

The one squadron, numbering 18 batteries of the indigenously developed 30-km range missile, will help in filling the gap due to the delay in the procurement of the Israeli missile after Indian Defence Ministry asked the Central Vigilance Commission to probe into the deal citing reported irregularities.

Indian armed forces opted for Israeli Spyder missiles, as there was delay in the Akash missile programme, which was set to improve the indigenously developed Trishul missile.

However, on December 21, the successful conclusion of Akash missile test firing at Chandipur-on -sea gave the Air Force and the Defence Research and Development Organisation a much-needed breakthrough as the IAF had earlier expressed its reservation over the performance of Akash missile system.

The missile is now ready for production in the country, the Defence Ministry officials stated just after the conclusion of the tests.

Development of Akash missile is a part of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), and the missile system was expected to be inducted by the Indian Army and the Air Force by 2003.

Four stages of tests were carried out to evaluate the missile this year. First of these were the validation and functional evaluation tests of the entire weapon system which were carried out in Kolar near Bangalore.

This was followed by operation and mobility trials in Pokhran ranges in the second week of November and the Electronic Counter- Counter- Measure (ECCM) evaluation tests at Gwalior by Indian Air Force against various types of electronic targets and counter measures.

The final phase of user evaluation as part of user trials was done in Chandipur Integrated Test Range facility near Balasore in Orissa.

As on July 31, 2007, an amount of Rs. 492.41 crore (5 billion approximately) has already been spent on development of Akash, which has a launch weight of 720 kg, a diameter of 35 cm and a length of 5.8 metres.

It can fly at supersonic speed of around 2.5 Mach and can reach an altitude of 18 kms.

The missile is supported by multi-target and multi-function phased array fire control radar called 'Rajendra' that has a range of about 60 km.

The first test flight of the missile was conducted in 1990, and since then many development and field trials have taken place. (ANI)