One year of Akash SAM in ser­vice

SP's MAI - - SP’S EXCLUSIVES -

The in­dige­nous Akash sur­face-to-air mis­sile (SAM) has com­pleted a year in de­ployed ser­vice with the In­dian Air Force. With two ac­tive squadrons now in Gwalior and Lo­he­gaon and two more com­ing up in for­ward ar­eas of the North­east, the sys­tem is ac­quit­ting it­self sat­is­fac­to­rily in terms of pre­pared­ness pa­ram­e­ters. The In­dian Air Force or­dered eight squadrons (two in De­cem­ber 2008 and six more in De­cem­ber 2010), re­ceiv­ing its first bat­tery in March last year. The first squadron was raised in Gwalior, the sec­ond in Pune and the next two are com­ing up in the North­east.

“Akash is an ex­tremely im­por­tant sys­tem for the IAF. It has been a long de­vel­op­ment process, which has ended in suc­cess. The IAF is sup­port­ing the pro­gramme with its re­sources and com­mit­ment, and has been im­pressed with the ca­pa­bil­ity it of­fers. We have or­dered eight squadrons, which will re­place the mis­sion pro­file per­formed by our Pe­chora and OSA squadrons. In fu­ture, we may con­sider more,” says a se­nior of­fi­cer at Air HQ.

The IAF had an un­for­tu­nate se­ries of failed cus­tomer tests in May-June last year, fol­low­ing the ac­cep­tance of units, though is­sues with the sys­tem were sub­se­quently ironed out. The man­u­fac­ture of the sys­tems is be­ing split be­tween the Bharat Elec­tron- ics Limited (BEL) and the Bharat Dy­nam­ics Limited (BDL) for the IAF and Army (the lat­ter has on or­der two reg­i­ments, or­dered in March 2011). Things started rough in 2012 with cer­tain de­liv­ery hic­cups from BEL slow­ing down in­duc­tions, though the pub­lic sec­tor un­der­tak­ings (PSU) has since speeded up de­liv­er­ies to keep dead­lines with the IAF. Sources in­di­cate the IAF has re­ceived 32 launch­ers so far for four squadrons. The Army has re­ceived four launch­ers so far for part of its first reg­i­ment. The Army is in­ci­den­tally, con­sid­er­ing plac­ing or­ders for ad­di­tional reg­i­ments.

The IAF will be con­duct­ing user launches pe­ri­od­i­cally this year from the In­te­grated Test Range is Odisha, and will test the Akash in var­i­ous mis­sion pro­files in­clud­ing (a) far bound­ary in­ter­cep­tion, (b) near bound­ary in­ter­cep­tion, (c) high al­ti­tude in­ter­cep­tion, (d) cross­ing and re­ced­ing tar­get in­ter­cep­tion, (e) low-al­ti­tude and near bound­ary, (f) mul­ti­ple tar­get in­ter­cep­tion, (g) low al­ti­tude and far bound­ary in­ter­cep­tion, (h) mid-al­ti­tude and mid-range, (i) cross­ing and ap­proach­ing, in ad­di­tion to oth­ers. Th­ese pro­files were demon­strated dur­ing user tri­als be­tween 2007 and 2010.

The Akash pro­gramme team is now also work­ing on the Mk.II ver­sion of the Akash, a pro­gramme for­mally sanc­tioned in May 2010. The Mk.II ver­sion en­vis­ages a 35-km range weapon with an ex­panded kill en­ve­lope and a higher de­gree of en­gage­ment and ac­cu­racy.

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