Successive Failure of 'Akash' Trial
Close on the heels of success on April 26, India’s sophisticated surface-to-air nuclear capable missile Akash on Wednesday once again failed to take off during a user trial by the Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel from a defence base off the Odisha coast putting the credibility of the DRDO at a stake.
Defence sources said after a failed attempt on Tuesday, the IAF personnel had planned at least four rounds of Akash missile from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea. While two missiles were to target the tow bodies suspended from the Pilotless Target Aircraft (PTA), two others were planned to target the parabarrel within a span of one hour.
“As per the programme, the PTA was flown from the launching complex-II of the ITR. Subsequently, the missile was to be fired after nearly 15 minutes. But much to the embarrassment of the DRDO and other related laboratories which helped develop the Akash system, the missile did not take off,” said an official from the test range.
On Tuesday, during a similar planned trial, the PTA had failed to take off leading to the postponement of the missile test. Though the Akash team could not immediately figure out the exact cause of the failure of the missile to take off, defence experts said it was a perennial technical problem with the Akash missile system.
It was the missile’s second failure in the recent seven-test series by the IAF. On May 28 and 30, 2012, the missile had failed to take off from the launch pad at the ITR. The tests were to gauge the flight consistency and effectiveness of the missile.
The IAF personnel, who were to pack up after the test, are scheduled to carry out the same tests on Thursday. “The defence scientists are working to fix the problem and hopefully the missile will be ready for test. The DRDO is providing all logistic supports to the IAF for the user trials,” a defence scientist said.
Akash is a medium-range surface-to-air missile and can target upto 25 km. The 5.8 metre long sleek missile has a launch weight of 720 kg and can carry a warhead of 50 kg.
The missile is crucial to India’s air defence programme as it will be used to counter ballistic and cruise missiles, enemy aircraft and air-to-surface missiles.
It can handle multiple targets with the help of a digitally coded command and guidance system. It is fuelled by solid propellants. The Akash missile system which is similar to the American Patriot air-to-surface missile system can track 64 targets simultaneously and fire 12 missiles at a time.
After the IAF trials, Indian army personnel are likely to conduct a series of tests of the weapon system from the same test range.
Defence sources added that the successful trial of the missile would pave the way for its induction in armed forces.