2012 was a year of happenings for the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the premiere brain behind the arsenal of the country’s defence forces. It carried out many successful trials of its indigenously developed missiles including the Long Range Ballistic Missile (LRBM) Agni-V and achieved many milestones in its strategic missile programme.
While the remarkable success of 5000-km range Agni-V’s maiden trial on April 19 paved the way for India to enter into the very exclusive club of nations having inter-continental range ballistic missiles, twin successes of submarine-launched ballistic missile K-15 on March 11 and December 26 and interceptor missiles in both exo and endo atmospheric level on February 10 and November 23 boosted the country’s ballistic missile defence (BMD) capabilities.
However, the achievement of Agni-V drew international attention with India furthering its aspiration to become a superpower and strengthening its efforts to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council - the club of the most powerful. The nuke-tipped missile has the ability to target all of Asia, the Middle East and parts of Europe.
The DRDO and Strategic Forces Command (SFC), a specially raised missile-handling unit of the army this year conducted at least 26 trials of 12 missiles – Agni-I, Agni-II, Agni-III, Agni-IV, Agni-V, Prithvi-II, AAD interceptor, BrahMos, Akash, Astra, Dhanush and K-15. Though they registered many successful trials, the DRDO drew flakes from various quarters for the failures of BrahMos and Akash missiles in July and May and partial success of one of the most proven missiles Prithvi-II on December 20.
DRDO scientists too received appreciations for the successful first user trial of 3000-km range Agni-III and developmental tests of Agni-V and Agni-IV from the integrated test range (ITR) off the Odisha coast. They also scored a success on the historic date 12-12-12 with a user trial of 900-km range Agni-I missile.
Even as in the first and last leg the year the elite defence organization did fabulous, the middle leg was crucial as three trials of the six-trial series of surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile Akash were ended in failures on May 24, 26 and June 6. On July 29, already tested successfully several times the 290-km range BrahMos missile deviated from the pre-designated trajectory during its 32nd trial and fell down into Bay of Bengal after attaining a certain height and covering only nearly 23 km.
DRDO also achieved significantly in the field of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) this year with successful flight trials of pilot-less target aircraft Lakshya II, UAV Nishant and Medium Altitude Long Range (MALE) UAV Rustom-II and Rustom-I. Besides, a mini UAV Netra, especially designed for low intensity conflict operations was also inducted by the CRPF.
India’s defence preparedness got a boost with the induction of new fighter aircrafts, helicopters and ships. While the Mi-17 V5 helicopter was inducted into the Air Force on February 17, Arjun Mk-II, the advanced version of India's first main battle tank Arjun, commenced its user trials this year. Also, the Navy inducted INS Chakra to its under-water fleet on April 4 at Vishakhapatnam and INS Sahyadri, the third of the follow-on class indigenous stealth frigate, was commissioned on July 21 at Mumbai’s Mazagaon Dock Limited. On August 17, India got its first fully modified Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) Aircraft, built with technological support from Brazil.
Similarly, Talwar-class stealth frigates INS Teg armed with BrahMos missile and Tarkash constructed at Yantar Shipyard in Kalinigrad, Russia, were inducted in the Navy in April and November. Moreover, while Coast Guard Ship Samudra Paheredar was commissioned in July, INS Dweep Rakshak and INS Baaz also were commissioned in Lakshadweep Islands and Andaman Islands respectively.
Notwithstanding the mixed responses of successes and failures, DRDO is required to surge ahead leaving behind the aura of laurels in the New Year keeping the strategic challenges in mind.
The year that was
February 10 – AAD interceptor test from Wheeler Island (Successful)
March 11 – SLBM K-15 test from Vishakhapatanam coast (Successful)
March 28 – BrahMos block-III version test from Chandipur (Successful)
April 19 – Maiden test of Agni-V missile from Wheeler Island (Successful)
May 24, 26 – Akash missile test from Chandipur (Successful)
May 28, 30 – Akash missile test from Chandipur (Failure)
June 1– Twin trials of Akash missile from Chandipur (Successful)
June 6 – Akash missile test from Chandipur (Failure)
July 13 – Agni-I test from Wheeler Island (Successful)
July 29 – BrahMos test from Chandipur (Failure)
August 9 – Agni-II test from Wheeler Island (Successful)
August 25 – Prithvi-II test from Chandipur (Successful)
September 19 – Agni-IV test from Wheeler Island (Successful)
September 21 – First user trial of Agni-III from Wheeler Island (Successful)
October 4 – Prithvi-II test from Chandipur (Successful)
October 5 – Dhanush test from naval warship off Odisha coast (Successful)
October 7 – BrahMos test from warship off Goa coast (Successful)
November 23 – AAD interceptor test from Wheeler Island (Successful)
December 12 – Agni-I test from Wheeler Island (Successful)
December 20 – Prithvi-II test from Chandipur (Partially Successful)
December 21, 22, 24 – Astra missile tests from Chandipur (Successful)
December 26 – SLBM K-15 test from Vishakhapatanam coast (Successful)