Momentous Year For India's Defence and Space Science

Published: 02nd January 2015 12:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd January 2015 01:10 AM   |  A+A-

BALASORE: With the successful test firings of a brand new state-of-the-art Gen-next interceptor missile Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) along with the first night trials of nuke-capable Agni-I and ship-launched Dhanush missiles besides the launching of two Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles (GSLVs) and five foreign satellites in the orbit, it was a momentous year for India's defence and space science.

In 2014, the country’s elite Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had created history in many aspects. The year started with copy-book test launchings of Prithvi-II ballistic missile from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea on January 7 and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) Agni-IV from the Wheeler Island test facility off the Odisha coast on January 20.


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While it was last developmental trial of 4,000-km range Agni-IV, nearly eleven months after the test, the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Army successfully conducted the first user trial of the weapon system from the same test facility in a bid to speed up its induction process.

Other indigenously developed missiles which were put into trials include 700-km range Agni-I, 2,000-km range Agni-II, long range high altitude interceptor PDV, submarine launched 3,000-km range K-4, Indo-Russian supersonic cruise BrahMos, subsonic cruise Nirbhay, surface-to-air Akash, beyond visual range air-to-air Astra and shipped launched Dhanush.

The successful tests of indigenously built subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay, submarine launched long range weapon system K-4, high altitude killer interceptor missile Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) and launch of beyond visual range air-to-air missile Astra from Su-30 MKI aircraft were significant achievements for the DRDO last year.

After a failed maiden trial in 2013, the Nirbhay missile was successful in its second attempt on October 17. For the first time, the performance of the missile was closely watched by an Indian Air Force aircraft. DRDO scientists and all technical staffs involved in the mission celebrated as the missile went up vertically before taking a dive and travelling on the pre-designated trajectory till the target area. The entire mission was a perfect flight achieving all the mission objectives.

Defence scientists successfully carried out the maiden test of K-4 missile from a pontoon (replica of a submarine) submerged over 30 metres deep in the Bay of Bengal off the Visakhapatnam coast. After a powerful gas generator ejected it from the submerged pontoon, the missile rose into the air, took a turn towards the designated target in Indian Ocean on March 24. However, the DRDO has not admitted it officially as yet. India is the fifth country in the world to have a submarine launched missile.

Similarly, while the Astra missiles were successfully fired from Su-30 MKI aircraft from a naval range in the western sector on May 4 and June 20, India scripted success in its first attempt of launching a high altitude missile on April 27. The PDV missile is capable of killing an incoming missile with a strike range of around 2,000 km in the exo-atmosphere (outside the earth’s atmosphere) region at over 120 km altitude. A very few countries in the world have such capability.

For the first time, three rounds of Barak-8 missile, a joint venture of Indian and Israel were also conducted successfully from Negev desert of Israel on November 10. First night trials of Agni-I and Dhanush missile were also carried out on April 12 and November 14 respectively proving the capability of the armed forces to launch the missiles from any terrain any time.

Surface-to-air supersonic missile Akash was trialed as many times in February, April, May, June and November by the army and air force personnel to gauge its performance in different modes. Even as the missile was first time successfully test-fired in receding ting mode and ripple mode on February 24 and May 28 respectively, faults in its seeker continued to trouble the mission team as the missile failed to take off in a couple of occasions .

On June 27, India conducted two-round trials of helicopter launched Nag (HeliNa), DRDO’s anti-tank guided missile from Chandipur. While one reportedly failed to give expected results, the other was successful. The trial conducted during the noon was unsuccessful as the missile failed to hit the target while the second test carried out in the afternoon was successful meeting all mission parameters. On September 23, three rounds of non-DRDO Russian missiles were tested successfully targeting tow bodies released from unmanned aerial vehicles flown from Chandipur.

On December 15, the made-in-India first nuclear-powered submarine INS Arihant started its sea trials from Vizag. All systems on board this 6,000-tonne vessel having 83 Megawatt Indian designed and built pressurised water reactor will be tested and it will be followed by submergence and weapon firing trials. If all trials go as planned, the submarine can be inducted within the next two years.

The first naval prototype of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) NP1 was successfully flight tested off the shore-based test facility (SBTF) at a naval air station in Goa on December 20. This indigenously designed and developed fourth plus generation combat aircraft to be operated from the decks of air-craft carriers flown from ski-jump facility of the SBTF at INS Hansa.

Amidst high five moments, there were some bad news for DRDO too. In January, the National Human Rights Commission

(NHRC) served notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs asking the Director General of DRDO to take steps for protecting Wheeler Island test facility, which has been facing sand erosion, and its eco system.

At the annual DRDO awards function in August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had flayed the 'chalta hai' attitude of the DRDO, which is often criticised for delayed projects and cost overruns. With an aim to make the country a global leader in defence capabilities, he had directed the DRDO to censure delivery of cutting-edge weapon systems to the armed forces in time.

Close on the heels of the comments from the PM, DRDO stated that it had been facing a shortage of scientists. In a written reply to Lok Sabha during the winter session, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar also admitted the fact saying the organisation was facing a shortage of 2,776 scientists as there has been no enhancement of scientific manpower since 2001.

Ending all speculations, DRDO chief Avinash Chander was given an 18-month extension which allows him to head the organization till May 31, 2016. This man behind the success of Agni series of missiles who is already on two extensions was to superannuate on November 30.

There were also reports of DRDO readying its home-grown new tactical short range surface-to-surface missile Pragati for export purposes. Chander said DRDO has committed to meet three ‘S’-Speed, Skill and Scale - besides adding Swadeshi (fourth S) to it. In order to fully explore and harness the potentiality and make it economically viable, it is essential to create a credible export market for Indian defence products as outlined by the Prime Minister, he had said.

Similarly, ISRO succeeded in its first inter-planetary Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) making India the only country to achieve this feat in its maiden attempt. The space agency also tested the atmospheric re-entry of a crew module towards realising its ambition to send humans into space and successfully launched two Geo-Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles  and five foreign satellites in the orbit.

The biggest feat came on September 24 when the MOM was successfully inserted in the red planet’s orbit. ISRO not only received accolades nationally, but also on global platform. On December 18, the organisation successfully launched the

42.4 meter tall, 630-tonne, three-stage GSLV Mark-III from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The experiment also witnessed the largest parachute developed by DRDO in action. The main parachute, which helped the crew module touch the waters at around 7 metre per second speed, was 31 metres in diameter.

Year of Successes and Failures for DRDO

January 7 – Army successfully conducts a user trial of nuke-capable Prithvi-II missile from Chandipur based ITR

January 20 – DRDO successfully carries out last developmental trial of 4,000 km range IRBM Agni-IV from Wheeler Island based test facility

February 19 – Strategic Forces Command (SFC) postpones a night trial of 700-plus km range Agni-I due to technical glitches in the missile system

February 24 – Akash missile successfully flight tested in receding ting mode from Chandipur based ITR

March 24 – DRDO successfully flight-tests submarine-launched missile K-4 off Vishakhapatnam coast

March 28 – Army successfully conducts a user trial of Prithvi-II missile in salvo mode

April 12 – Indian Army successfully conducts first night trial of Agni-I missile from Wheeler Island

April 27 – DRDO successfully test fires high altitude interceptor missile PDV from Wheeler Island

April 23-30 – Surface-to-air Akash missile test fired from ITR at Chandipur

April 23 – Akash missile fails to destroy target

April 29-30 – Akash missile fails to take off

May 4 – Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Air-to-Air missile Astra successfully test fired from Su-30MKI aircraft

May 28 – Supersonic missile Akash test fired in ripple mode

June 17– Akash missile fails to destroy target

June 18 – Akash missile completes validation trials

June 20 – Air-to-air missile Astra test-fired successfully from fighter aircraft Su-30MKI from a naval range off Goa

June 27 – Two-round of helicopter launched Nag (HeliNa), DRDO’s anti-tank guided missile test fired from Chandipur

July 8 – Supersonic cruise missile BrahMos achieves ultimate precision against hidden land targets

August 12-13 – Air force conducts successful trials of Akash missile September 11 – Agni-I missile hits target area with pin point accuracy

September 18 – A Russia made missile test postponed as pilotless target aircraft fails to take off

September 23 – Three rounds of Russian missiles tested successfully from Chandipur

October 17 – DRDO successfully conducts maiden trial of homegrown subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay

November 9 – SFC conducts successful trial of 2,000 km range Agni-II

November 10 – Long range surface-to-air missile Barak-8 successfully flight tested in the Negev desert of Israel

November 14 – First night trial of ship-launched Dhanush missile successful

November 14 – Army successfully conducts a user trial of Prithvi-II missile.

November 17-21 – Nine trials of Akash missiles conducted, two failed

December 2 – SFC successfully conducts first user trial of Agni-IV missile from Wheeler Island


Important ISRO Missions

- First inter-planetary Mars Orbiter Mission successful making India the only country to achieve this feat in its maiden attempt

- Two successful launches of GSLVs and five foreign satellites in the orbit

- Successful Test of atmospheric re-entry of a crew module with the heaviest launch vehicle GSLV Mk-III towards realising the ambition to send humans into space


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