BALASORE: The year 2015 proved a mixed bag for the defence research and development organization (DRDO). The first successful launch of canisterised version of India’s longest range Agni-V missile and the maiden test of an underwater missile from indigenously built nuclear powered submarine INS Arihant besides induction of surface-to-air Akash missile in the armed forces were some of the major achievements.
But what left the defence experts worried was that the unsuccessful launch of home grown subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay. Of the three tests in last three years, the missile failed twice though the second test last year was partially successful. The DRDO drew flak from various quarters as the third test was reportedly conducted in a hurry even some of its major components did not clear quality tests.
Of the 16 tests of the missiles of at least eleven categories, the trials were successful 14 times. The missiles which were put into trials include surface-to-surface 5,000 km range nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-V, 4,000 km range Agni-IV, 3,000 km range Agni-III, 700-km range Agni-I, 350 km range Prithvi-II, Advance Air Defence (AAD) interceptor, ship-launched Dhanush, supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay and beyond visual range air-to-air missile Astra.
The eye was on for the first experimental trial of Agni-V missile from a canister. It was a major mission which was successful. The missile with a dummy payload blasted off from the confines of its canister, a hermetically-sealed airtight container mounted on a road-mobile Tatra truck launching platform on January 31. The Gas Generator System (GGS) with a compact solid rocket motor put inside the canister successfully ejected the missile.
DRDO Successes and Failures
November 27 - Indian Army successfully test-fires nuclear tipped surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) Agni-I
November 25 - India successfully conducts first ejection test of an underwater missile from nuclear powered submarine INS Arihant
November 26 – Army successfully test fires Prithvi-II ballistic missile
November 24 - Navy conducts successful test firing of nuke-capable surface-to surface ballistic missile ‘Dhanush’
November 22 - Low altitude supersonic ballistic interceptor missile AAD successfully tested against an electronically generated
November 9 - Strategic Forces Command (SFC) successfully test fires nuclear capable missile Agni-IV
November 7 - BrahMos land-attack cruise missile test against a designated target at Pokhran test range successful
November 1 - The formidable BrahMos supersonic cruise missile successfully test launched from stealth destroyer INS Kochi
October 16 - Nirbhay missile fails once again with the weapon system deviating from the pre-designated trajectory forcing the mission team to kill it mid-way
April 16 – Agni-III successfully test fired by the Strategic Forces Command
April 6 - AAD interceptor falls down immediately after taking off from the launcher
March 19 - Beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAM) Astra test fired from fighter aircraft Sukhoi
March 18 - Astra test-fired successfully from fighter aircraft Sukhoi 30MKI
February 19 - Indian army successfully test-fired Prithvi-II in full operational configuration
February 14 - Supersonic cruise missile BrahMos successfully test fired from Navy’s newest stealth destroyer INS Kolkata
January 31 - Inter-Continental range Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-V successfully test-fired for the first time from a canister-based launcher
However, the much awaited test of Nirbhay missile turned out to be a worry for the defence fraternity. While the scientists’ community was eagerly waiting for its success, the missile, in a contrary, deviated from the trajectory on October 16. The mission was aborted after 700 seconds. The other missile failed during its test was AAD interceptor, which fell down immediately after taking off from the launcher on April 6.
The missiles which made the DRDO proud were Agni-IV, Agni-III, Agni-I, BrahMos, Dhanush and Astra besides the nuclear fuelled submarine INS Arihant. While BrahMos was successfully tested thrice from separate platforms including warships INS Kolkata and INS Kochi, Astra was fired from fighter aircraft Sukhoi two times.
Though planned twice, the air version of BrahMos however could not be test-fired from a modified Sukhoi (Su-30 MKI) fighter aircraft. While the sophisticated launcher fitted with the aircraft is undergoing quality tests, the missile is expected to be tested live in mid-2016.
After a long wait, the Akash weapon system was inducted into the Indian Army on May 5. It is an indigenously developed supersonic short range surface-to-air missile system with the capability to engage a wide variety of aerial threats like aircraft, helicopters and UAVs up to a maximum range of 25 km and up to an altitude of 20 km.
HELINA, an Anti-tank Guided missile that can be fired in both direct and top attack mode was integrated on advanced light helicopter ALH. The missile with capability to defeat futuristic armours is undergoing field trials.
India’s first Light Weight Multi-role Supersonic Combat Aircraft Tejas, a 4th Generation-Plus contemporary fighter aircraft having recorded over 2500 flawless take offs and landings, demonstrated its might during the “Iron Fist”, a fire power demonstration exercise of Indian Air Force.
Having undergone extensive weapon trials, extreme weather trials, high altitude and sea level trials, LCA TEJAS that received the initial operational clearance on December 29, 2013 is heading towards achieving the final operational clearance. Boosted by the initial operational Clearance of LCA TEJAS, the LCA Navy, capable of operating from aircraft carrier ship, has resumed its flight trials.
DRDO’s technological strength is exemplified by the development, production and acceptance of Indigenous Weapon Locating Radar (WLR) Swathi. Swathi is a highly mobile Radar system designed for automatic first round location of weapons firing projectile type rounds and it operates with a fence detection mode of operation, ensuring fast detection and tracking of shells, mortars and rockets.
DRDO achieved a major breakthrough with the development of Himshakti in a bid to establish a credible Integrated Electronic Warfare Systems (IEWS). The field evaluation and trials for any EW System prior to induction have been conducted for the first time in the actual area of deployment. In a significant contribution to boost fire power, the development of Pinaka MK-II with longer range has been completed and is undergoing trials.
A new Torpedo launch and recovery vessel INS Astradharini developed by DRDO has been commissioned by Indian Navy. The vessel has been designed with a unique catamaran hull form that significantly reduces its power requirement and can operate at high sea states and has a large deck area with launchers for deploying and recovering various kinds of torpedos during the trials.
Maareech, an indigenous Advanced Torpedo Defence System to protect naval platform against torpedo attack has been inducted in the Indian Navy. In order to promote ‘Make in India’ programme, DRDO has facilitated 75 Licensing agreements for Transfer of Technology (LATOT) to 57 industries.
The DRDO had also signed a memorandum of understanding with Sri Venkateswara Vedic University (SVVU), sponsored by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) to conduct scientific research on the Vedas and scout for possible secrets pertaining to missile technologies hidden in the ancient scriptures. The MoU with TTD was signed by the Hyderabad-based Research Centre Imarat (RCI)- DRDO to conduct scientific research on the Vedas.
Foundation stone was laid for the first defence manufacturing industry in the State. The unit is being set up under the 'Make in India' programme by Sure Safety Solutions (SSS), a Mumbai-based firm in collaboration with Meggitt Defence Systems Limited, a UK-based international aerospace, defence and performance sensors group, in the Tata Steel’s Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Gopalpur in Ganjam district.
The saddest moment for the defence fraternity was the sudden death of ‘Missile Man’ APJ Abdul Kalam. Fondly called as People’s President Kalam, who had worked with the DRDO as a scientist before joining the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in late 60's, breathed his last on July 27. He was the first director of Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea in Balasore district and project director of India's first Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III). In a tribute, Odisha Government on September 4 renamed the strategically located Wheeler Island as Abdul Kalam Island.