Tensions and mistrust in the Indian subcontinent continue unabated to the present day. The unfortunate episode of terrorist attack in Mumbai, and the ineffective measures taken by India and Pakistan so far have created little or no impact on its relationship with one another. Another important reason for the interest in the missile programme showed by consecutive governments in India was its poor performance against of the Chinese in the year 1962 war. As the border disputes still continue, India set out its task clear cut and galvanized its leadership and its executive to build indigenous missile capabilities as a credible deterrent against future attack by China, Pakistan or any other threat it has to encounter in future.
India restarted its missile programme effectively from the year 1967. This programme was initially termed as a space programme and by the year 1972, it had designed, developed the test fired the “Rohini-560” a two-stage, solid propulsion sounding rocket, which had the capability to reach an maximum altitude of 334 km with 100 kg as payload. A number of Rohini- class rockets with diverse ranges and payloads were subsequently produced and are still in service.
India launched its small 17- ton SLV-3 space booster programme in 1979, which was a great step towards sophisticated missile system. For the first time, and in the year 1980, India fruitfully propelled a 35 kg Rohini I satellite into near-earth orbit, being one of the few nations at the time to achieve this feat. On the other hand, by this time, DRDL had designed some sophistication in its infrastructure and facilities to embark on the design and development of advanced missile systems comprehensively and indigenously.
In the year 1983, under the able leadership of Dr. Abdul Kalam-who later went on to become the President of the country, the Indian government subsequently, revamped its missile program as art Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). s an integral part of this programme, the Interim Test Range was developed at Balasore in Orissa, primarily for missile testing.
By 1987, the 35-ton Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) with an approximate range of 4000 km and a payload capacity of around 150 kg, was being tested. Both of these missiles might threaten Pakistan and, the latter, has the capacity to strike China, but neither had the intercontinental range. The much generously proportioned 275 ton Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) was developed to place it in sun-synchronous polar orbit. The PSLV can readily deliver a nuclear warhead over intercontinental distances.
The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, usually known by its abbreviation PSLV, is an expendable launch system operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It was developed to allow India to launch its Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites into a service that was, until the advent of the PSLV, commercially viable only from Russia. PSLV can also launch small size satellites into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). The reliability and versatility of the PSLV is proven by the fact that it has launched 30 spacecrafts-14 Indian and 16 from other countries-into a variety of orbits so far.
In November 2007, ISRO achieved an important milestone through the successful test of indigenously developed Cryogenic Stage, to be employed as the upper stage of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). The test was conducted for its full flight duration of 720 seconds at liquid propulsion test facility at Mahendragiri, in Tamil Nady. With this test, the indigenous Cryogenic Upper Stage has been fully qualified on the ground. The “flight acceptance hot test” was completed and the flight stage is getting ready for use in the next mission of GSLV (GSLV-D3).
The IGMDP has so far sponsored and supported the development of five missiles and their different variants, namely: Prithvi, Agni, Akash, Trishul and Nag. DRDO has given fastidious precedence to the development of sophisticated and effective guidance technologies that is state-of-the-art compared to its competitors.
The Prithvi was India’s first indigenously developed ballistic missile apparatus.
The Development of the Prithvi missile began in the year 1983, and it was first test-fired on 25 February 1988 from Sriharikota, in the SHAR Centre, Andhra Pradesh. It has an approximate range of up to 150 to 300 km. The missile can carry a nuclear warhead in its role as a tactical nuclear weapon. The Agni missile was tested for the first time at the Interim Test Range in Chandipur in 1989, and is capable of delivering a conservative payload of 1000 kg or an equivalent nuclear warhead. Agni-III is the third in the Agni series of missiles, successfully tested on April 12, 2007.
Agni-I was a short range ballistic missile with 700-800 km range, Agni-II was a medium range ballistic missile with 2,500 kg range, Agni-III is an intermediate range ballistic missile with 3,500 km range. There will not be an Agni-IV missile as DRDO would leapfrog from intermediate range Agni-III to a standard ICBM, Agni-V an intermediate/intercontinental ballistic missile with a possible 5000-6000 km range.
Trishul is the name of the short range surface-to-air missile. Intended to be used against low-level sea skimming targets at short range, the missile has been developed to protect naval vessels against missiles. Nag is the third generation “fire-and-forget” type anti-tank missile. It can be used in any weather conditions and can attack a target within a range of 3 to 7 km. Akash is a surface-to-air missile with an intercept range of 30 kg. It has a launch weight of 720 kg, a diameter of 35 cm and a length of 5.78 metres. It flies at supersonic speed, reaching around Mach 2.5.
It can reach an altitude of 18 km. An on-board guidance system coupled with actuator system makes the missile manoeuvrable up to 15 g loads and a tail chase capability for end game engagement. A digital proximity fuse is coupled with a 55 kg pre-fragmented warhead. The use of ramjet propulsion system enables sustained speeds without deceleration throughout its whole flight.
The Lakshya is a remotely piloted high speed target drone system developed by the Aeronautical developed establishment (ADE) of DRDO. The drone, remote piloted by a ground control station provides realistic towed aerial sub-targets for live fire training. The drone is ground- or ship-launched from a zero length launcher and recovery is by a two stage parachute system developed by ADRDE (DRDO), for land or sea based recovery.
The drone has a crushable nose cone, which absorbs the impact of landing, minimizing damage. The flight path may be controlled or pre-programmed, based upon the type of mission. In the year 1998, the Government of India, signed an agreement with the Russian Federation to conceive, design, develop, manufacture and finally market a Supersonic Cruise Missile System which has been fruitfully accomplished by 2006. BrahMos is a supersonic cruise missile that could be launched from many platforms such as the submarine, naval ship, air force aircrafts or by land. At speeds touching Mach 2.5 to 2.8, it is the world’s fastest cruise missile and is about three and a half times faster than the American navy’s subsonic Harpoon cruise missile.
BAPL is attempting to develop a hypersonic Mach 8 version of the missile, named as the BrahMos II. It will be the first attempt by India in the development of hypersonic cruise missile and is expected to be ready by 2012-13. The in-house laboratory testing of the missile has started already.
India’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile power projection initiatives are the key to maintaining strategic and tactical stability in the Asia-Pacific and South Asian regions. Deterring Pakistan is one of the goals but safeguarding against potential nuclear threats from China, and gaining a responsible power status from the international community has become a significant task. Among all the developing countries with intentions to develop weapons of mass destruction and long- range missile power projection capabilities, India alone has significantly achieved a unique status of success with little outside support.
Indian defence establishment and planners are also working towards introducing fundamental changes in the missile development programmes and its process. In the first half of 2009, the IGMDP has shifted its focus to serialized production of the missiles that are part of the conceived programme and for some precise missile systems it has access to.
The Indian missile programme has come a long way since its inception, with India’s strong economy despite global slowdown and the subsequent lifting of the economic embargo which took place after the Phokran tests, India certainly looks forward to a bright future in both civilian and military use of the missile programmes.