Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has flight tested a Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) propulsion based missile system from the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur off the coast of Odisha at around 1030 hrs on March 05. The subsystems which include the booster motor and nozzle-less motor, performed as expected says the DRDO release. During the test, many new technologies were proven, including Solid Fuel based Ducted Ramjet technology. SFDR increases the range of the projectile as it obtains the oxidizer from the air during the flight.
“Successful demonstration of Solid Fuel based Ducted Ramjet technology has provided DRDO with a technological advantage which will enable it to develop long range air-to-air missiles. At present, such technology is available only with a handful of countries in the world. During the test, air launch scenario was simulated using a booster motor. Subsequently, the nozzle-less booster accelerated it to the required Mach number for Ramjet operation,” sates the release.
The performance of the missile was monitored using the data captured by Electro Optical, Radar and Telemetry instruments deployed by ITR and confirmed successful demonstration of the mission objectives. The launch was monitored by senior scientists of various DRDO labs, including Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL), Research Centre Imarat (RCI) and High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL).
The success of SFDR propulsion technology is a significant for the development of long range air-to-air missiles. DRDO has tested the Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet in 2018 and 2019. The 2018 test was for validating the technology of nozzle less booster. In 2019, the ground booster, separation of ground booster and Nozzle-less-booster performance were tested. The missile was guided to high altitude to simulate aircraft release conditions and subsequently nozzle-less-booster was ignited. SFDR based missile accelerated to achieve ramjet Mach number successfully. The technology is also useful for surface-to-air missiles. The SDFR program was initiated in 2013 along with Russia with a budget of a $70 million.
“SFDR uses a boron based propellent for the RAMJET portion (not the booster portion) which gives 2 times more energy than the existing propellent. It is high thrust and low consumption fuel. It uses the same energy level for more range and the missile takes a shorter time to reach the target. The other method is to boost the missile for a higher mach number initially but the problem is it slows down as it reaches the target and takes a longer time to reach. To achieve a range of 200-300 Kms for an Air to air missile boron based propellent is ideal,” says Dr Prahlada Ramarao, former DRDO scientist and a Padma Shri recipient.
DRDO’s Astra Mk 1 and 2 beyond visual range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAM) are capable of 4.5 mach speeds. Russia is also known to have used SFDR for AA-12 Adder air to air missile. SFDR is planned to be used on Astra MK 3 rivaling MBDA Meteor missile. Theoretically, the SFDR can be retrofitted on an existing missile forebody along with software changes to the missile guidance section.