On 25 Jan, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) flight tested the Akash-NG SAM (New Generation) from the Integrated Test Range off the coast of Odisha. “The missile intercepted the target with textbook precision. The launch met all the test objectives by performing high maneuvers during the trajectory. The performance of the Command and Control system, onboard avionics and aerodynamic configuration of the missile was successfully validated during the trial. During the test launch, the entire flight path of the missile was monitored and the flight data was captured by various Range instruments such as Radar, EOTS and Telemetry systems deployed by ITR, Chandipur. The Multi Function Radar was tested for its capability of integration with the system,” says the Ministry of Defence release.
One other interesting note in the Release was “The Akash-NG system has been developed with better deployability compared to other similar systems with canisterized launcher and much smaller ground system footprint. The test launch was carried out by a combined team of DRDO, Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) & Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) in the presence of the representatives of Indian Air Force. “
The range of 70 – 80 kms, the shape and most other characteristics are close to the Indo-Israeli Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM), a derivative of IAI Barak-8. So the question is why does the IAF requires Akash NG and MRSAM?
Akash SAM versions
The Akash SAM has four versions, including the Akash MK-1, Akash MK-2, Akash-1S and Akash NG.
Akash MK-1 & Akash 1S: Both the versions have a range of 30 kms. The Mk-1 was the first version of the missile and 1S is the current version of the with an indigenous seeker.
Akash MK-2: This version has a range of 40 km and there are plans to add an onboard seeker. This version too has an indigenous seeker now.
Akash NG: This version has a range of about 80 kms due to the second stage which uses a dual-pulse solid rocket motor which is lighter instead of air-breathing solid ramjet engine in the previous versions. In addition, it has an active electronically scanned array Multi-Function Radar (MFR) and optical proximity fuze.
Akash NG vs MRSAM
Both the missiles are closer to each other in performance, but there are many key differences.
a) Akash NG is almost 90% indigenous compared to MRSAM which is about 70% indigenous.
b) Akash NG is inclined launched missile compared to Vertical launch MRSAM. An Akash SAM can be turned towards the incoming target for launch. In the MRSAM system, the missile has to to the change in direction and other associated maneuvers.
c) Akash NG is made for the IAF requirements and MRSAM is made for Indian Navy’s vertical launch requirements. The MRSAM was modified after the IAF requested for the missile system. MRSAM is a primarily a Naval weapon system.
d) Akash NG is cheaper than MRSAM as it is almost totally indigenous. It is cheaper in R&D, production and maintenance.
The IAF has deployed the Akash SAM and is in the process of receiving MRSAM systems. Compared to the previous Akash SAM versions, Akash NG has a higher speed, longer range, better maneuvering, lighter weight, sleeker dimensions and a lower maintenance.