Having an arsenal of missiles capable of striking long distances serve as a deterrent but an effective shield to stop incoming missiles is also key to nation's defence. On Thursday, India successfully tested indigenously developed Advanced Air Defence (AAD) supersonic interceptor missile, capable of destroying any incoming ballistic missile at low altitude, from a test range in Odisha.
The target missile- a Prithvi missile- was launched from launch complex 3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur.
What is a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system?
A Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) is a system that is designed to intercept and destroy an incoming ballistic missile on its trajectory much before it approaches the target. Theoretically, a hostile missile can be intercepted at the launch point, mid-course (flight through space), or terminal phase (during atmospheric descent).
Indian Ballistic Missile Defence Programme
India has a two-tier homegrown interceptor missiles system to block hostile aerial attacks. The double-tiered system consists of Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV), capable of destroying incoming targets at high altitude, while the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) Missile for lower altitude interception.
The system is designed so that incoming missiles can be tracked and destroyed both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere. Prior to PDV, the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile was tested in November 2006, followed by the AAD in December 2007. While the PDV is designed to take out the target missile at altitudes above 150 km, the AAD is an endo-atmospheric interceptor that can engage hostile missiles at an altitude of 30 km.
As per reports, both systems have been test fired 13 times since 2006. The test firing of PDV on February 11, 2017, was deemed to a successful one. AAD was also fired successfully on March 1, 2017. The DRDO has two phases of the BMD systems. Phase-I of BMD system is geared towards tackling enemy missiles with a 2,000-km range. Phase-II will enable interception of missiles in 5,000-km range. Phase 1 of India's BMD is said to be ready for deployment in major cities. Phase -2 will be ready in a couple of years.
Components of India's BMD:
Prithvi Defence Vehicle
Prithvi Air Defence or PAD interceptor is a two-stage missile with interception altitude ranging between 50-80 km.
Advanced Air Defence
Advanced Air Defence or AAD interceptor is a single-stage, solid-fuelled missile capable of intercepting an incoming missile at around 30 km.
The interceptors are guided by high accuracy Inertial Navigation System (INS) and supported by a Redundant Micro Navigation System (RMNS). The interceptors zero in on the hostile missile with the help of infrared (IR) seeker and inertial guidance. Swordfish Long Range Tracking Radar (LRTR) is a long-range tracking radar specifically developed to counter ballistic missile threat. Its main function is target acquisition of incoming missile and provides guidance to interceptors (PAD and AAD) to hit its target in space. This radar has a range of over 800 km and can be used for tracking trajectories. India is upgrading this radar to increase its range to 1500 km.
Effectiveness against cruise and ballistic missiles:
India's BMD is essentially focussed on thwarting ballistic missiles. The speed of cruise missiles is much slower than ballistic missile so defending against an attack by a cruise missile is similar to tackling low-flying manned aircraft.