India’s Akash (Sky) surface-to-air missile is based on 1968’s 2K12 “Kub” (NATO reporting name SA-6 Gainful). Indian Akash SAM set the requirements of being able to engage aerial targets flying at speeds of Mach 1 at altitudes of 5 km at ranges up to 20 km, with a single shot kill probability of at least 65%.
The Akash system requires several types of radar to work, that’s the biggest challenge of this system from the 1968s developmental SA-6 to the Indian Akash SAM. It consists of VHF and Early warning radar based on 1960s technology.
The missile is developed based on semi-active radar-homing missiles with blast fragmentation. A proximity fuse is coupled with a 55 kg pre-fragmented warhead while the arming and detonation mechanism enables a detonation sequence. Since the missile does not have a data-link and IFF capability like the Soviet-era SA-6 Gainful missile, the missile hit-to-kill probability is reduced to 65% and blast fragmentation misses the targets.
Trishul is another Indian missile system based on the Soviet-era 9K33 Osa missile (NATO reporting name SA-8 Gecko).
Many Akash squadrons reported frequent unserviceability of mobile surface-to-air Akash Missile system and long duration downtime, which means that the missiles are dysfunctional and may not be cocked and loaded against the enemy in contingency.
Several government agencies, including missile manufacturers Bharat Dynamics Limited, and Bharat Electronics Limited, did not tell the truth to the government about the malfunctioning Akash Missile system and the poor quality of spare parts provided by the private vendors.
CAG was perhaps far-sighted when in a 2017 report, the national auditor observed that Akash Missiles cannot be trusted in situation of a war.
On 3 June 2018, Akash Missile’s Transportation and Loading Vehicle (TLV), parked at an Air Force Squadron, was jolted after a sudden burst of a tube followed by shearing off wheel bolts due to impact. The incident shocked Air Force headquarters. The Air Force officials wanted not only the routine analysis of the incident but also an in-depth discussion with the Defense Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), a multi-disciplinary Missile System laboratory under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to unearth issues hampering the functioning of the strategic weapon system.
More than a month later, another squadron reported cracks on the air intake caps of missiles. An investigation by Firstpost revealed that the incidents were followed by other squadrons reporting frequent unserviceability of mobile surface-to-air Akash Missile system and long duration downtime, which means that the missiles are dysfunctional and may not be cocked and loaded against the enemy in contingency. This incident forced the Guided Weapon Maintenance Department of Air Force on 5 September 2018 to raise the issue, where they clearly stated that the “Squadrons have been reporting frequent unserviceability of Missiles and it has been noticed that time taken to resolve these failures is considerably high due to delay in analysis of failures.”
The sheer inertia of government defence enterprise involved in Akash Missile production and maintenance reached such an alarming level that at least three squadrons of Akash in February 2019 reported that the missile system remained down or simply broken and sometimes even out of order during 90% of the time since their date of commissioning. These squadrons were commissioned between 2013-2015 to counter Chinese aggression.
Multiple government agencies, including Missile manufacturer Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) which comes under the Ministry of Defence, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) which is responsible for radars and maintenance and the DRDO, did not tell the truth to the government about malfunctioning Akash Missile system and poor quality of spare parts provided by the private vendors.
India is set to shelve the development of a second anti-aircraft missile because delays have led to escalating costs and technical problems, a report said Sunday.
According to the Hindustan Times, the homegrown medium-range surface-to-air Akash (Sky) and Trishul missile was supposed to give the army air cover, by eliminating enemy aircraft and missiles and protecting the air force’s vital defence capabilities, but both system have technical problems and low hit-to-kill probability.
But delays in its development have made the 20-kilometre-range missile prohibitively expensive and the Indian army has already begun to look for alternatives in Germany, France and the UK, the report said.
One Akash under development, which comprised four missile batteries, was pegged at $187.5 million dollars in 1985 but had escalated to a current cost of $416 million dollars, the report said.
Besides the steep price tag, technical problems also impeded the progress of Akash, the report said.
The missile’s radar, meant to detect enemy targets and lock missiles onto them, covers only a 70-degree swathe. This means it cannot track enemy aircraft approaching from different directions at the same time, the report said.
Another problem was the limited speed of the missile which is about Mach 2, useful to target enemy aircraft but not enough for missiles, which travel at more than three times that speed, the report said.
According to the defence ministry, the Akash can carry a 50 kg warhead and cannot simultaneously track several targets.
But the report said the missile’s response to unknown, multiple targets is in doubt because it had only been tested on known, single targets.
Though a final series of trials are scheduled for June 2004, the military does not see Akash being inducted with technical faults, the report added.
Last month, reports said India’s defence ministry had shelved plans to develop a short-range surface-to-air Trishul (Trident) missile due to technical glitches.
Both missiles are among five developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) since 1983.
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