Sunday, October 12, 2008

Akash E-SHORADS Explained: Part 2

The Akash E-SHORADS surface-to-air missile (SAM), developed by India’s Kanchanbagh-based Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL), officially has no takers as yet. The Akash’s R & D project has been in existence for the past 20 years. Originally slated for completion within a 12-year period, the project’s Rs5 billion R & D phase had to extended by another eight years due to previously unforeseen technological and operational challenges, especially with regard to its fire-control and missile guidance systems. When the project took off in the late 1980s, the DRDL had proudly claimed that target engagement will be undertaken by the ground-based, active phased-array Rajendra L-band Battery-Level Radar (BLR) and a track-via-missile guidance system for the missile. However, the sheer technological challenges forced the DRDL to abandon this path by the mid-1990s, and the DRDO’s Bangalore-based Electronics R & D establishment (LRDE) instead took up the development of a passive phased-array variant of the Rajendra target engagement radar, whose laboratory version had 4,000 phase shifters, a spectrally pure travelling wave tube (TWT) transmitter (which at that time was imported from THALES Nederland), two-stage superheterodyne correlation receiver for three channels, a high-speed digital signal processor, real-time management computer, and a radar data processor. For the 25km-range missile the radio command-link guidance technique was adopted. It was this system that was until 2002 being proposed an all weather area air defence system for defending vulnerable areas (VA) and vulnerable points (VP) against manned airborne targets approaching from medium and high altitudes. The system has been designed to neutralise multiple airborne targets attacking from several directions simultaneously, and is fully autonomous in terms of its operation. The Akash E-SHORADS is now being offered in two versions: one whose launcher is mounted on the hull of a T-72M main battle tank (for the Indian Army), and another mounted on a cross-country truck built by TATA Motors, this being for the Indian Air Force (IAF). When deployed, the Akash comprises a network of early warning, tracking, and engagement radars and fire-direction control centres, all functioning in a network-centric manner. The system has advanced battlefield management software, which carries out relative threat computation and pairing of targets and missiles and missile fire-control. Dr R R Panyam has been the Project Director for Akash since 2002. About 1,000 scientists from 13 DRDO laboratories have contributed thus far to the Akash’s R & D effort.
During a series of test-firings in realistic desert terrain combat conditions last December, the complete Akash Weapon System was fielded and its mobility assessed. The user trials of intercepting unmanned flying targets were conducted between December 14 and 21, during which the Akash successfully intercepted its targets five times in a row in this campaign. The fifth and last trial successfully took place at 2.15pm on December 21 during which one missile destroyed a manoeuvring, turbojet-powered Lakshya aerial target drone. The ten-day long user’s trials saw the participation of 300 officials from the DRDO, DPSUs, and private industries. Dr Prahlada, who conceptualised the Akash Weapon System and headed the project for nearly for two decades and is currently the Chief Controller for R & D (Missiles) at DRDO HQ, provided the leadership during the recent test-firing campaign. In the aftermath of these trials, the following observations from the end-users’ perspectives are noteworthy:
1) By the time mobility trials of the Akash’s Army variant were conducted at Pokhran between June 11 and 29 last year, followed by flyover trials as part of the IAF-specific variant’s firing trials at Pokhran between November 15 and 17, and systems performance trials of the IAF-specific variant conducted at the Chandipur-on-sea-based Interim Test Range (ITR) near Balasore between December 14 and 21 last year, it emerged that while the Akash had the systems configuration and logistics tail of a medium-range SAM, it terms of mission effectiveness, it was no better than an enhanced short-range air defence system (E-SHORADS).
2) The missile’s engagement range of 25km has since early 2003 been viewed has highly deficient by both the IAF and the Indian Army, both of which have since insisted on a minimum range of 40km (and preferably 50km) if indeed the Akash is to be employed for protecting VAs and VPs against multiple attacks from cruise missiles. It is for this reason that both the Army and IAF have indicated that they will more likely opt for a land-based, road-mobile variant of the vertically-launched 70km-range Barak-2 SAM (using the S-band EL/M-2248 active phased-array radar for both target acquisition and engagement), unless the promised longer-range Akash Mk2 is made available as soon as possible. It is this factor that, according to the IAF and the Army, makes the Akash a financially unviable medium-range SAM when viewed from a techno-economic matrix. Therefore, unless the DRDL develops a 40km-range variant of the Akash, the system will have no takers, neither in India or abroad.
3) The Akash’s Battery-level configuration has not yet demonstrated its ability to simultaneously engage four airborne targets each with three missiles. Both the Army and the IAF are of the view that the Rajendra BLR, in order to ensure a 99.8% probability of successful target engagement against both manned combat aircraft and especially cruise missiles (to detect them, both the Army and Air Force are acquiring the ELTA Systems-built aerostat-mounted EL/M-2083 active phased-array radars), needs to morph into an AESA configuration, as opposed to its existing PESA design. Both the Army and IAF are of the view that it order to stay technologically relevant for combating future airborne threat scenarios, AESA-based target engagement radars are mandatory. The Army has also specified that such radars perform all search, identification, tracking, and engagement functions, instead of having three different radars for all functions ranging from target detection to tracking to engagement.
To address these requirements, the DRDL has already initiated R & D work on the Mk2 variant of the Akash missile, which will make use of a newer, higher-energy HTPB-based composite booster propellant housed within a slightly lengthened booster section. Its fuel-rich sustainer propellant, based on magnesium/sodium nitrate/naphthalene processed by pressure-moulding techniques, will remain the same. The Rajendra BLR’s modular AESA variant now being fabricated will include a carbon-fibre cover in front of the antenna array, RF distribution network, and about 80 transmit/receive modules (using hybrid MICs and MMICs for transmit and receive chains) that will be air-cooled. Each such module will comprise a power amplifier for the transmitted microwave signal, low-noise amplifiers as front-ends for the receiver channels, and phase shifters for accurate control of the signal phase in both transmit and receive modes. In the latter, amplification of the signal will be controlled as well. The phases and amplitudes will be continuously calibrated. Each T/R module will be connected to one vertical slotted waveguide. The technology for miniaturisation and mass industrial production of the T/R modules is believed to have been obtained from ELTA Systems since 1998, with the Indian recipients of such technologies being Astra Microwave Products Ltd, BEL and ECIL. Incidentally, such T/R modules were originally developed for the LRDE-developed long-range tracking radar (LRTR), whose design and performance parameters bear more than a close resemblance to the EL/M-2080 ground-based active phased-array L-band long-range tracking radar, two of which were supplied in late 2001 under a US$50 million order placed by the DRDO with the ELTA Systems Group subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries. For catering to the power supply requirements of the environmental control system of the Rajendra BLR’s AESA variant, the LRDE has selected Microturbo’s S20-G gas turbine-based APU, which weighs less than 80kg. It can easily be integrated into a compartment above the track passage of the T-72M. The S209-G runs on the same diesel fuel as the T-72M.—Prasun K. Sengupta


Anonymous said...

Good article Prasun.
Please use , (basic version is enough) to keep track of your blog readers.
Will it be possible for you to write an article about
1.our(IN)submarine fleet and as well its the threat priority from PLAN and PN.
2.Aerospace command and its abilities

Thank you.
Quality of the current article is definitely better than the previous one.
Keep up the good work.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Many thanks for the constructive comments and appreciations. Will try to oblige you.

Anonymous said...

first picture came straight off wikipedia?

max said...


So when is Akash-2 expected to be ready? Any idea?

shriya said...

Sengupta, I thought you denied that Rajendra was PESA, what now?

And can you please tell me which one is better: AESA or PESA?


Anonymous said...

^^ wow very hot man ur blog Prasun ^^ ..

Ok coming to the point what is the "environmental control system" of the Rajendra BLR ? What is the S-20 'APU' for exactly? Sorry don't understand macha.

And as what max asked when is the Akash2 and The new BLR Rajendra gonna b ready - or expected 2 be ready? Because if its gonna be another 10 years then army is gonna say 'now we want 70km' blah blah you know..

Anonymous said...

No the picture in Wikipedia is different although I think it was taken by the same photographer. Wikipedias was I think the final test. This one is one of the earlier ones.

Anonymous said...


Govt not to buy any more Barak missiles:

Also see this pic TATRA is really screwed up in israel they have RHD trucks.

Anonymous said...

to prasun

military personel r bastards

which credible system they have now
that they have right now,and can they guarentee that by buying foreign systems the defence will
b fool proof,and how many foreign systems r enough?

PESA is not inferior
tech in no way,s400 SAM uses PESA
radar and it will b in operation till 2030 so whats wrong with RAJENDRA actually armed forced r flying high due to govt. has no control on them and they do whatever they want

just like ENGINE OF ARJUN TANK the same engine is used in LOE2 2a4 and there is no complaints from any country ,so y there r compalints from indian army,may be
sabotaged by army personnel

this shows how loyal v r to our country

but akaash can b employed in naval ships cuz navy uses shtil-1 and kashmir SAM and barak-1 so there shhould b no problem with akaash

and by the way akaash is better than pechora ,sterla etc if not
MR-SAM akaash can b used to replace these systems

left wing nut job said...

Thanks for these articles but if I may make a request: Please put in an extra line break after each paragraph. It would help immensely in the readability of this great blog. Thanks.

Anonymous said...


I have been an avid reader of your articles for sometime now. Your articles provide in-depth information.

I have also seen that there are people dissing you, I don't agree with them. You provide great information and have an authentic point of view.

Please keep up the good work.


Anonymous said...

by the way agni 2 was inducted in 2002 and agni3 will not b inducted till 2011 and this is the speed of drdo's reaserch project and according to similar speed MIRV equipped land based ICBM will not b ready till 2018 for sure

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Max: The Akash Mk2 missile rounds should be ready for user-trials by early 2010 latest. The technological challenge, however, remains in the arena of deploying the AESA variant of the Rajendra BLR. In fact, both the IAF and Army remain highly interested in obtaining the ground-based, vertically-launched LR-SAM variant of the Barak-8/Barak-2. The Army is quite happy and elated with the Barak-8/Barak-2's 70km-range and the IAF has been promised a 120km-range of the missile. Moreover, the IAF & Army also want, as far as possible, a common but scalable AESA-based L-band radar for both the Akash Mk2 and Barak-2/Barak-8, which if acquired will greatly simplify the M-SAM's & LR-SAM's operational logistyics reqmts. I'm reliably told that the BLR-3 shown with cardboard covers in front did have a couple of experimnental AESA T/R modules on board for technology demonstration purposes last December, and these modules reportedly were a great success when put to use at that time.

To Shriya: As you can judge from the above, the AESA variant of Rajendra BLR is the desired version for service induction. In fact, even the Rajendra's WLR version can now be upgraded from being a PESA (which the Army already has, thanks to the THALESRaytheon TPQ-37 Firefinder) to an AESA (like the ELTA-developed EL/M-2084 MMR). The PESA-based WLRs are more than enough for mortar fire detection, but for accurately tracking hostile tube artillery-launched long-range fire assaults (from distances of more than 40km) an AESA-based WLR is more desirable and is now available, either locally or from abroad (i.e. from Israel). Therefore I would not totally rule out the induction of Rajendra BLR-3 in the form of a PESA-based WLR, but there is a definite need for the AESA-based WLR as well, especially since India now has the technological and industrial proficiency to put such radars into mass-production by 2010.

To Macha: Encironmental control system or ECS stands for that component that is responsible for maintaining a constant operating temperature and catering to the air-/liquid-based cooling requirements of the operating system, be in on the ground, at sea or in the air. It is also used for minimising the harmful effects of humidity and moisture condensation within the avionics/vectronics bulkheads. In short, it insulates and protects the operating system from the vagaries of the weather, temperature variations, lightning strikes, etc. The gas turbine-based S-20G is a powerful APU caters to the electricity reqmts of the entire Rajendra BLR-3.

To Anon@7:53AM: The Agni-3 IRBM was a technology demonstrator that is being used as the foundation for developing more powerful and longer-reach IRBMs like the 6,500km-range version of the Agni-3 and the 8,500km-range SLBM. However, depending on threat perceptions emanating from India's western borders, the Agni-3, if required, could be put to production to replace the earlier Agni-2 IRBMs.

Shaky said...

Hi Mr. Prasun

I drop by your blog (and other indian defence websites like BR etc.) frequently. Are you frequently in KL? If you are free the next time you come down can we meet if you don't mind.

And for your information the stuff you posted about rojak was grossly wrong. It is in fact a dish and nothing more. As mixed up as rojak is merely a simile meant associate mixed up stuff with rojak (dish). Something like as 'as hot as pepper'; whereby pepper is primarily a drupe / spice.

If we meet I'll treat you to a plate of rojak, a bowl of curry laksa and some Ice Kacang -all on me.

NO I ain't kidding..

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Shaky: VMT for your offer of the treat. I'm usually in KL almost thrice every month for about 2-3 days only. Will keep you posted on my next visit dates.

Shaky said...

Ok sure, just leave a message here calling for me (Shaky) when you like and I'll respond. I'll keep watch of your comment forms. If you prefer via email I can give you my id. Pls let me know.

Anonymous said...

lol all u got 2 do is surf on from and no body can keep track of u as a bogus ip will appear

max said...

Thanks for the info.

And by the way 6,500km is not an IRBM but ICBM. ICBM is anything <5,500km.

Another thing, as you stated in the earlier post about Nirbhay being a UAV / PTA, why then did a news report late last year say it's gonna be a 1,000km cruise missile? I don't see smoke without fire. More so if the deal for those Russian engines was concluded as far back as 2005, I find it hard to digest why 2 years later they are saying it's gonna be a cruise missile, test fired by end 2009. Something's wrong here.

Anonymous said...

prasun ,anything about IL 38SD upgrade

Prasun K Sengupta said...

To Max: The news reporter must have gotten confused between an operational cruise missile and a UAV simulating the cruise missile. If the Nirbhay is to be powered by an indigenous turbofan (whose development by GTRE has not yet been disclosed by anyone so far and is highly unlikely to be in existence) then it can easily become a cruise missile. However, as it has now been clearly established, the Nirbhay will be powered by NPO Saturn's 36MT turbofan (first displayed at Aero India 2005). This automatically means that Russia is supplying these turbofans off-the-shelf strictly based on a firm undertaking given by India that the 36MT will not power any platform/missile/UAV that will be in breach of Russia's MTCR obligations. Same principle applies to the BrahMos-2 as well. As long as any missile is co-developed with Russia, one can rest assured that such a missile's range will not exceed 300km and its warhead weight will not exceed 500kg--all these being MTCR guidelines.

Anonymous said...

Great article Prasun. Can we expect a progress report (photos would be great) of the INS Vikramaditya.

Prasun K Sengupta said...

Will try to do one.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Prasun

Anonymous said...

"sweet prasun"


U licked him?

Anonymous said...

phir ponga pandit sengupta sabko chutiya bana rahan hain. spoke to almost 10-20 drdo, bel, private and IAF people. all of them said no cooperation with elta in AESA for rajendra or any tot for making modules. all that is being done by lrde with work by bel and some private companies. even elta lrtr help is for overall design and not subcomponent level. yeh sengupta sala bahut bewakoof banaya hum sab ko, after reading this blog i thot he knew everything now i know he knows nothing but copy and posting borchures. :-(