As you know that on 22 March 2021, the Indian Army and DRDO successfully tested Akash NG surface to air missile (SAM) from Pokhran field firing range, Rajasthan. Akash NG is a very important missile for the Indian Army and Indian Air Force. In today’s Guarding India Exclusive we will cover all details about India’s Akash NG missile and its capabilities.
You can watch our YouTube video covering the Akash NG system or continue reading this article.
However, before covering the Akash NG missile, let’s talk about its predecessor Akash missile. Akash missile was the first Indian surface-to-air missile which is already in widespread service with the Indian Army and Indian Air Force. The range of the Akash missile is approx 30 kilometers. The single Akash battery has 4 launchers of 3 missiles each means a total of 12 ready to fire missiles. These missiles are controlled by ‘Made in India’ Rajendra 3D passive electronically scanned array radar which can monitor 64 targets at a time and can guide all 12 missiles till they destroy their targets.
Due to these capabilities, the Akash missile was favoured by both Indian Army and Indian Air Force. To date, Akash missiles worth Rs 23,000 have already been ordered which include 30 km range Akash Mark 1 and improved Akash 1S missiles. Despite being a very good and commercially successful system, the Akash missile which was developed between the 1990s to 2000 is now showing age and that’s why DRDO has started developing the Akash NG missile. In the name of Akash NG missile, NG stands for next-generation. Akash NG is a new generation Akash missile that will be much more capable and have a longer range than the legacy Akash missiles.
Akash NG will be India’s new generation SAM. It will be able to take down high-performance fighter aircraft like Pakistani F-16 and Chinese J-11 fighters. Besides this, the missile will be able to detect and destroy high-maneuvering, low radar cross-section targets like Chinese J-20 stealth fighters and UCAVs with ease.
Akash NG missile gets this capability by three main innovations. First is its new propulsion system and second is its new seeker head while third is its advanced kill chain.
The new propulsion system of the Akash NG missile is quite innovative. While the old Akash missile used ramjet propulsion, the new Akash NG missile has been fitted with new two-pulse solid rocket motors. This new motor, not only provides the missile with improved range but also provides high speed until the missile destroys the target.
The first pulse motor takes the Akash NG missile near the enemy target and then the second pulse motor provides full velocity to the missile until the enemy target is destroyed. The terminal velocity of this missile is estimated to be more than Mach 2.5 or approx 3000 kilometers. Due to its new dual pulse rocket motor propulsion, the missile can easily destroy the fastest and most agile enemy fighters. To date, DRDO has not officially disclosed the range of the missile. However, it is being perceived that the range of the this missile will be approximately 50-70 kilometers.
Coming onto missile’s second big improvement which is its new and deadly ‘Made in India’ seeker head which has been developed in Research Centre Imarat (RCI). This is a Ku-band active seeker which locks onto enemy fighters and guides missile till the time Akash NG warhead destroys its target.
Another important feature of the missile is its advanced kill chain. As soon as the missile’s battery radar which will be an Active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar detects a target. Immediately, the advanced computers of the Akash NG system start tracking the trajectory of enemy fighters. These computers determine when enemy fighters will be within the range of these missiles.
Even before the enemy fighter enters the area protected by Akash NG missiles, the system launches a missile to destroy the inbound enemy fighter thus denying it any chances of hitting an area protected by the missile system. The biggest advantage of this feature is that the Pakistani or Chinese fighters will not be able to launch standoff weapons on Indian targets even when 70 kilometers away from the intended target.
One can be astonished by the fact that despite being far more capable than the legacy Akash missile, the weight of the Akash NG missile is just 350 kilograms which is half of the 700-kilogram weight of legacy Akash missiles. Due to this, now Akash launchers can be fitted with more missiles than previously possible.
At last, we must remember that the test conducted on 22 March 2021 was for verifying the propulsion and control systems of the Akash NG missile. After this, within 2021, the missile will undergo additional tests in which its guidance system, seeker, and warhead will be tested. If all these critical tests are successful then in 2022, the missile will be entering user trials.
Finally, on behalf of Team Guarding India, I would say that in the future Akash NG surface-to-air missile (SAM) will protect Indian cities from Pakistani and Chinese air attacks. It will join missiles like MRSAM and QRSAM, to provide a multilayered ‘Made in India’ air defence cover to the Indian Armed Forces.