On 13 and 17 November 2020, DRDO successfully tested a new surface to air missile called Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile or QRSAM. This new Indian missile is very critical for the future offensive power of the Indian Army. This Guarding India Exclusive covers the capabilities of QRSAM.
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The full name of QRSAM is Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile which literally means a missile that can travel fast and destroy enemy aircraft at close ranges. Such quick reaction missiles are very useful in protecting fast-moving tank force from any enemy attack. QRSAM is the second ground-based Indian missile as previously DRDO’s Akash missile has already entered Indian Army service. Despite being an effective missile, Akash had a major drawback as it could not be fired from moving vehicles and therefore it can only be used to protect static bases.
The protection of mobile tank force is an important factor as modern AirPower comprising fighters, helicopters and UAVs remains the biggest enemy of tanks. This fact was proved during the famed “Battle of Longewala” of the 1971 India Pakistan War on which Bollywood blockbuster “Border” is based. During the Battle of Longewala, only four Hawker Hunter fighters of the Indian Air Force destroyed around 40 tanks and 100 vehicles of the Pakistan Army which completely halted the Pakistani offensive. The same results were repeated by the US Air Force in the 1991 Gulf war wherein the US Air Force destroyed more than 2000 Iraqi Army vehicles on the “Highway of Death”.
Thus, due to the extreme threat poised by the AirPower, the quick reaction air defence missiles that can be fired from a moving vehicle becomes a critical requirement of the Indian Army. Presently, Indian Army uses Russian OSA-AK, Strela-10M, Kvadrat, Shilka and Tunguska air-defence systems which were acquired in the 1980s and therefore Indian Army required new air defence systems. As per the original plan of the Indian Army, Akash missile was designed to become a new air defence system of the Indian Army by replacing all the Russian missiles.
However, during the trials, the Akash missile was found to be inaccurate when fired from a moving platform while it worked perfectly in static mode. Therefore, the Indian Air Force and Indian Army inducted Akash missile in static air defence roles and since then Akash has proved to be a major DRDO success story. However, Akash has failed to replace Russian quick reaction surface to air missiles and therefore, the Indian Army has continued its search for new short-range quick reaction missiles.
Subsequently, in 2014, DRDO started the development of QRSAM which being a clean-sheet design is completely different from the Akash missile. QRSAM is an all-weather missile that has been specially designed for high mobility so that it can protect India’s T-90 Bhishma, T-72 Ajeya, and Arjun tanks from any enemy fighter jets and helicopters during high-speed attacks on enemy ground targets.
That is why QRSAM can be mounted on both wheeled and tracked versions. However, presently only the wheeled version is being tested. QRSAM has been specially developed to meet the challenges on the Pakistan border and it can comfortably work in the plains of Punjab and in the Rajasthani deserts.
QRSAM has been designed to intercept all types of low flying targets and it can destroy enemy helicopters, fighter jets, low flying cruise missiles, and guided bombs. Despite its advanced capabilities, the QRSAM system is a compact design that uses a minimum number of vehicles. Due to its lower footprints, finding QRSAM batteries on a battlefield will be very difficult for enemy fighters. QRSAM system remains fully operational while traveling and can provide continued protection to Indian Army tanks.
QRSAM system has been three major components with the first component being sensors which include radars and missile control systems, the second component is the QRSAM missile and the third major component is the QRSAM’s launcher vehicle. The QRSAM has a fully automated Command and Control System which uses two types of a radar system which are called Active Array Battery Surveillance Radar and Active Array Battery Multifunction Radar.
These radars have four AESA radar panels and they continuously track the surrounding airspace and provide QRSAM with 360-degree radar coverage on the move. Due to these AESA radars, QRSAM has unmatched situational awareness and can destroy enemy fighters or helicopters coming from any direction. Additionally, QRSAM has inbuilt electronic countermeasure systems that prevent jamming by enemy fighters.
QRSAM is a single-stage solid propelled missile that can travel at speed of Mach 4.7 and cover a minimum range of 2 kilometers and a maximum range of 30 kilometers. The service ceiling of the QRSAM missile will be 6 to 9 kilometers. Due to its high speed and maneuverability, QRSAM can easily destroy any enemy fighter. QRSAM has a dual navigation system for enhanced lethality.
During the first stage of its flight, QRSAM uses an inertial navigation system and two-way data link used by battery radar for guiding the missile towards the enemy fighter. As soon as QRSAM reaches in vicinity of its target, the onboard terminal active seeker of the QRSAM missile guides the missile until the target aircraft is destroyed. Due to this complex yet smooth system, QRSAM seeker will be able to work for a longer duration and destroy highly maneuverable targets.
For reducing maintenance and increasing reliability QRSAM missile comes in a hermetically sealed canister which increases the service life of the missile. These missile canisters are mounted on a High Mobility Truck developed by Ashok Leland and Tata Motors. Each QRSAM launcher has six missiles that can be fired within six seconds.
The QRSAM launcher remains in constant touch of Command and Control Centre which ensures QRSAM missiles remains on constant launch readiness. On a single refuelling, the launcher vehicle can travel 600 to 800 kilometre. The QRSAM launcher can effectively work under nuclear-biological-chemical attacks.
As mentioned earlier, in November 2020 alone, QRSAM has been tested twice and has proved successful during both tests and have destroyed Banshee pilot-less target aircraft under different configurations and met all mission objectives. In 2021, the Indian Army is expected to conduct field tests of QRSAM after which this missile will be entering serial production. As per the current estimates, the Indian Army requires around 56 QRSAM systems whose total worth is estimated to be more than 10000 crore Indian rupees.
Finally, Team Guarding India is confident that QRSAM will prove to be a very important system for the Indian Army, and in future, it will be an integral part of the offensive power of Indian Army armoured formations. In this role, QRSAM will provide an effective air defence cover to Indian tanks and ensure they can continue targeting enemy tanks while QRSAM shoots down any enemy fighter trying to target Indian tanks.