Akash Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) System, India

Akash (Sanskrit:आकाश ) is a medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile defense system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories Board and Bharat Electronics (BEL) in India. The missile is being developed under the integrated guided-missile development programme (IGMDP). . The missile system can target aircraft up to 30 km away, at altitudes up to 18,000 m. A nuclear warhead could potentially give the missile the capability to destroy both aircraft and warheads from ballistic missiles.

Features of the mid-range surface-to-air missile system

The Akash SAM system can employ multiple air targets while operating in fully autonomous mode. The system features a launcher, a missile, a control centre, an integral mission guidance system, a multifunctional fire control radar, a system arming and explosion mechanism, a digital autopilot, C4I (command, control communication and intelligence) centres and supporting ground equipment. The group control centre (GCC) acts as command and control headquarters for the SAM system.

Weight 720 kg (1,590 lb)
Length 578 cm (228 in)
Diameter 35 cm (14 in)
Warhead High-explosive, pre-fragmented warhead
Warhead weight 60 kg (130 lb)
RF proximity fuse
Propellant integral rocket motor/ramjet booster and sustainer motor
Flight ceiling 18 km (59,000 ft)
command guidance

Each Akash battery includes four 3D passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radars and four self-propelled launchers with three missiles each, all of which are interconnected. It also has battery level radar known as the Rajendra radar and a battery control centre. It can track and attack multiple targets concurrently. A self-destructive device is also integrated into the missile. The Akash system protects a moving procession of vehicles using an electronic counter countermeasures (ECCM) system. Akash was also tested in ballistic missile role and offers air defence missile coverage of 2,000 square kilometres. Flexible deployment and multitarget area defence capabilities of Akash Akash missiles are designed to be launched from static or mobile platforms, including battle tanks and wheeled trucks, providing flexible deployment. It can handle multiple targets and destroy manoeuvring targets, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, fighter aircraft, cruise missiles and missiles launched from helicopters. The missile is capable of destroying aircraft within the range of 30km to 35km and at altitudes up to 18,000m. It renders multidirectional and multitarget area defence. It can carry conventional and nuclear warheads weighing up to 60kg. The integration of nuclear warhead allows the missile to destroy aircraft as well as warheads released from ballistic missiles. It can operate in all weather conditions.


Development timeline and tests at the Integrated Test Range in Chandipur. Development of the Akash missile began in 1983. The maiden trial firings were carried out in 1990. Developmental trials were conducted until March 1997. The missile was demonstrated for target interception capability against two live aerial targets in November 2005. Around 16 trial firings were conducted by August 2006. The test firing of the Akash for the IAF was carried out at the Integrated Test Range in Chandipur, Orissa, in December 2007. The IAF rolled out its indigenous SAM system in 2008 upon completion of nine successful field trials. Development of an advanced version, Akash Mk-II, began in June 2010. The Mk-II version is expected to be ready for a maiden fire trial by 2013.

Rajendra radar details and propulsion of the DRDO’s missile system.

The air force version of the Rajendra radar is capable of tracking 64 targets within a range of 60km in range, azimuth and height. The army variation of the Akash will use Rajendra radar which can track 40 targets in range and azimuth with up to 100km in tracking range. The 3D central acquisition radar (CAR) is a long range surveillance radar which warns the GCC by tracking 200 targets in track while scan (TWS) mode from a tracking range of 150km. It measures azimuth, range and height of targets, and transmits to the GCC via communication links. The GCC sends the target position information to the battery level radar (Rajendra). The Akash is powered by Ramjet-rocket propulsion system which renders thrust for the missile to intercept the target at supersonic speed without any retardation.

Key players involved with India’s Akash (sky) SAM development project

Akash can fly at supersonic speeds ranging from Mach 2.8 to 3.5. The kill probability of the missile is 88% and can be increased to 98.5% by launching the second missile after five seconds of launching the first. The Akash SAM system was produced by Bharat Electronics (BEL). Bharat Dynamics (BDL) serves as nodal agency for Akash SAM production for the army. A number of DRDO labs are involved in the development of the Akash. DRDL is responsible for system integration and missile development. LRDE Bangalore manufactured the Rajendra radar. R&DE Pune developed the launcher. The tracked vehicles were manufactured by CVRDE. ARDE built the nuclear warhead while HEMRL produced the propellants. Launcher systems were provided by Tata Power and Larsen & Toubro.


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One Reply to “Akash Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) System, India

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