Next ABM Test in June

Wrote this for The Indian Express in January. Thought I'd re-post, ahead of the next ABM test next month:

As part of the newly unveiled programme to equip the country's armed forces with a full-fledged family of anti-missile systems, DRDO plans to conduct an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) test of a new missile codenamed AAD, early in June, at the Integrated Test Range off the Orissa coast. The configuration, according to DRDO, more than matches the capability of the American Patriot anti-missile system.

On November 27, 2006, at the inaugural test under indigenous ABM programme, the interceptor missile, codenamed PAD, successfully destroyed a Prithvi tactical ballistic missile at an "exo-atmospheric" altitude of 50-km over the Bay of Bengal. Formal names for the PAD and AAD will be chosen in 2009.

The November test came as a huge relief to DRDO, which has been under pressure since 1998 to deliver on its promise of a cost-effective missile defence system.

New Delhi's efforts to acquire the Israeli Arrow anti-missile system were extinguished by the US in 2002, though Washington has since directly engaged India in bilateral missile defence talks, which includes an offer of the Patriot system to the Indian armed forces.

The June test will involve a surface launched AAD interceptor missile homing in on and destroying an incoming ballistic missile at an "endo-atmospheric" altitude of 30-km. Unlike the first test, the AAD missile will be powered by a single-stage solid fuel rocket.

The November test used the guidance of an Israeli EL/M-2080 Green Pine long-range acquisition radar, which guided both the target missile and the interceptor, while the upcoming test in June will use a French Thales Master-A multifunction 3D radar. Three tests each in endo and exo-atmospheric modes will be conducted at the ITR in Phase-I of the programme, which ends in 2009. Tests will be more frequent thereafter until operational clearance scheduled for 2012.

DRDO's ABM programme is scheduled to be complete in two phases by 2012-13. By this time the organisation hopes to replace both foreign radars currently in use, with medium and long-range radars being developed in-house by the Electronics Research & Development Organisation in Bangalore.

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