"Prachi" Looks Up

It is almost official. India's integrated ballistic missile defence ensemble will be called either Prachi or Pratchi -- it is learnt that both these names are on the shortlist prepared by DRDO Bhawan. The names, as is the custom, will shortly be forwarded by DRDO to the Defence Ministry, which will then possibly get the shortlist vetted by Rashtrapati Bhavan (somehow, I'm not keen to know what President Patil's opinion on ballistic missile shields is).

There was a press conference this afternoon held by DRDO's Dr VK Saraswat, Chief Controller R&D (Missiles & Strategic Systems) at which he announced that India would have a two-layered fully integrated ballistic missile defence system in place three years from now. This would arise from the full integration of the PAD and AAD systems through integrated trials that will begin this year of the endo and exo-atmospheric variants. Two tests (one simulated and the other with a live target) of the endo-atmospheric AAD happened recently and successfully. The first fully integrated test of the missiles and their subsystems will take place in June 2008, though this has already been reported before. About four trials each of the PAD and AAD will take place before the entire system is declared operational, hopefully by 2010.

Interestingly, Saraswat has revealed that the system has already been configured to intercept cruise missiles as well, though there is still a large amount of calibration work to be done before a credible test can be carried out towards demonstrating any interception of a cruise missile.

It was revealed today that the PAD/AAD interceptor is an independent surface-to-air missile programme that began in 1998. Significant scientific talent from the Akash, Prithvi and Trishul programmes were diverted towards the BMD system, and it has been a closely guarded system since then.
So what happens to ongoing discussions on the Patriot-III? Saraswat said that the Indian BMD would be qualitatively a far superior missile to the PAC-III, considering the former's larger range and greater flexibility of deployment, though this remains to be actually seen. The recent days saw the AAD system being tested for the second time -- none of the handful of tests has failed so far. Meanwhile, all breaths held for the "make or break" Akash user trials that should begin any moment (or have they already begun? Will check.)

Post Script: More Agni-III tests in 2008, plus an interceptor against IC-range ballistic missiles, plus an Agni-IV test in 2009 (~ICBM range).

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