EXCLUSIVE: Akash Mk-II SAM To Fly In Two Years

The Mark-II version of India's Akash surface-to-air missile has begun development and will be ready for a first flight in 24 months -- that's the guarantee its makers, the Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL) have given to the Air Force and Army. With orders worth Rs 23,300-crore in the bag, the Akash is the currently toast of India's missile programme. Top sources have revealed that while most of Project Akash staff is currently focused on ensuring that serial production is trouble-free, a select team of scientists and engineers has been handpicked to begin Mk-II.

The Akash Mk-II will be a longer-range, faster and more accurate SAM. Ok, now here's the low-down on the Akash Mk-II. The missile will have an intercept range of 30-35 km, or a little over 10-km more than the Mk-I version. Apart from extending range, the Mk-II project mandate will be to increase accuracy of the missile's guidance system and the fire control system, push up the missile's performance, agility, speed, efficiency and accuracy. This will involve tweaking of almost all major systems, including the missile itself, signal processors etc.

Project Akash-II has set itself a deadline of 18 months to begin simulated trials, following which it will begin a routine of development test-firings. While Mk-I cost DRDO Rs 1,000-crore to complete, the Mk-II project has taken a decision not to ask for funds unless it absolutely needs them. An interim feasibility study conducted by the laboratories concerned has shown that scientists are confident of getting the first prototype up and ready on a modest tech-dem budget extended to all follow-on programmes.

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