Friday, December 14, 2007

Ashwin: New Surface-to-Surface Missile In The Offing?

Two successful interceptor missile tests carried out by Indian scientists as part of the country's ballistic missile defence program in the first week of December has led to development of a new surface-to-surface missile that could be possibly named as 'Ashvin'.

The endo-atmospheric interceptor missile AAD, the missile used to engage the approaching 'enemy' missile at a height of around 15 kms from the surface of the earth could be used as a surface-to-surface missile in the days ahead.

The AAD, which is 7.5 mts long and has a solid rocket propeller with siliconised carbon jet vanes, has a range of over 150 kms and could achieve a maximum velocity of 1400 m/s.

The USP of this AAD is its high precision INS system, faster on board computer with advanced technologies like RF seeker, agility and the capability to launch the missile in any direction in autonomous mode.

The December tests have validated that the AAD could also be used as an Extended Range Surface-to-Air Missile, beside being used as a ballistic missile interceptor.

Dr V K Saraswat, who is the team leader of the ballistic defence programme, was also involved with the development of the India's first surface-to-surface missile Prithvi I and Pritnvi II (Dhanush).

"The AAD could be used to target aircraft," Dr. Saraswat said, adding that its successful launch has opened up a 'new era' with the development of supersonic interceptor missiles that can be used for defence against Cruise missiles.

He said that the AAD part of the missile defence programme is completely independent from surface-to-surface missile programme and that it is purely a spin off of the entire project.

Prithvi I is India's first indigenously developed tactical surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program and has already been inducted into the Army.

The single stage liquid-fuelled Prithvi I with maximum warhead mounting capability of 1000 kg has a range of 150 km. It has an accuracy of 10- 50 metres, while the AAD is precise to 0.5 mts.

Prithvi II (Dhanush) is the Air Force version of 250 kms range and capacity to carry a payload of 500kg, while Prithvi III is the naval version of 350 km range with a payload of 500 kgs.

Defending the idea of having a ballistic defence program, Dr. Saraswat said that threats of ballistic missile exists along with the proliferation of these threats, and added since India has a no first use policy, it becomes inevitable to protect the country from any future missile attack.

"The program shows the defensive position of the country and not an offensive position," he added.

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