Successful Trial of BMD Interceptor from Naval Platform

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Context: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Navy successfully conducted a maiden flight trial of sea-based endo-atmospheric interceptor missile off the coast of Odisha in the Bay of Bengal on April 21, 2023.

Major Highlights

  • DRDO and the Indian Navy were successful in test-firing an endo-atmospheric interceptor missile, capable of taking down incoming ballistic missiles from sea.
    • Endo-atmospheric interception means the missile fired by Indian testing agencies had destroyed the incoming enemy ballistic missile within the Earth’s atmosphere. 
    • Exo-atmospheric interception, on the other hand, is for destroying incoming enemy ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere at a higher altitude.
  • The purpose of the trial was to engage and neutralize a hostile ballistic missile threat thereby elevating India into the elite club of Nations having Naval BMD (Ballistic Missile Defence) capability. 

India’s Ballistic Missile Defence capability

  • The BMDs are capable of intercepting incoming long-range nuclear missiles and hostile aircraft including AWACS (airborne warning and control systems).
  • Prior to this BMD test from a warship, India successfully demonstrated the land-based BMD system with the capability to neutralize ballistic missile threats emerging from adversaries.

In November 2022, India’s DRDO successfully conducted the maiden flight test of Phase-II of the BMD interceptor, code-named AD-1 missile, with a large kill altitude bracket. 

  • AD-1 is a long-range interceptor missile designed for both low exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric interception of long-range ballistic missiles and aircraft.
  • It is propelled by a two-stage solid motor and equipped with an indigenously developed advanced control system, navigation, and guidance algorithm to precisely guide the vehicle to the target.
  • The successful trial of AD-1 from both land-based and sea-based platforms would provide great operational flexibility to the Indian armed forces.
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Origins of the BMD Program 

  • India launched the BMD program after the war with Pakistan in the Kargil sector in 1999 to counter the enemy nation’s widening spectrum of ballistic missiles that usually delivered both conventional and nuclear warheads.
  • The two-tiered BMD program involved Prithvi missile-based Air Defense that can intercept enemy missiles at altitudes of 50 km to 180 km in the first layer. The Pradyumna interceptor has replaced the Prithvi Air Defense BMD already.
    • The Prithvi Air Defense system was first tested in 2006, then making India only the fourth nation globally to have such capabilities, after the United States, Russia, and Israel.
  • The second layer under the program is the Advanced Air Defense system for low-altitude interceptions. The Advanced Air Defense system is designed to destroy hostile missiles at 15 km to 40 km altitudes.
    • The Advanced Air Defense system got tested for the first time in 2007. Since then, both systems have gone through successive and multiple rounds of tests and are now in the process of deployment with the Indian armed forces.

India’s Other Missile Capabilities 

  • India conducted the first successful Anti-Satellite Test under its Mission Shakti project in March 2019, taking India to a league of nations such as the United States, Russia, and China possessing such a capability.
  • While the India-made Akash missile is part of the air defence systems possessed by the Indian armed forces, it is now in the process of inducting the Russian-origin S-400 Truimf, even though the Ukraine war has delayed the delivery of these air defence missiles to India.

In 2021, the Indian Navy inducted INS Dhruv, a nuclear missile tracking warship, to join an elite club of nations such as the US, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France to have such a platform. The 17,000-tonne INS Dhruv was developed by the DRDO in collaboration with the National Technical Research Organization (NTRO), and built by Hindustan Shipyard Limited. It can be used to provide early warning of attacks by ballistic missiles launched from Pakistan and China.

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