The largest ever contract with the Indian Army has been signed by the state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) for the ‘Akash’ Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) which will be to the tune of $ 3.1 billion.‘Akash’ SAM has been developed by Defence Research and Development Orgnization (DRDO) and the Indian Army is ordering two regiments of ‘Akash’ SAM systems which include 2000 missiles, launchers, radars and ground systems.
The ‘Akash’ SAM has been on top of the priority list of the Indian Armed Forces as India seeks to protect its vital assets and installations from aerial attack. The ‘Akash’ missile has a range of 25 kilometres with a low reaction time of 15 seconds. It can shoot down aircrafts, helicopters and UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) travelling at speeds of up to 700 m/sec. The weapon system is capable of engaging targets in all weather conditions.
According to BDL, who is the principal integrator and main manufacturer of the indigenously developed missiles, the order comprises of missiles, support equipment and services. Also, this order is the highest value contract placed by the Indian Army to date and BDL is setting up facilities in Andhra Pradesh, where it has been allocated additional land, as well as in other states.
The Akash SAM has been developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). The ‘Akash’ missile systems consists of a launcher, a missile with a 25-30 kilometres range, a control center, multifunction fire control radar and supporting ground equipment. As of now, the combined order of the Indian Armed Forces for the ‘Akash’ missile system has reached about $ 5.18 billion since the Indian Air Force had also placed an order to the tune of $ 222.20 million besides the Indian Army order.
As per the plan, BDL will make 500 Akash missiles per year and the first batch for the Indian Army will roll out by September 2012. While BDL will be the main integrator for the Indian Army’s order for ‘Akash’ SAM, state-owned Bharat Electricals Limited (BEL), based in Bangalore, will be the main integrator of the ‘Akash’ SAM for the Indian Air Force order. According to the Indian Defence Minister A.K Anthony, the order is being split between two-state-run companies to create a healthy competition.
As far as India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme goes, the DRDO has developed ‘Agni’ long range missile, various versions of ‘Prithvi’ medium range missiles and is about to complete the anti-tank missile ‘Nag’. The ‘Akash’ missile system is the latest to complete all user trials and enter the production and induction phase.