Apr 1, 2012 Rajat Pandit TNN
NEW DELHI: From the first test of Agni-V in a fortnight, an operational submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) by 2013 and a missile shield for Delhi by 2014 to combat drones, quick-launch micro satellites and Star Wars-like laser weapons in the coming years, DRDO promises to deliver on all fronts.
Defence Research and Development Organization, with its 51 labs, of course, often makes tall claims only to consistently overshoot timelines and cost estimates. But DRDO chief Dr V K Saraswat on Saturday, at the ongoing ''DefExpo-2012'' here, was all gung-ho about the tactical and strategic weapon systems in the pipeline.
For starters, India's most-ambitious nuclear missile, Agni-V, which classifies as an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) with a strike range of over 5,000-km, will be tested in mid-April, he said.
The three-stage Agni-V, with its advanced ring-laser gyros, composite rocket motors and highly accurate micro-navigation systems, comes close to the top American missiles in terms of technology, said Saraswat.
India will break into the exclusive ICBM club that counts just US, Russia, China, France and UK as its members, once the 50-tonne Agni-V is ready for induction by 2014-2015. The solid-fuelled missile, with a canister-launch system to impart greater operational flexibility, is crucial for India's nuclear deterrence posture since its strike envelope will be able to cover the whole of China.
Concurrently, said Saraswat, ''The K-15 SLBM is now getting ready for the final phase of induction after its two recent tests (from submersible pontoons) were successful...We have done over 10 flights of it so far.''
The 750-km-range K-15, followed by the 3,500-km K-4, will arm India's homegrown nuclear submarines. INS Arihant, which is undergoing trials now, for instance, has four silos on its hump to carry either 12 K-15s or four K-4s to complete India's long quest for ''an operational nuclear weapon triad''.
As for the two-tier ballistic missile defence (BMD) system, designed to track and destroy incoming hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere, Saraswat said its Phase-I would be completed by 2013 and Phase-II by 2016. ''We will test the exo-atmospheric interceptor at 150-km altitude this year, which will be followed by an endo-atmospheric test at 30-km altitude,'' he said.
With the Capital identified as the first city to get its protection, DRDO has also begun work to add a third tier to the BMD system to intercept cruise missiles, artillery projectiles and the like at lower altitudes, in the line with the overall aim to achieve ''near 100% kill or interception probability''.
DRDO is now also focusing on ''space security'', with special emphasis on protecting the country's space assets from electronic, or physical destruction by ''direct-ascent'' missiles, in the backdrop of China developing advanced ASAT (anti-satellite) capabilities.
Work is also in progress to develop several directed energy weapons (DEWs), including a 25-kilowatt laser system to destroy incoming missiles in their terminal stage and a 100-kilowatt solid-state laser system to take out missiles in their boost phase itself.
''We also need to build the capability to provide launch-on-demand mini or micro satellites to our armed forces for communication and navigation facilities (in the event the country's satellites being destroyed by an enemy),'' said the DRDO chief.