Over the last one and half months, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has conducted at least 12 tests of missiles or systems for missiles belonging to a vast spectrum of ranges and purposes. Some more tests are said to be in the pipeline. These tests have taken place at the time when there is an ongoing stand-off between the Indian and Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region.
A look at arguably one of the most action packed times for the DRDO, what goes into conducting these tests, what its means in terms of strategic posturing in the context of the stand-off along the LAC, and how COVID-19 restrictions played a role in it.
What are the various tests that the DRDO conducted recently?
On September 7, the DRDO successfully flight tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), which is an unmanned scramjet vehicle with a capability to travel at six times the speed of sound. The flight test of the vehicle is looked at as a boost to the development of the systems built with hypersonic vehicles including both offensive and defensive hypersonic cruise missiles and also in the space sector. The test was conducted at the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Launch Complex at Wheeler Island, off the coast of Odisha.
On September 22, a flight test of Abhyas, a High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT), was conducted from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) Balasore in Odisha when two demonstrator vehicles were test flown. Abhyas has been developed to be used as a target for evaluation of various missile systems.
In another test on September 22, the Laser-Guided Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) was test fired from Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun at a field range in Maharashtra where it hit a target at a 3-km range. The test was repeated for a slightly longer range on October 1. Laser Guided ATGM is a boost to the Armoured Warfare capabilities.
On September 24, a successful night flight test of nuclear capable Prithvi-II missile with a range of around 400 kilometres was tested at the ITR. The test was executed by the Strategic Forces Command of India and monitored by the DRDO and other defence forces.
On September 30, BrahMos surface-to-surface supersonic Land-Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) featuring an indigenous booster and airframe section along with many other ‘Made in India’ sub-systems was flight tested from ITR. On October 17, the Naval version of the BrahMos was successfully test fired from Indian Navy’s indigenously-built stealth destroyer INS Chennai, hitting a target in the Arabian Sea.
On October 3, DRDO tested another nuclear capable missile Shaurya, which is a land-based version of the Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile Sagarika or K-15 with a range of around 800 km.
On October 5, DRDO tested the Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) system. It’s an indigenously developed mechanism by which the torpedo is launched from an existing supersonic missile system — by making complex modifications — which takes the torpedo to a much longer range than its own.
On October 9, India’s first indigenous anti-radiation missile named Rudram, developed for the Air Force (IAF), was successfully flight tested from a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet off the east coast.
After the series of successful trials, a flight test of intermediate range cruise missile on October 12, reported a snag and had to be aborted.
On October 19, the DRDO conducted a test of Stand-Off Anti Tank Missile (SANT) off the coast of Odisha.