NEW DELHI Mar. 1: In yet another step towards an operational two-tier ballistic missile defence (BMD) system, India on Wednesday tested a low-altitude interceptor missile to destroy an incoming ballistic missile over the Bay of Bengal.
DRDO on February 11 had tested a high-altitude interceptor missile as part of the experimental BMD system, which is designed to track and destroy ballistic missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere for a higher "kill" probability.
While last month's test involved the "exo-atmospheric" interceptor missile hitting the target at an altitude of 97-km, the test-firing on Wednesday was against an incoming missile at 15-km altitude.
Defence officials of India said the interceptor missile fired from the Abdul Kalam Island (Wheeler Island) off Odisha coast "successfully destroyed" the incoming "enemy" Prithvi missile, which was launched from the integrated test range at Chandipur, at 10.15 am.
"All the mission objectives were successfully met. The weapon system radars tracked the target and provided the initial guidance to the interceptor which could precisely home on to the target and destroyed it in the endo-atmospheric layer. The complete event including the engagement and destruction was tracked by a number of electro-optical tracking systems using infrared imagery. Radars and telemetry stations tracked the target and the interceptor till the destruction of the target," said the defence ministry, in a statement.
The long-delayed BMD system, which requires an overlapping network of early-warning and tracking sensors, reliable command and control posts, land and sea-based batteries of advanced interceptor missiles, will take at least another two years to become ready for deployment to protect a city or strategic installation.
Development of this two-layered missile shield began in late-1990s, with the first interceptor missile being tested in 2006.
The system has been tested over 10 times till now, with at least three of the tests failing. Moreover, it has not been tested so far in an integrated mode, with both exo and endo interceptor missiles together, which will be the real challenge. Only the US, Russia, Israel and China have operational BMD systems as of now.
The ongoing testing of the Phase-I of the indigenous BMD system, with interceptors flying at 4.5 Mach high-supersonic speeds to intercept enemy missiles, is meant to tackle hostile missiles with a 2,000-km strike range. The Phase-II, in turn, will be geared for taking on 5,000-km range missiles, with interceptors at hypersonic speeds of 6-7 Mach.(TOI)
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