The Army version of the Akash missile system, valued at Rs 12,500 crore ($2.8 billion), has been cleared for induction by India’s Defense Acquisition Council (DAC).
The India military services’ combined orders of the Defense Research and Development Organization-developed Akash, including two radars, have a total worth of Rs 23,300 crore. This is an unprecedented defense order for a DRDO-developed weapons system, and the biggest order ever for DRDO’s tactical missile and radar systems.
The June 8 DAC meeting was chaired by Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony. Others in attendance included the service chiefs, Secretary Defense, Secretary Defense Production, Secretary Defense Finance, Director General of Acquisition, DRDO Chief, and the Chief of Integrated Defense Staff (CIDS).
A senior Ministry of Defense (MoD) official told AVIATION WEEK that Hyderabad-based Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) will be the system integrator and nodal production agency for the Akash Army variant. DAC had earlier cleared an Akash order worth Rs 6,500 for the Indian Air Force (IAF), with Bangalore-based Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) as its system integrator.
“We have decided to split the IAF and Army orders between BEL and BDL to encourage competition within Indian industries and also to increase the synergy between the work centers,” the official said.
BEL Chairman and Managing Director A.K. Datt told AVIATION WEEK in April that the IAF has placed missile orders for two squadrons, and BEL is soon expecting follow-up orders for four more squadrons.
The DAC had earlier approved Rs 2,800 crore worth of 3-D Surveillance-cum-Acquisition Radars, independent of the missiles, for all three services.
“Seventy radars have been ordered, each costing Rs 40 core,” the official said. In addition, the Indian Army has ordered Rs 1,500 crore of Weapon-Locating Radar, each costing Rs 50 crore.
“In the next 7-8 years, close to 100 Indian industries will benefit from these projects. The project support for the services for these systems will be there for 25 years,” the official said. “This is a big boost to Indian industries with so much of money being pumped into the Indian economy. It is a great wealth-generation opportunity, in addition to [the] creation of more jobs as a home-grown tactical missile system is finally getting on top in place of the French, Russian, British and Israeli systems. This will give DRDO the much-needed lift and the Indian industry know-how to manufacture complicated weapon systems.”
Considering that many of the current existing missile systems within the Indian armed forces are of foreign origin, DAC’s combined order is a boost to DRDO’s research and development efforts.
“The R&D cost of Rs 1,000 crore, including the project sanction of Rs 600 crore, is 8-10 times lower than the cost of similar system developments in advanced countries,” the official said. “Akash, which is considered as Indian ‘poor man’s Patriot,’ has certain unique characteristics like mobility, all-the-way-powered flight till target interception, multiple target handling, digitally-coded command guidance and fully automatic operation.”
The Akash missile systems consist of a launcher, a missile with a 25-30 km. range, control center, multifunction fire control radar and supporting ground equipment.