Air Defence is one of the most important concepts related to the defence of a nation. It is not possible to protect a country without having full control over its national airspace. The presence of airspace superiority gives that particular nation superiority not only in its national defence but also in projecting power in the neighborhood. It is one of the reasons why India begin programs in the late 80’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Program under which the plan was to develop a Short-range low-level surface-to-air missile called Trishul and a Medium range surface-to-air missile called Akash.

Trishul was India’s first full indigenous short-range surface-to-air missile that was tested in the unguided mode for the first time in mid-1985 and later it was followed by testing of the Akash missile begin 5 years later in 1990. Both missile programs were tediously slow and suffered from poor funding and lack of technical experience that the first ten years in both the program was classified as Developmental flights due to lesser success and many failures in the trials.

Things started to change for the Akash Program after 2005 when it had more successful intercepts than missies but the adamant user (Army and Air force) ensure that developmental trials went for few more years before all the technical niggles were fixed to the satisfaction of the user before orders started following initially in smaller numbers later in sizeable numbers. The same was not true for the Trishul program that continued to suffer from major technical issues due to which it was later converted into a technological demonstrator program and finally closed in 2008.

Nearly two decades’ worth of success and failure ensured that India’s DRDO had developed technological know-how and desired manpower in the country that can be engaged for the development of the new range of surface to the air missile system and it was also ready for taking up new projects even though it had only one successful project at hand that went into production.

LR-SAM or also called MR-SAM is the co-developed, Indo-Israeli air defense system developed for the Army and Air force with a range of 70km that gave DRDO further confidence to develop after had begins testing in 2015 in India. DRDO started working on Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile (QRSAM) to meet the Indian Army’s air defense cover for its moving armored columns that were first tested in 2017 and have completed its developmental trials and wait for production orders.

An improved variant of the Akash missile called Akash-1S with an indigenous seeker was later tested in 2019 that improved the single-shot kill probability of the missile further and kept the missile system technically advance.

2021 saw the first flight trial of the Akash – New generation, a medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile defense system with improved range and mobility that DRDO says was tested in the full production configuration and will be ready for production in the next two years. 2021 also saw the first trial of Vertical Launch – Short Range Surface to Air Missile, or VL-SRSAM this is based on the Astra air to air missile that already has been tested twice. VL-SRSAM is developed for the Indian Navy’s requirement for Point Air Defence System for its Frontline Warships and DRDO plans to start trials from warships from 2022 onwards. IAF is also interested in Truck-mounted VL-SRSAM that might be tested in 2022.

Future Air Defence

DRDO is working on XR-SAM (eXtended Range Surface to Air Missile) that will have a range of 350km. XR-SAM will be S-300 Class long-range air defense missile system that will be supplementing the Russian S-400 in neutralizing targets beyond its airspace. Developmental trials of the XR-SAM might begin by end of 2021 or 2022.

Very Short Range Air Defence System (VSHORAD) is another air defense missile program that DRDO is currently working on. DRDO’s VSHORAD will be replacing vintage IGLA shoulder-fired air defence systems in Army and Air Force and as per media reports, they are also plans to mount them on Warships, Trucks, and armored vehicles. previous reports ,confirm that the missile fabrication already has begun and it is likely the missile will be tested soon in the coming months.

Akash Program and Trishul Program lay the foundation for the Air Defence Umbrella that India has built today on its own. Air Defence Missile development has accelerated post-2005 and is now heading towards complete independence or need for imported Air Defence Missile System.

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