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India has recently granted Acceptance of the Necessity for the development of Long-Range Surface-to-Air Missiles (LR-SAM) under Project Kusha, a significant move to bolster the country’s air defence capabilities. While the formal acceptance took place last month, the program has been in development for several months, reflecting India’s commitment to indigenous defence technologies.

The LR-SAM system aims to deploy advanced missiles capable of detecting and neutralizing a wide array of threats, including stealth fighters, aircraft, drones, cruise missiles, and precision-guided munitions. The system is designed to have a range of up to 350 km, providing an extensive defensive shield against aerial threats.

Under Project Kusha, the LR-SAM system will be a mobile platform equipped with long-range surveillance and fire control radars. It will feature multiple interceptor missiles designed to engage hostile targets at different ranges, including 150 km, 250 km, and 350 km. The versatility of the LR-SAM system makes it a potent defence mechanism against a variety of airborne threats.

The initial interceptor missile, codenamed M1, is already in the fabrication phase. It is based on the existing Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MR-SAM) air defence system, developed jointly by India and Israel. However, the M1 variant incorporates an additional booster stage, enabling it to engage targets at distances of up to 150 km. Testing for the first phase of the M1 interceptor missile of the LR-SAM program is expected to commence in late 2024 or early 2025. The extensive fabrication process is underway, with more than a dozen missiles in production.

The subsequent phases of the LR-SAM program include the M2 and M3 interceptor missiles. The M2, with a codename suggesting a longer range of 250 km, is based on a new design while borrowing some components from the M1. The M3, the final interceptor missile in the series, utilizes missile structures from the existing Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) interceptor missile. It is optimized for targeting long-range aerial threats beyond 350 km, including force multiplier platforms like Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS), in-flight refuelling aircraft, and signals intelligence or electronic warfare platforms.

Project Kusha represents a crucial step in India’s pursuit of cutting-edge air defence capabilities, showcasing the nation’s commitment to developing indigenous defence technologies to safeguard its airspace against evolving threats.

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