LR-SAM's big test this month

Issue: 4 / 2013 August 19, 2013 By SP's Special Correspondent Photo(s): By IAI, SP's Special Correspondent

The Indian Navy is waiting with baited breath for this system, and finally there could be good news. The Indo-Israeli long-range surface-to-air missile (LR-SAM) programme will take a big leap forward this month with the first fully integrated test to be conducted in Israel in the presence of officials from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as well as IAI.

While the LR-SAM (Called Barak 8 in Israel) was first tested in 2010, it has undergone a phased series of trials that have included unguided firings, systems tests, simulated tests, navigation tests and endgame engagement trials, all with mixed degrees of success. This month's test is understood to be the first in which the end user configuration will be tried for the first time. Recent reports in the Israeli media suggest that Israel will be looking to integrate the LR-SAM on its Sa'ar 5-class corvettes principally based on a threat perception from Russian-built Yakhont anti-ship missiles deployed by Syria. It is known, however, that the missile system is not operational yet, and that integration may be towards testing routines rather than deployment.

According to available information, the LR-SAM onboard frontline Indian vessels, will be housed in four vertical launch units (VLUs), each housing eight missiles, on each of the three Project-15A destroyers and seven Project-17A stealth frigates. The combat suites of both vessel classes will be built to operate with the Elta EL/M-2248 MF-STAR In 2010, DRDO scientists visited Israel for the missile's first test flight. The dual-pulse smokeless solid rocket motor propelled missile is being built with an effective range of 70-km and a ceiling of 16-km.

The missile's high agility is being provided by a tungsten jet vane system for thrust vector control and a highly evolved electro-pneumatic control actuation system. Following fresh interest evinced by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army, the dual-mode guided weapon (GPS + data link for midcourse guidance/seeker for terminal homing) will be deployable on mobile launchers as well. The weapon system can engage 12 targets with 24 missiles. It is this ground-launched variant that has been most visible at defence exhibitions around the world in the last two years.

While DRDO labs produce the propulsion rocket system, thrust vector system and certain other components, Israel builds the heart of the LR-SAM—the seeker, endgame avionics and electronics, technologies that have independently matured in India in the AAD and Akash programmes. With a 70-km range, the LR-SAM is likely to be fielded to the militaries of Israel and India in the next two years. It will begin by arming the Project 17(A) frigates and the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier.