India’s First Indigenous Air-Launched Radar-Killing Missile Is Headed For Service

India has joined a select group of nations to indigenously develop, and now test, an air-launched radar-busting anti-radiation missile that should provide a significant boost to its air force’s air defense-suppression capabilities. The latest test launch of the weapon, which has now been named Rudram-1, took place today.

In a trial that the country’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) ran, the Rudram-1 was launched from an Indian Air Force (IAF) Su-30MKI Flanker multi-role fighter on October 9, 2020. The launch took place over the integrated test range at Balasore in the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of the eastern state of Odisha. 

In a statement, the Indian Ministry of Defence said the Rudram-1 struck a radar-emitting target located on Wheeler Island with “pinpoint accuracy,” while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated the DRDO on what he called a “remarkable achievement.”

The Rudram-1, which was previously known as the New Generation Anti-Radiation Missile (NGARM), is India’s first indigenously developed anti-radiation missile. Work on the radar-killing weapon apparently began in 2012. Previously, the IAF has relied upon foreign-made anti-radiation missiles, primarily provided by Russia.

The application of a name, Rudram-1, has been taken by Indian defense observers to mean that the missile is now on the verge of frontline service. 

The Su-30MKI launches the Rudram-1 missile over the Balasore test range., INDIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

Anti-radiation missiles like the Rudram-1 are intended to destroy enemy radars, air defense systems, and communication networks, denying them the ability to engage aerial targets. This is typically described as “knocking down the door” in the first phase of an offensive aerial campaign.

Like most weapons in its class, the Rudram-1 features a passive-homing guidance system, in which the onboard radar seeker homes in on a radiation-emitting target. “The passive homing head can detect, classify and engage targets over a wide band of frequencies as programmed,” the defense ministry said in a statement. “The missile is a potent weapon for IAF for suppression of enemy air defense effectively from large standoff ranges.”

According to Indian media reports, the new missile has a speed of Mach 2 and a range of up to 155 miles. The weapon is supposedly suitable for launch from aircraft flying at altitudes anywhere between 1,640 and 49,000 feet.

If the range figure is correct, this could mean the Rudram-1 has a significantly greater reach than the AGM-88E AARGM (Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile), which is the latest U.S.-made missile of its kind to enter service. Thought to be capable of striking targets at around 80 miles, the AARGM flies at a similar speed to the Rudram-1. It’s noteworthy, too, that the U.S. is now working on a version of the AARGM that will fly longer still, a program that The War Zone talks about in detail here.

The Russian-made Kh-31P, known to NATO as AS-17 Krypton, and which currently equips IAF Su-30MKI jets, has a reported range of around 68 miles, although it flies a good deal faster, capable of reaching around Mach 3.5.

On the other hand, some commentators in India are attributing a considerably shorter range to the new weapon, of between 62 and almost 93 miles. 

Seconds after launch, the Rudram-1 speeds away toward its target., INDIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

A report in the Hindustan Times indicates that the new missile can be locked on to a target before or after launch. A lock-on after launch (LOAL) mode would be useful especially for hitting targets at greater standoff range, offering the possibility of a pre-emptive attack on enemy radar installations from a much safer distance.

That same source gives the range of the Rudram-1’s seeker as 62 miles, which suggests that any target beyond this radius would have to be engaged using the LOAL mode. This, however, relies on the emitter’s type and its general location being known in advance, and that the hostile radar is switched on for at least some of the time during the engagement. The missile would fly out to the target using its GPS-aided inertial navigation system before its passive seeker took over.

The Indian Ministry of Defence says that, once testing is completed, the Rudram-1 will be added to the Su-30MKI’s armory. It’s not known if there are plans to add it subsequently to other aircraft, too, but the Flanker is clearly the platform of choice for new weaponry, including the Astra beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, and the air-launched version of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile.

It’s also an important addition to India arsenal given that regional rival Pakistan received the MAR-1 anti-radiation missile that was developed by the Mectron company of Brazil. Following the signature of an acquisition contract in 2008, the missile was integrated with the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF’s) upgraded Mirage III/V ground-attack fighters, but apparently not on the JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter.

As well as demonstrating a new capability to Pakistan, the test of the missile could be a signal to China, with which India is currently locked in a border dispute in Ladakh, a Himalayan border area in the Kashmir region. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the test of the Rudram-1 comes in the wake of China deploying air defense assets to that region.

After all, the Rudram-1 is not the first indigenous weapon to be tested by India in recent weeks. It follows hot on the heels of a very long-range supersonic anti-submarine missile, and a hypersonic scramjet-powered vehicle. Other weapons tested of late comprise an extended-range version of the Brahmos cruise missile, a laser-guided anti-tank missile, and the nuclear-capable Shaurya ballistic missile.

Clearly, India is not only extremely active on a host of advanced missile programs but is also especially keen to publicize its successes in a field in which it’s still a relative newcomer.

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