On November 2, 2022, India’s DRDO successfully tested the AD-1 interceptor missile, one of two interceptor missiles in the country’s Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Phase 2 system. The AD-2 interceptor missile is still in development.
The AD-1 “is propelled by a two-stage solid motor and equipped with an indigenously developed advanced control system, navigation and guidance algorithm to precisely guide the vehicle to the target,” according to the PIB release announcing the test.
The AD-1 is a long-range interceptor missile designed for both low exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric interception of long-range ballistic missiles and aircraft.
“During the flight test, all the sub-systems performed as per expectations and were validated by the data captured by several range sensors including Radar, Telemetry, and Electro-Optical Tracking stations deployed to capture the flight data,” read the release.
The aerodynamic surfaces for manoeuvring on the missile’s second stage can be seen in the PIB photo. Aerodynamic surfaces are only useful for manoeuvring through the atmosphere. Thrusters are required for exo atmospheric manoeuvring.
With its limited exo-atmospheric capability, the AD-1 could intercept ballistic missiles with a range of approximately 3,000 kilometres. The AD-2, which is likely to be a pure exoatmospheric interceptor, would handle higher-flying, longer-range missiles.
The AD-1 and AD-2 can shoot down ballistic missiles with a range of up to 5,000 kilometres.
Phased Development Of BMD System
The DRDO is developing India’s BMD system in two stages as part of a capability-based deployment strategy. The DRDO developed a system for defence against missiles with less than a 2,000-kilometer range, such as Pakistan’s Ghauri and Shaheen missiles and China’s solid-fuel Dongfeng-21, in the first phase, which was completed (NATO designation: CSS-5).
BMD Phase 2 can defend against missiles with ranges of more than 2,000 kilometres, as well as decoys or manoeuvres.
Longer-range missiles climb higher on a ballistic trajectory and hit the target at much faster speeds than shorter-range missiles. ICBM warheads can reach speeds twice as fast as intermediate-range missiles in their final phase.
Longer-range radars (detection range of 1,500 kilometres as opposed to 600 kilometres for Phase 1 radars) and hypersonic interceptor missiles flying at Mach 6-7 (as opposed to Mach 4-5 for Phase 1 missiles) with agility and the ability to discriminate against ballistic missile defence countermeasures will be included in the Phase 2 system.
Phase 1 Radar
DRDO is developing an Over The Horizon (OTH) radar for Phase 2, based on the Swordfish radar acquired from Israel. Israel will provide some equipment and consultancy for the new radar, which would feature 80% indigenous components.
Missile Testing Infrastructure For BMD Phase 2 System
Phase 2 testing of the BMD system necessitates the use of two ranges spaced widely apart along the missile trajectory. The DRDO is building two new missile ranges in Andhra Pradesh: Machilipatnam and Rutland Island in the Andamans.
The missiles would be launched from a floating test range (FTR), a 10,000-ton displacement ship that is currently being built.
A DRDO scientist stated that the FTR “will pave the way for conducting trials for different trajectories, varying altitudes and higher ranges. We can go up to 1,000-1,500 kilometers without any problem. Currently, we have to conduct simulation tests for longer ranges.”
A missile-range instrumentation ship would track missile trajectory (MRIS). The Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) Visakhapatnam-built ship has already been handed over to the Indian Navy for operational use.
The MRIS is equipped with an X-Band primary AESA radar as well as an S-Band secondary AESA radar.
Surface and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, as well as any manoeuvrable warheads released by the missiles, can be tracked by the tracking radars.
Another MRIS for tracking cruise missiles is being built at Cochin Shipyard.