India has inducted the first batch of the indigenously designed and developed Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM), Akash into the Indian Air Force marking a major milestone in the development of indigenous technology in the defence sector. The Akash Weapon System has been indigenously developed by DRDO as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme and is an all-weather, medium-range, system providing multi-directional and multi-target area defence. The missile has a launch weight of 720 kg, can carry a 55-kg payload, can fly at a speed of up to Mach 2.5 and climb up to an altitude of 18 km.
The Akash can be launched from static or mobile platforms, providing for flexibility in deployment. The system can engage manoeuvring targets such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, fighter aircraft, cruise missiles and Air-to-Surface missiles launched from helicopters. It can operate autonomously, engage and neutralise different aerial targets simultaneously. The weapon system is considered as the Indian equivalent of the ‘Patriot’. It has certain unique characteristics like high mobility, all-the-way powered flight till target interception, digitally-coded command guidance and fully automatic operation. A versatile and wholly indigenous weapon system being built by the defence PSU Bharat Dynamics Ltd, the Akash SAM systems will be the mainstay for air defence of the country up to the next two decades and even beyond.