India Tests Supersonic Advanced Air Defense Missile

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On Sunday, India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) tested an indigenously developed supersonic interceptor missile: the Advanced Air Defense (AAD) missile. The AAD is part of the first phase of India’s Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) initiative, along with the Prithvi Air Defense (PAD) missile. The Prithvi provides exoatmosphermic defense while the AAD is optimized for endoatmospheric performance.

According to Indian defense officials who spoke to the Press Trust of India, “The test was conducted to validate various parameters of the interceptor in flight mode.” Specifically, “The ‘kill’ effect of the interceptor was being ascertained by analysing data from multiple tracking sources,” according to a DRDO scientist. The test was conducted at a testing site on Abdul Kalam Island, which was formerly known as Wheeler Island.

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The AAD has been undergoing trials since 2007 and may ultimately serve as a project demonstrator. A full-scale BMD system in India will incorporate technology from both the PAD and AAD systems. The AAD interceptor is a 7.5 meter single-stage, solid fuel rocket, capable of Mach 4.5 supersonic flight. The AAD has an operational range between 150-200 kilometers and uses an inertial navigational aid system with active radar homing. So far, it has been test-launched from a transporter erector launcher (TEL).

As a short-range, ground-launched system capable of surface-to-air strikes against aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles, the AAD will see some overlap with the more advanced Russian-made S-400 Triumph anti-ballistic missile system. Earlier this month, New Delhi approved the procurement of Russian S-400 systems, becoming the second foreign buyer of the advanced surface-to-air system after China. The S-400 outperforms India’s AAD on nearly all counts, including flight speed when fitted with the upgraded 48N6 interceptor.

India’s development of a BMD system was identified as one area of possible cooperation with the United States in 2012, when then-U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said BMD cooperation would be an “an important potential area for our future cooperation.” After the United States, Russia, and Israel, India is the fourth state to indigenously develop a BMD system.

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