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Explained: What is the vertical launch surface to air missile that India has successfully test-fired?

The Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile (VL-SRSAM) designed for Indian Naval warships was successfully flight tested this week. What is the missile system about, its latest test and its strategic significance?

Written by Sushant Kulkarni , Edited by Explained Desk | Pune |
Updated: December 11, 2021 3:56:11 pm
VL-SRSAM has been designed and developed for deployment of Indian Naval warships.(Twitter/@DRDO_India)

The Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile (VL-SRSAM) designed for Indian Naval warships was successfully flight tested earlier this week by India for the second consecutive time since February earlier this year. What is the missile system about, its latest test and its strategic significance?

What is VL-SRSAM?

VL-SRSAM has been designed and developed jointly by three facilities of the Defence Research and Development Organisation for deployment of Indian Naval warships. The missile has the capability of neutralising various aerial threats at close ranges including sea-skimming targets. The tactic of sea skimming is used by various anti-ship missiles and some fighter jets to avoid being detected by the radars onboard warships. For this, these assets fly as close as possible to sea surface and thus are difficult to detect and neutralise.

The design of VL-SRSAM

The missile has been designed to strike at the high-speed airborne targets at the range of 40 to 50 km and at an altitude of around 15 km. DRDO officials have said its design is based on Astra missile which is a Beyond Visual Range Air to Air missile.

Two key features of the VL-SRSAM are cruciform wings and thrust vectoring. The cruciform wings are four small wings arranged like a cross on four sides and give the projective a stable aerodynamic posture. The thrust vectoring is an ability to change the direction of the thrust from its engine control the angular velocity and the attitude of the missile, an official said.

The key DRDO facilities that contributed to the development of the system are Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) and Research Centre Imarat (RCI), both from Hyderabad, and Research & Development Establishment (Engineers) based in Pune.

VL-SRSAM is a canisterised system, which means it is stored and operated from specially designed compartments. In the canister, the inside environment is controlled, thus making its transport and storage easier and improving the shelf life of weapons

The latest test and strategic significance of the missile

The test on Tuesday, December 7, was conducted from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, off the coast of Odisha. The launch was conducted from a vertical launcher against an electronic target at a very low altitude. “The flight path of the vehicle along with health parameters were monitored using a number of tracking instruments deployed by ITR, Chandipur. All sub-systems performed as per expectation.” said a press statement from the Ministry of DefenCe. In its maiden trial held on February 22, the DRDO had tested the weapon system twice.

Tuesday’s launch of the system was conducted to validate integrated operation of all weapon system components including the vertical launcher unit with controller, canisterised flight vehicle, weapon control system. The successful testing of these systems was crucial for future launches of the missile from Indian Naval Ships. The test launch was monitored by senior officials from DRDO and the Indian Navy.

A Navy veteran who has served on multiple warships during his career said, “In Naval warfare, a warship has to employ various defence mechanisms to protect itself from anti-ship missiles and adversary aircraft. One of the age-old methods is chaffs — which is a countermeasure technology used worldwide to protect naval ships from enemy’s radar and Radio Frequency (RF) missile seekers. Another method is deploying missiles to counter Anti Ship missiles. These systems have to have a swift detection mechanism, quick response, high speed and high manoeuvrability. The VL-SRSAM claims to have all these qualities. However, it will have to undergo tests in different conditions and configurations to be ready for deployment on board Indian Naval Ships.”

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