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Monday, October 19, 2020

Explained: Why India’s anti-radiation missile Rudram matters

What is an anti-radiation missile? How was Rudram developed? How significant are such missiles in aerial warfare? What next for Rudram?

Written by Sushant Kulkarni | Pune | Updated: October 17, 2020 8:19:12 am
The Rudram missile is launched from a Sukhoi-30 MKI.

India’s first indigenous anti-radiation missile, Rudram, developed for the Indian Air Force, was successfully flight-tested from a Sukhoi-30 MKI jet off the east coast on Friday.

What is an anti-radiation missile?

Anti-radiation missiles are designed to detect, track and neutralise the adversary’s radar, communication assets and other radio frequency sources, which are generally part of their air defence systems. Such a missile’s navigation mechanism comprises an inertial navigation system — a computerised mechanism that uses changes in the object’s own position — coupled with GPS, which is satellite-based.

For guidance, it has a “passive homing head” — a system that can detect, classify and engage targets (radio frequency sources in this case) over a wide band of frequencies as programmed. Officials said once the Rudram missile locks on the target, it is capable of striking accurately even if the radiation source switches off in between. Officials said the missile has an operational range of more than 100 km, based on the launch parameters from the fighter jet.

How was Rudram developed?

Rudram is an air-to-surface missile, designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Officials said DRDO initiated development of anti-radiation missiles of this type around eight years ago, and its integration with fighter jets has been a collaborative effort of various DRDO facilities and formations of the IAF and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. While the system has been tested from a Sukhoi-30 MKI, it can be adapted for launch from other fighter jets too.

Because the missiles are to be carried and launched from extremely complex and sensitive fighter jets, the development was full of challenges, such as development of radiation seeker technologies and guidance systems, besides integration with the fighter jet, said a DRDO scientist.

An official said the Sanskrit name Rudram was given in keeping with tradition, because it includes the letters ARM (the acronym for anti-radiation missile) and the word in Sanskrit describes a “remover of sorrows” (one of its meanings).

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How significant are such missiles in aerial warfare?

Rudram has been developed for the IAF’s requirement to enhance its Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) capability. As one of the many aspects of SEAD tactics, anti-radiation missiles are used mainly in the initial part of air conflict to strike at the air defence assets of the enemy, and also in later parts, leading to higher survivability to a country’s own aircraft. Neutralising or disrupting the operations of the adversary’s early warning radars, command and control systems, surveillance systems that use radio frequencies and give inputs for anti-aircraft weaponry, can be very crucial.

Scientists said modern-day warfare is more and more network-centric, which means it comprises elaborate detection, surveillance and communication systems that are integrated with the weapons systems.

What next for Rudram?

Rudram hit the radiation target with pinpoint accuracy, DRDO said. After the test, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted to say the test is “a remarkable achievement”.

Officials said some more flights would take place before the system is ready for induction.

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