The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing its new next-generation anti-radiation missile (aka Rudram) very shortly. It is a tactical, air-launched missile that detects enemy radar positions, seeks and destroys them.
The new missile from the DRDO stable, fired from an aircraft about 100-250 km from the target, will detect the enemy projectile, home on to it, and destroy it. The destruction of radar systems will blind the enemy, making it easier for the IAF to attack other targets.
The Rudram, named after Shiva and literally meaning “remover of sorrows” — this is what the department told reporters though the word conveys several other senses — previously referred to as DRDO Anti-Radiation Missile (ARM) or new generation anti-radiation missile (NGARM) is an air-to-surface anti-radiation missile. It is primarily meant for suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD), that can be launched from a range of altitudes with large standoff distance for destroying enemy surveillance radars, tracking and communication systems.
The NGARM can be fired from IAF fighters — the Sukhoi-30 MKI as well as Mirage-2000. It is accurate and can track a radar system even if it is not operating.
The NGARM is yet another missile being readied. While several launches have happened, today’s launch, if successful, will then allow for its serial production, placing it in the arsenal of the armed forces. The launch comes in the wake of the recent successful launches of the strategic long-range Agni-P and the tactical surface to surface Pralay missiles.
Rudram 1 is the first anti-radiation missile to be developed in India. It will be jointly produced by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) after trials and introduction.
Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) is the primary agency which carried out the design and development of Rudram along with the Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (DLRL), High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL), Research Centre Imarat (RCI) and Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL). Many subsystem level developmental works were outsourced to private sector players.
Software Development Institute of the IAF helped in the integration of DRDO ARM with Sukhoi Su-30MKI while the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Nasik Division did the AKU-58 launcher modification which undertook extensive wind-tunnel tests at National Trisonic Aerodynamic Facilities (NTAF) division of National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Bengaluru.
Rudram 1 has a range of 100–250 km, which is made to be integrated with Sukhoi Su-30MKI as its primary test platform, although can be used with Dassault Mirage 2000, SEPECAT Jaguar, HAL Tejas and HAL Tejas Mark 2/MWF in future. According to the then Director of Research Centre Imarat (RCI), G. Satheesh Reddy, the missile will feature a millimetre wave seeker (mmW) transmitting on frequencies of 30 Gigahertz (GHz) and above while capable of lock-on before launch and lock-on after launch modes.
Mid-course guidance of this DRDO missile is accomplished through inertial navigation system (INS) combined with GPS/NavIC satellite guidance through digital filtering as fall back to correct accumulated errors and a passive homing head (PHH) seeker which is developed by DLRL that can detect radiofrequency emissions from 100 km away. PHH is a wide-band receiver system operating within the D band to the J band frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum. Its compact front-end structure is due to the use of monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) technology for the identification of radiation-emitting sources.
The missile is a single-stage, approximately 5.5 m in length and 600 kg of weight with a cruciform wing surface to increase high manoeuvrability and to give constant aerodynamic characteristics similar to Astra BVRAAM. It uses a pre-fragmented warhead with an optical proximity fuze and is powered by a dual-pulsed solid rocket motor made by Premier Explosives Limited (PEL) under technology transfer from DRDO.
The dual-pulsed solid rocket motor produces variable thrust within a range of 0.6 to 2 Mach that reduces the overall reaction time while widening the targeting envelope as well as the engagement capability. DRDO ARM can target mobile integrated air-defence systems as well as radar stations that shut down to avoid detection.
Development had begun by April 2012 at Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL). The project was officially approved in December 2012 with a budget of Rs 317.2 crore (equivalent to Rs 508 crore or US$67 million in 2020) with project completion by 2017. The feasibility studies were done during the period 2012-2013 with the aim is to develop a fully indigenous tactical, anti-radiation capable missile for the IAF, which is comparable to AGM-88E AARGM, MAR-1, Kh-31P and better than Martel or Kh-25MP.
From 2014, the development of missiles picked up the interest of the IAF. As of 2014, missile design and hardware development are in progress with the first successful flight trial to happen before the year 2017.
The IAF was initially very concerned with the higher weight and shorter range of the new missile compared to the western ones due to the use of bulky Russian made radio frequency (RF) seekers. IAF at the same time was also negotiating with the US for 1,500 AGM 88E which IAF was planning to induct in the next five years. The technologies that were developed by DRDO for NGARM are a wide-band passive seeker, milli-metric wave active seeker, radome for the seekers and dual-pulsed propulsion system which are mostly lessons learnt during the development of Astra and Barak 8.
The Captive Flight Trial–1 (CFT–1) of DRDO ARM was completed on April/May 2016 by No. 20 Squadron of IAF which checked the performance of seeker, navigation and control system, structural capability and aerodynamic vibrations while the Drop Flight Trial (DFT) was completed by December 2016 with the missile released by Sukhoi Su-30MKI at a speed of 0.8 Mach, from 6.5 km altitude.
Another carriage flight test was carried out to check mechanical/electrical integration as well as software interfacing of the missile before the maiden flight on 18 January 2018, where the missile was successfully flight-tested for the first time on parameters such as auto-launch sequence, store separation, control guidance, aerodynamics, thermal batteries, airframe and propulsion without a seeker which were all proven successful.
On 25 January 2019, NGARM was fired from a Sukhoi Su-30MKI over the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Odisha that hit the designated target with a high degree of accuracy. The missile achieved an accuracy within 10 m CEP covering a range of 100 km. The developmental test proved the performance of the seeker, structural integrity of the missile, correct functioning of navigation and control system while validating aerodynamic capability. The missile can strike at distances double the intended range depending upon the altitude. NGARM will further undergo a series of carriage and release flight trials to check the performance of seekers against a different range of targets.
Next trials during the period of July to August 2019 will be conducted initially to check the performance of indigenous passive seekers developed by DLRL with a further test for an active seeker at a later stage. While the crucial sensor technology is yet to be fully mastered by DRDO, the IAF wants fast track development of NGARM due to the urgent requirements of the newer anti-radiation missile. NGARM developmental trials will resume from 2020 after a gap of two years.
The DRDO Anti-Radiation Missile or NGARM now officially named Rudram-1 was successfully test-fired from Integrated Test Range (ITR), Balasore on 9 October 2020. DRDO is planning a final test flight by tomorrow before moving Rudram-1 for serial production from 2022.
Induction, future development
The DRDO plans to make the missile a part of the IAF by 2022 after conducting six to seven more tests. The missile’s passive homing head can detect, classify and engage targets over a wide band of frequencies as programmed.
DRDO is planning to bring further software improvements to handle a larger variety of targets under various operational conditions while developing a separate ground-based variant to be launched from mobile launcher.