The Indian Air Force (IAF) is reportedly set to stand up six new squadrons of the domestically manufactured Akash mid-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system in the near future.
Senior IAF officials were quoted by The Times of India as saying that the air force has already inducted two operational squadrons of the all-weather, point/area missile system.
Awarded in 2008, the contract for the existing two squadrons is worth Rs12bn ($192.6m).
An undisclosed Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) source said: "An order for six more squadrons worth around Rs35bn ($561.9m) was placed in the late 2010 and the manufacturing of the same is complete and will be delivered this year."
Currently, the air force is discussing immediate procurement of seven Akash squadrons, and is also expected to place additional orders for 49 firing units in a phased manner.
Developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation and BEL as part of the integrated guided missile development programme (IGMDP), Akash missile is an all-weather surface-to-air missile system capable of engaging aerial threats up to a distance of 25km.
Equipped with a launcher, control centre, multi-function fire control radar and supporting ground equipment, the 5.78m-long missile can destroy manoeuvring targets such as unmanned aerial vehicles, fighter aircraft, cruise missiles, and other ballistic missiles launched from helicopters.
An IAF official told the news agency: "It protects vulnerable points and vulnerable areas with a slant range of 25-30km at altitudes up to 20km."
Capable of reaching speeds of 2.5 Mach, the missile has already entered into IAF’s operational service, and is awaiting induction into the Indian Army.
Image: The Akash medium-range surface-to-air missile being test fired. Photo: courtesy of Frontier India Defense and Strategic News Service.