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The Indian Air force (IAF) has formally inducted the indigenously developed Akash Air Defence missile system into operational service during an official ceremony at the Air Force Station Gwalior.

During the ceremony, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar formally handed over the notional key of the Akash system to Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha.

Akash is a supersonic mobile multi-directional, multi-target point / area air defence system. It is capable of engaging in multiple air targets using sophisticated multi-function phased array radars.

The 5.78m-long missile is equipped with a launcher, control centre, multi-function fire control radar and supporting ground equipment. It can destroy manoeuvring targets such as unmanned aerial vehicles, fighter aircraft, cruise missiles, and other ballistic missiles launched from helicopters.

"Akash is a supersonic mobile multi-directional, multi-target point / area air defence system."

Akash is developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Bharat Electronics (Bel ) as part of the integrated guided missile development programme (IGMDP).

Moreover, the missile is designed to be launched from static or mobile platforms, including battle tanks and wheeled trucks, providing flexible deployment.

Two versions of Akash are being built for the IAF and the Indian Army (IA ). The missile is currently in operation with both IAF and army.

The IAF has ordered 1,000 Akash missiles and the IA 2,000 missiles. It was successfully test-fired in May 2012 from the Integrated Test Range (ITR ) at Chandipur, Orissa, India.

Arup Raha said that the IAF is also planning to procure additional Akash systems.

Development of the Akash projectile began in 1983 and the maiden trial firings were carried out in 1990.

Image: Akash missile being test-fired from Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur, Odisha. Photo: courtesy of Frontier India Defense and Strategic News Service.