Missile Desginer

Discussion in 'Indian Air Force' started by Abhi9, Jan 23, 2013.

  1. Abhi9

    Abhi9 Regular Member

    Aug 25, 2012
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    Missile designer

    With several successful missile launches and many more in the pipeline, the DRDL has firmly established itself as the country’s premier technology laboratory.

    May 10, 2005: Prahlada, the then DRDL Director, with the HSTDV model. He is one of the architects of the hypersonic vehicle.
    The Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad, is a facility where thick scrub jungles coexist with cutting-edge technologies. As you drive around the DRDL’s vast campus, every couple of hundred metres or so you see signboards that announce “Project Astra Complex”, “Hypersonic Shock Tunnel”, “Engineering and Fabrication Facility”, “Hall of Missile Technology”, “Advanced Composites Centre”, “Vertical Test Facility”, and so on. In a clearing in the thick scrub jungle are two simple, shed-like structures. And in these prosaic-looking structures, work on advanced technology is under way. There is an air of quiet confidence and expectation about the young team working in one of the two structures on the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle’s (HSTDV) scramjet engine. The DRDL, which falls under the Defence Research and Development Organisation, is planning to conduct a flight trial of the HSTDV by the end of July at a speed greater than Mach 6, that is, over six times the speed of sound.

    “Hypersonic technology is very, very complex. We have done a lot of tests on the ground. We are planning to have the first test [of the HSTDV] by the middle of 2013,” said A.K. Chakrabarti, Director, DRDL. The HSTDV will employ a propulsion system called scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) and use hydrogen as fuel. The main aim of the trial is to test the vehicle’s scramjet propulsion. In a vehicle or missile that employs a scramjet engine, air flows into the combustion chamber at hypersonic speed when the vehicle is flying at more than Mach 6. The combustion—the ignition of the engine—takes place at supersonic speed. In simple terms, scramjet is air-breathing propulsion at very high speeds. “We use the oxygen from the atmosphere, so the missile is lighter and will have a longer range. The technology is still being attempted by several countries,” said Chakrabarti.

    DRDO Director-General V.K. Saraswat, who is the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, called scramjet engine propulsion “a niche technology being pursued by the DRDO today.”

    The technology

    At the Scramjet Facility, what greets the visitor is a maze of pipes and wires going all around the engine. The young team working on the indigenous scramjet engine comprises DRDL scientists A. Raju, head of the Liquid Propulsion Division; P. Satya Prakash, team leader of the scramjet engine project; and Vikrant Satya; and A. Rolex Ranjit.

    “We have done the ground tests. We have completed the testing of the full-scale scramjet combustion engine. The final hardware is getting ready for the flight. This is a highly classified technology,” Raju said. Cruise missiles use scramjet engines. Satya Prakash listed the advantages that accrue from using a scramjet engine. Counter-measures will be difficult against missiles flying at hypersonic speeds. Rolex Ranjit is proud that “this technology will give us a global reach in targeting places and striking them because of its speed”.

    On May 7, 2008, after the successful launch of the Agni-III missile from Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast, Saraswat, who was then DRDO’s Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems), said: “The HSTDV project, through which we want to demonstrate the performance of a scramjet engine at an altitude of 15 to 20 km, is on. Under this project, we are developing a hypersonic vehicle that will be powered by a scramjet engine. This is dual-use technology, which when developed, will have multiple civilian applications. It can be used for launching satellites at low cost. It will also be available for long-range cruise missiles of the future” ( The Hindu, May 9, 2008).


    A.K. Chakrabarti, Director, DRDL, Hyderabad.
    What has made the HSTDV team gung-ho about the vehicle’s flight is that its aerodynamic configuration design has been completed. The development tests with the scramjet engine have also been done. The flight trial will be done in vehicle configuration.

    While several countries are working on scramjet engine technology, the United States is the frontrunner, having already conducted three flights of X-43 A in November 2004 with hydrogen as fuel. In August 2012, the U.S. conducted three more flight trials of X-51A, which used a hydrocarbon fuel-based (kerosene) engine. France has a hypersonic missile programme called LEA and it is expected to take off this year. Brazil, Japan, South Korea and China are working on the scramjet engine technology.


    (From left) Scientists A. Raju, P. Satya Prasad and A. Rolex Ranjit with the scramjet engine at the DRDL. These engines will propel the HSTDV.
    The DRDL, Chakrabarti said, “is a systems development laboratory” and he is proud that its “range is quite broad”. The DRDL forms part of the DRDO’s missile complex of three facilities in Hyderabad. The other two are the Advanced Systems Laboratory and the Research Centre Imarat. The DRDL is the oldest among the three laboratories and has developed a range of missiles from the anti-tank Nag to the submarine-launched K-15. Among the spectrum of missile technologies that the DRDL has developed are the all-important image processing technology for Nag, the complex technology of launching K-15 from under water involving a manned platform (submarine), the liquid ramjet technology to be used in the Akash missile, and the scramjet combustion engine for the HSTDV.

    “Today, the DRDL has several strong products,” said Atul Sen, Head, Knowledge Management Centre, DRDL. Agni, Prithvi, Akash and Nag come under India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), which got under way in 1983. The other two are the indigenous Astra, the air-to-air missile, and the Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LR-SAM) developed in collaboration with Israel. Agni has five variants—I, II, III, IV and V—and there are Prithvi-I and II and Dhanush, the naval version. Astra underwent three successful flight trials in a ground-to-air mode in December 2012 and is all set to be launched from an aircraft, most probably the Sukhoi-30, this year. The LR-SAM has undergone several flight trials in Israel and its production will begin in Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad, by the year-end.

    A shining star

    Chakrabarti said: “Our investment in Akash, right from the project’s inception, is only Rs.500 crore. But the Indian Air Force and the Army have placed orders for Akash for Rs.25,000 crore. A single weapon system has generated so much business.” He quoted a defence analyst as saying that business of Rs.1 lakh crore would be generated in the next 10 years from the production of various indigenous missiles. “There will be huge business for our industry. They will be buying new machinery and setting up plants. Akash going into production will help not only our armed forces but a large number of our industries.” Akash will be useful to protect India’s coastline.

    Akash uses an indigenous ramjet technology engine, which runs on solid fuel. “The ramjet technology in our country has been established with Akash,” said Sen. In ramjet technology, the missile takes oxygen from the atmosphere and rams it inside the combustion chamber. Since the missile does not carry oxygen in its tanks, it makes the missile lighter. Hence, it can carry more propellants and thus travel longer distances. Akash is a two-stage missile, with the booster motor in the first and the sustainer motor in the second. The launcher for Akash is a tracked vehicle and each launcher can carry three missiles. Akash is deployed in four batteries at a time and each battery has four launchers with a total of 12 missiles. The launch platform can swivel 360 degrees. The missile control centre will decide which launcher should fire at the target.

    Akash is backed by the state-of-the-art Rajendra radar, developed by the Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), a DRDO facility situated in Bangalore. Rajendra boasts an electronic scanning array that can perform different functions: it can maintain surveillance over the sky, and search, spot and track a target.

    Ramjet technology

    “The future is in the ramjet propulsion system,” said Sunita Devi Jena, one of the key engineers working at the DRDL’s Ramjet Test Facility. “The duration of the propulsion is longer if you use a ramjet engine. So you can have a longer range,” she said. Cruise missiles normally use this propulsion system and BrahMos, India’s supersonic cruise missile, is powered by a ramjet engine in its second stage.

    These engines come in two main categories —those that use solid fuel and those that consume liquid propellants. Ramjet engines normally use fuel-rich propellants (the fuel is deficient in oxygen) and takes oxygen from the atmosphere. “Akash, with a solid ramjet engine, is under production. We are developing liquid ramjet technology so that missiles in future will be based on it,” she said.


    Scientist Sunitha Devi Jena.
    The DRDL has developed Nag, the third-generation fire-and-forget anti-tank missile. It is a top-attack weapon. The missile attacks the enemy tank from the top—it dives into the tank, ripping it apart. Nag has an infrared seeker, which captures the image of the enemy tank and enables it to home in on it. “Very complex processing is involved to get the image of the enemy tank. The all-important image processing technology has been established in Nag. We are working on a better seeker with a new technology,” said Chakrabarti. Nag is fired from ground-based launchers.

    Image processing is essential for Nag because it is difficult to identify tanks in the conditions that prevail in India, especially in desert surroundings. Summer afternoons present the most difficult conditions. In the Indian context, dust also poses a big problem in image processing. When the temperature is high, the image clarity suffers. “We have improved its image processing. Final trials are on for acceptance of Nag” by the Army, he said.

    Another version is the elegantly named Helina. It is a portmanteau term for helicopter and Nag and the missile is launched from helicopters. Some tests of Helina have been conducted and the results are quite encouraging.

    The next in line is Astra, the air-to-air missile, whose development trials were completed in December 2012. On Saraswat’s insistence, the Astra of yore, which weighed 300 kg, has been totally reconfigured now. It is now a sleek and trim-looking missile, weighing under 170 kg and is about four metres long. It can travel at supersonic speed and intercept enemy aircraft and destroy it in head-on or tail-chase mode. Three successful flight trials of Astra in ground-to-air mode took place on December 21, 22 and 24, 2012. While two flight trials took place against an electronic target, in the third, Astra destroyed Lakshya, a pilotless target aircraft. These trials have paved the way for its test-launch from an aircraft in 2013.

    “It is ready for air-to-air launch,” said S. Venugopal, Project Director, Astra, on December 24. A young team of DRDO engineers, aged between 25 and 35, was behind Astra’s three consecutive successes. They “struck a balance between the stability, controllability and agility of the missile, its vehicle dynamics, control algorithms and on-board technology”, Venugopal said.

    In Chakrabarti’s analysis, the DRDL had now understood Astra’s dynamics in air. A lot of data had been collected. “After we develop the systems thoroughly, we will fire it from the aircraft,” he said. Ultimately, the Sukhoi-30 MKI, the Mirage and the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas will be armed with Astra.

    A low-profile collaborative project between India and Israel that is fully under way is the LR-SAM. It is a high-performance, long-range missile that can be launched from ships and land. A number of flight trials of the LR-SAM have been conducted in Israel. While the DRDO will make the propulsion system, the actuation system and the seeker, Israel will come up with the avionics and other electronic systems. Israel will transfer the LR-SAM technology to India, and Bharat Dynamics will start producing the missile from the year-end. Another joint project with Israel is the Medium Range-Surface-to-Air Missile (MR-SAM).

    The DRDL is working on several materials such as composites that go into the making of a missile. In the DRDL scientists’ assessment, material technology is the most difficult to develop. The materials should be light but strong for the missile to have a larger range. They should be able to withstand high temperatures, retain their mechanical strength and bear aerodynamic loads. They should be able to withstand forces. Welding technology plays an important role in these materials. These composites are needed not only for the casings of rocket motors, to make them lighter, but also for the re-entry vehicles of strategic missiles such as the Agni series.

    Another missile that is engaging DRDL scientists’ attention is the air-to-surface missile. It is on the drawing board. It can target enemy radars, ammunition dumps, air strips, and so on.

    “There are requirements from the armed forces for a number of missiles,” said Chakrabarti. “In these missiles, there will be several commonalities in propulsion, seeker, computer, etc. We are trying to develop modules that can be used in different missiles. A number of such missiles are in the pipeline. This is a nice development.”
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  3. Abhi9

    Abhi9 Regular Member

    Aug 25, 2012
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