DRDO, strategic forces command shifts focus with night trials of missile tests

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The test range at the island is the only realistic location to fire the missiles after darkness as it is away

BHUBANESWAR: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and armed forces seem to have shifted their focus to night trials in case of user specific tests of its indigenously developed weapon systems, if recent missions are any indication. The DRDO and armed forces have conducted four successful night trials of both long and short range ballistic missiles, including an interceptor this year, of which three tests have been carried out in just over one month.

Though the first night trial of any Indian missile was conducted by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Army on April 12, 2014 when Agni-I was flight tested from the Kalam Island off Odisha coast at about 11, four consecutive successes this year is a great achievement for the armed forces and the premier defence organisation. Highlighting the significance of night trials, a defence official said it is essential for the personnel to have the practice of using night vision arms and ammunition.

“Our focus is to examine whether the missiles have matured as all-time, all-weather and all-terrain systems and the user has developed the practice to handle these systems accurately. The Army needed experience of night tests and these trials will help build a robust nuclear triad,” he told ‘The Express’. The official, however, assured that the armed forces would not increase the overall number of firings as it would cut back on daylight exercises. Kalam Island is the most suitable range for such tests.

The test range at the island is the only realistic location to fire the missiles after darkness as it is away from the human habitations. “Environment plays a major role for target acquisition tasks. Solar heating can significantly increase the thermal signature during day time. Since solar heating also increases the background thermal clutter, targets are often easier to be detected during night even though their thermal signature is lower in such a condition,” a defence scientist said.

In order to gauge the killing efficiency of a weapon, trials should be repeated for different environments like a clear summer day, overcast day, clear night and overcast night, he said. The DRDO and armed forces are also jointly conducting tests of weapon systems in extreme weather conditions. In July, supersonic cruise missile BrahMos was successfully test-fired from the Integrated Test Range under extreme weather conditions as part of the service life extension programme for the Army. The missile proved its efficacy and longevity despite inclement weather, flying in sea state 7 with waves as high as nine metre.

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