India To Begin User Trials of Indigenous Air Defence Missile System

India plans to soon begin user trials of its own man-portable air defence missile system, designed to destroy hostile aircraft, drones and helicopters at very short ranges.

The very short-range air defence system (VSHORADS) has been developed by DRDO to neutralize low-altitude aerial threats at ranges up to 6-km.

And, it is expected to be offered for user-trials to the armed forces by April-May.

Notably, the indigenously-developed 4th generation VSHORADS is technically superior to existing MANPADS (man-portable air defence systems) in the Indian armed forces because it has a state-of-the-art uncooled imaging infrared seeker.

The upper range of the VSHORADS has been proven through a series of developmental tests.

A few more tests to prove it at ranges less than 1-km, where manoeuvring and controlling the missile becomes critical, are required.

Earlier in January 2023, the Defence Acquisitions Council, chaired by Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh had accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for procurement of the infrared homing VSHORADS missiles under design and development by DRDO at a cost of Rs 1,920 crore.

Noteworthy, once the VSHORADS successfully completes the user-trials, which will take some time, bulk production can follow.

Also, parallelly, some Indian companies are pursuing the development of “laser-beam riding VSHORADS” under a “Make-II” category project, where prototype development is funded by the industry.

The armed forces are keeping their fingers crossed. VSHORADS offer a low-cost option that can swiftly be deployed for close air defence protection of crucial assets in rugged high-altitude areas as well as in the maritime domain.

A tri-Service case for procurement of 5,175 VSHORADS and associated equipment was initiated way back in June 2009, which eventually led to the Russian shoulder-fired Igla-S anti-aircraft missile system being selected over the French and Swedish systems in the fray.

But the major project, which was to include an initial off-the-shelf purchase followed by technology transfer to Bharat Dynamics for subsequent production, did not take off.

Consequently, the Army remains critically short of such advanced man-portable air defence missiles despite heightened tensions along the northern borders with China.

As a stop-gap measure, the Army and IAF have inked some deals under emergency procurement provisions for a limited number of Igla-S MANPADS over the past three years.

The last such contract for 100 Igla-S missiles and 48 launchers was inked by the Army in May last year.

While the Army and IAF have the old Igla-1M systems since 1989, the Igla-S is an improved variant with a longer interception range of up to 6-km.