India’s first indigenous anti-radiation missile

The Indian Defense Ministry unveiled its most advanced military defense munition last year, the “Rudram,” which is slated to be inducted into service sometime this year.

RUDRAM (meaning “remover of sorrows”) is India’s first anti-radiation missile (ARM) developed by its Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to bolster its air defense and boost the capability of its Air Force.

Like any other ARM, Rudram primarily protects India’s air space by detecting, monitoring, and neutralizing (featuring a warhead called a “passive homing head (PHH)”) its adversary’s radar, communication, and other radio frequency source. It depends on a navigation mechanism consisting of a satellite-based GPS and a computerized inertial navigation system (INS). This PHH can detect radio frequency emission as far as 100 km away and has a wide-band receiver system operating with D band to J band frequency of the electromagnetic spectrum.

It’s an air-to-surface ARM that can be launched from a range of altitudes with a significant standoff distance—approximately 250 km, flight altitude of 500 m to 15 km, and a top speed of Mach 2. During its earlier development and testing stages, RUDRAM-1 has primarily tested using Russia’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI platform but is otherwise compatible with aircrafts such as the Dassault Mirage 2000, SEPECAT Jaguar, HAL Tejas, and HAL Tejas Mark 2/MWF.

Additionally, it features a millimeter wave seeker (mmW) that could transmit frequencies of at least 30 GHz while capable of lock-on before and after launch modes.

Dubbed as the new generation anti-radiation missile (NGARM), it measures an overall length of 5.5 m and a weight of 600 kg. Its pre-fragmented warhead weighs roughly 60 kg and uses an optical proximity fuze as its detonation mechanism. Rudram features a dual-pulsed rocket motor operating on solid fuel.

On the other hand, while both are still under development, RUDRAM-2 and -3 reportedly can reach a max speed of 350 km and 550 km, respectively. Moreover, like its first version, both -2 and -3 will outfit INS-GPS and PHH.

Following successful trials, RUDRAM will be forwarded for production in a collaboration effort by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

Updating and Upgrading Military Capabilities

For years, the Indian military has been undergoing a rebranding effort, recently gaining traction under Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s leadership, including the conception of the RUDRAM missile family.

The arrival of this indigenous NGARM is impeccable considering how India is having challenges with its neighbors China, who’s been so adamant about claiming the northern Himalayan borders, and the brewing tension with Pakistan in its eastern borders.

With RUDRAM, India now has a reliable defense system to protect its air space and strengthen its air dominance tactical capability in case the worst-case scenario happens without having to 100 percent rely on other great nations such as the United States and Russia.

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India’s defense ministry first introduced RUDRAM to the world in October 2020, following its successful testing using a Sukhoi-30 combat jet conducted on Abdul Kalam Island (formerly Wheeler Island) just off the coast of Odisha. Accordingly, the NGARM struck its radiation target reportedly with “pinpoint accuracy,” a promising result for its armed forces.

wheeler-island-india
RUDRAM successfully had its initial fire test on Wheeler Island, off the coast of Odisha, India, on October 9, 2020. (Source: Google Earth)

RUDRAM-1 comes with its own challenges, mainly how it should be carried and launched, requiring “complex and sensitive fighter aircraft,” the Financial Express reported. The difficulty in integrating this missile with an aircraft is further dragged by the fact that the Indian government’s plan to upgrade the Su-30 fighter fleet has been put on hold due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

The project first began pitched in April 2012 and was officially approved for further development in December 2012 with a budget of ₹317.2 crores (roughly $73.3 million in 2022).

The RUDRAM-1, inspired by other ARMs such as the AGM-88E, AARGM, MAR-1, Kh-31, and others, piqued the interest of the Indian Air Force in 2014, despite initial reservations about the missile’s higher weight and shorter range capacity.

Despite some testing delays for RUDRAM-1, the DRDO moved on to the conception and development stage for its two advanced versions, RUDRAM-2 and -3, with the former to enter the trial phase later this year.

RUDRAM-2 will be allegedly designed as an air-lunched ballistic missile, the Financial Express reported. The government has yet to confirm this rumor, though. Likewise, even details about the RUDRAM-3 remain a mystery despite being first reported in 2017.

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In 2017, India almost got into trouble with the US after the former country purchased the S-400 defense system from the latter’s arch nemesis, Russia.

Wanting to upgrade its armed forces and ensure that it would be capable of defending its sovereignty against its growing hostile neighbors, the Indian government ignored the sanction threats of the US and carried on with the purchase. In its defense, Modi’s government justified that acquiring such defense systems was imperative.