The Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) led the path to develop  technology, competence and expertise in the fields of propulsion, navigation and manufacture of Missiles in India. Author dwells on the journey—

The importance of guided missiles to the armed forces has considerably increased since these are now extensively used in land, sea and air warfare. From the giants of the Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) class to the midgets such as shoulder fired weapons, they are used in multitude of roles. India is one of the earliest countries to make and use war rockets. Though these were used in the early eighteenth century, it is only in 1980s, that the country entered in a big way, the area of guided missile development and production. Guided missiles are classified according to their range, speed, and launch, environment, mission, and vehicle type. (Refer Fig. on next page)

            The speed capability of guided missiles is expressed in Mach numbers. A Mach number is the ratio of the speed of an object to the speed of sound in the medium through which the object is moving. Under standard atmospheric conditions, sonic is about 766 miles per hour (Mach 1.0). Guided missiles are classified according to their speed as shown below:

  • Subsonic - Up to Mach 0.8
  • Transonic - Mach 1.2 to Mach 5.0
  • Supersonic - Mach 1.2 to Mach 5.0
  • Hypersonic - Above Mach 5.0

            By the start of the 1980s, the Defence research and development laboratory (DRDL) had developed competence and expertise in the fields of propulsion, navigation and manufacture of aerospace materials based on the Soviet rocketry technologies. Thus, India's political and military leadership, decided that all these technologies should be consolidated. This led to the birth of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). Thus, four projects, to be pursued concurrently, were born under the IGMDP:

  • Short range surface-to-surface missile (code-named Prithvi)
  • Short range low-level surface-to-air missile (code-named Trishul)
  • Medium range surface-to-air missile (code-named Akash)
  • Third-generation anti-tank missile (code-named Nag).

The Agni missile was initially conceived in the IGMDP as a technology demonstrator project in the form of a re-entry vehicle, and was later upgraded to a ballistic missile with different ranges. As part of this program, the Interim Test Range (ITR) at Balasore in Orissa was also developed for missile testing.



The Prithvi missile is a family of tactical surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) and is India's first indigenously developed ballistic missile. Under Broad missile parameters are as shown in Table-1

Charecteristics Prithvi- I Prithvi - II Prithvi- III
Year of First Flight 1988   1996 2000
Type Tactical, SRBM Surface-To-Air-Missile Tactical Surface-To-Surface-Ballistic Missile SRBM, Surface-To-Surface Ballistic Missile
Range 150 km 350km  350km
Weight 4,400 kg 4,600 kg 5,600 kg
Payload 100kg 500kg  1000kg
Length 9 m 8.56 m    8.56 m
Diameter 110 cm    110 cm    100 cm
Warhead   HE penetration, HE submunitions, fuel-air explosive, and chemical    Nuclear, high-explosive, or submunitions Nuclear, high-explosive, or submunitions and chemical
Launch Platform 8 x 8 Tata Transporter Erector launcher 8 x 8 Tata Transporter Erector launcher 8 x 8 Tata Transporter Erector launcher
In Service Since 1988 1996 .


Trishul is the name of a short range surface-to-air missile developed by India as a part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program. It has a range of 12 km and is fitted with a 5.5 kg warhead. India officially shut down the project in February 2008 in view of its inability to meet the operational requirements and shortfall in performance, as against its stated design parameters. It was de-linked from user service and projected as a technology demonstrator.


Akash is a medium-range surface-to-air missile developed as part of India's Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme to achieve self-sufficiency in the area of surface-to-air missiles. The missile is completely guided by the radar, without any active guidance of its own. This allows its greater capability against jamming as the aircraft self-protection jammer would have to work against the high-power Rajendra, and the aircraft being attacked is not alerted by any terminal seeker on the Akash itself.

            The Akash weapon system has already been inducted in to service, with the Air Force. Army needs the Akash missiles, for protection against the incoming aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles of the adversaries. Two AAD regiments are to be equipped with SRSAM. MoD has recently decided to award an Army missile Short Range Surface to Air Missiles (SRSAMs) contract worth around Rs. 18,000 crore to the DRDO over three foreign vendors and Rs. 17,000 crore Medium Range Surface to Air Missile project with Israel. Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) and Bharat Electronics (BEL) are the Production agencies for missile and ground systems respectively.


Nag a third generation, all weather, top attack "Fire-and-Forget" anti-tank missile, with a range of 3 to 7 km. Nag can be mounted on an infantry vehicle; a helicopter launched version named “Helina” is also planned for integration with the HAL Dhruv. Despite repeated test firings and user trials, Indian Army has still not given the go ahead for Nag induction into service.


In January 2008, Consequent to completion of IGMDP, country has focussed towards development of long range strategic missiles, capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Creation of Strategic Forces Command (SFC), a tri-service command, exclusively for managing the strategic resources in terms of nuclear warfare, has given further impetus to this effort. Development of supersonic cruise missile “BrahMos” is a noteworthy achievement, which has provided the defence forces with a formidable deterrence against the enemy.


The Agni missile is a family of Medium to Intercontinental range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles developed by the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) under DRDO. The Agni-I, Agni-II and Agni-III are in service with the Indian Army. Agni-IV has completed all trials successfully by January 2014. Agni-V had undergone testing and Agni VI is under development. This series of missiles was developed to eliminate the deficiencies of the Prithvi Series of missiles.


A joint venture between the Russian Federation's NPO Mashinostroeyenia and India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) who have together formed BrahMos Aerospace named after the Bhramaputra and Moskva river). The basic Missile design is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile and other similar sea-skimming Russian cruise missile technology. The missile flies at Super Sonic speeds and is presently the fastest supersonic missile in the world (2.8 Mach).

            The missile has identical configuration for land, sea and sub-sea level platforms and uses a Transport Launch Canister (TLC) for transportation, storage and launch.

            The intergovernmental agreement between India and Russia to develop the BrahMos stipulates that both countries would have to approve an export sale. India and Russia intend to make 2,000 BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles over the next ten years through their joint venture company, and nearly 50% of them are expected to be exported to friendly countries such as Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, South Africa, Egypt, Oman, and Brunei etc who have expressed interest in the missile.  Southeast Asian and Latin American countries have expressed interest in the system, with particular interest in naval and coastal defence versions. The Asian-Pacific nation would be a friendly nation that neither Russia nor India has any conflicts with.

Other Developments

India is said to be in the intermediate stages of developing a new cruise missile, Nirbhay . The subsonic Nirbhay is said to be 6 m in length with a 520 mm diameter, weigh 1,000 kg and have a 1,000 km range with a speed of 0.7 mach. Nirbahy cruise missile having a strike range of nearly 1,000 km, has met with three successive failures during the test on March 12, 2013, October 16, 2015, December 21, 2016. It again scheduled for testing on 31 May 2017, which got postponed due to unknown reasons. Finally, the missile  got successfully test fired in June 13, 2017.

            A new tactical missile that will fill the gap between the Pinaka rocket system and the Prithvi series of missile has been developed. The first successful test of the missile was carried on 17 July 2011. The 150 km range missile has been named Prahaar. Each Road mobile launcher is designed to carry six missiles.  This project is still in the development stage.

Industry Paticipation

The missile systems comprises of two distinct components, which can be classified as airborne and ground systems. Each category comprises of exclusive/non exclusive range of products, most of which are indigenous. To name a few Missile On-Board Computer: Titanium Alloys, Composite Products, Bearings, Forgings, Brackets, Hydraulic Cylinders, Air Conditioning Systems, Shelter Trailers, Ground Support Equipment, Gensets, Primary & Secondary , Batteries, Transducers, Igniters & Catridges, Solenoid Valves, Pyro Systems, Electronics Sub Systems, Airframe Sections, Steel Rocket Motor Casings, UHF Active Antennas, Dual Band Antennas, Lnas, Missile Inter phase Unit(MIU) etc.

            At present, the role of the private industry is restricted to a broad & generic list of products being supplied by industry to the missile programmes. The missile hardware items have been indigenously developed, are under manufacture at various private industries viz M/s Godrej, L&T, Astra Microsystems, Vako Seals Pvt Ltd, Graphite India Pvt Ltd, Resins & Allied Products, Rachamallu Forgings Pvt Ltd, Data Patterns (India) Pvt Ltd, Dantal Hydraulics Pvt Ltd, Analogic Controls India Ltd, Godrej Boyce Pvt Ltd, MTAR Technologies Pvt Ltd, VEM Technologies Pvt Ltd, L&T Ltd, Jindal Steel &Power Ltd, Hitec Energy Batteries Ltd, Premier Explosives Ltd, Centum Electronics, Apollo Microsystems Pvt Ltd, Sec Industries Pvt Ltd etc. Defence PSUs viz BDL, HAL, BEL, ECIL, BEML, OF are major system integrators.

            With various category of guided missiles currently under indigenous development and production, there is ample scope for participation of private industry to manufacture & supply of sub-systems & components in the case of airborne systems and for ground systems, the private industry is now able to develop & manufacture the complete systems in accordance with project specifications mostly based on MIL/international standards. The industry can play a major role in indigenous development of critical technologies related to control systems, power supply systems, futuristic navigation sensors and systems and other missile related technologies.

New Technologies

There is also a need to continuously  enhance the performance of  our missile systems through induction of new technologies Some of the recent technological achievements by DRDO laboratories are:-

  • Quick response solenoid valve (QRSV) based on Switched Magneto Motive Force (S-MMF) technology with fast response time and reduced weight is developed. This will be useful for Reaction Control Systems (RCS) and Velocity Trimming Packages (VTP) of strategic and air defence missiles.
  • Development of beam switching antenna for secure bi-directional data link.
  • Development of a high accuracy force feedback pendulous accelerometer using quartz material as pendulum. The accelerometer can be used for long range missiles.
  • A high resolution seeker is developed for anti-tank application with a 4 Km range and with a lock on before launch feature.
  • Lethality enhanced proximity fuze is designed for air-target intercept system which detects range & velocity of incoming target with high resolution.

The endeavour should be to adopt new technologies and make the Indian missiles count amongst the powerful missiles of the world. This is a challenging task and requires a concerted effort by all the stake holders.

The Author is Ex-Additional Director General (Strategic System Quality Assurance Group); DGAQA, Department of Defence Production).

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