India is set to test its ballistic missile defence (BMD) Phase II interceptor missiles and other futuristic weapons next year with its first floating test range (FTR) in place to allow trials at different ranges without a land mass limitation or threat to the population. Only a select group of nations has FTR capability .
Designed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the new FTR is a 10,000 tonne ship, 200 metres long and 60 metres wide, equipped with state-of-the art electro-optical missile tracking (EOTS), S-band radar tracking and telemetry devices apart from a launch pad, a launch control and mission control centre.
While the missile establishment is tight-lipped about the FTR, Hindustan Times has learnt that the ship will be able to launch conventional missiles upto a range of 1,500 kilometres from a distance of 400 to 500 nautical miles in the sea without fear of the weapons threatening any populated area on India’s east coast.
The FTR will not be used for testing the Agni series of ballistic missiles as it is not designed to handle the thrust of a long-range weapon. “ The FTR has all the capabilities of Interim Test Range (ITR) with the capability to test missiles in deep sea with minimum safety precautions as the latter allows only a cone of two to three degrees to launch a missile. It is for testing all missiles including BMD,” said a senior official who didn’t want to be named.
According to authoritative sources, the idea behind FTR is to test missiles from a range of 100 kilometres to 1,500 kilometres without any land mass or sea lanes limitations. This means that the FTR will be used for the BMD Phase II system, which is designed to destroy enemy missiles mid-air at different altitudes and different ranges with a long-range DRDO missile.
Phase II of BMD envisaged intercepting and destroying enemy missile with a range of 2,000 kilometre. The FTR will be also used to test tactical missiles like Prahar and other futuristic missiles.
With the FTR allowing live tests, not simulations, to interdict long-range missiles fired from the APJ Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast, the Indian BMD system will become more efficient with improved single -hot kill probability (SSKP) ratio, a term used for surface-to-air weapons.
“The FTR will speed up missile projects as it provides a ready-made safety corridor without getting caught into the advances notices to ships and aircraft flying in the area as well as the fear of hitting populated areas while testing BMD system. With this we can use interceptor missile to interdict enemy missiles both endo and exo-atmosphere,” said a second senior official.