MISSILE LAUNCHING  PLATFORMS

INTEGRATED GUIDED MISSILE PROGRAMME (IGMDP) initiated by Defence Research & Development Organisation(DRDO) was aimed at building a comprehensive indigenous missile design and development capability. A number of missiles—Prithvi (a short-range ballistic missile), Agni (an intermeDIATe-range ballistic missile), Nag (an antitank missile), Trishul (a low-level surface-to-air missile), and Akash (a medium-range surface-to-air missile)have been developed under IGMDP. In addition to DRDO, many public-sector organisations, and private-sector units also participated in the programme. The whole programme involved development of liquid-propulsion system, homing guidance system, composite and metallic air-frames, phased array radar and ground system, inertial and command guidance system, high-performance high-explosive warheads, missile power systems, actuators, missile software, and simulation software technologies. Besides, a supersonic antiship cruise missile, BrahMos, which is the only of its kind missile in the world, has also been developed by DRDO jointly with Russia.

Launching platforms perform key functions vital to the success of a missile system. Broadly summarised, these functions are: structural support, initial orientation during launch, handling and preparation of missile for launch. The systems have to be designed to satisfy a wide range of requirements from three major influencing factors: the missile, the platform and the deployment requirements. Launcher’s requirements depend on the type of the missile and its launch configuration. The following factors influence the launcher configuration and its design:

  • Type of launch–cold or hot

  • Accuracies and the constraints on the angle of launch

  • Effects of the missile plume during launch

  • Locations of the interface pads on the missile

  • Permissible environmental aspects like temperature, 'g' values, etc. of the missile

  • Critical requirements of the missile during transportation

  • Requirements of other auxiliary systems essential for the missile launch

  • Specific systems essential for preparation and fuelling of the missile

  • Identified emergencies of the missile and their countering procedures

The type of platform significantly influences the design of launcher. Mobile platforms present more design constraints as compared to static platforms. The factors contributing to design inputs based on the platform are:

 

Research & Development Establishment (Engineers) or R&DE (E), a centre under the aegis of DRDO, has been playing a key role of design and development of all launchers and ground support systems required for the Indian missile programme. It has also successfully developed many mobility and counter mobility systems for combat engineering applications, communication systems and cold region engineering systems for the Indian armed forces.

 

  • Space availability on platform

  • Loads and motions parameters for which the platform is designed

  • Environmental conditions to which the platform is likely to be exposed

  • Electronic interface with platform's command and control systems

  • Effects of other weapons mounted on the platform on the launcher

  • Effects of the missile launch on other platform equipment and weapons

Deployment requirements of the missile are also an important factor influencing the launcher design. These requirements are based on the combat strategy of the armed forces. The main aspects to be considered are:

 

  • Time from launch command to actual missile launch
  • Geographical location of likely deployment of the launcher
  • Facilities provided at the weapon depot and the location of depot
  • External explosions, NBC fall out, etc. to be withstood by the launcher
  • Facilities and location of missile loading on the launcher
DRDO has developed a variety of launching platforms for the indigenously developed missile systems. Some of them are covered in this issue of the Focus.

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