The Indian Army’s plans to induct Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missiles (QRSAM) for protection of its mobile formations are likely to get further delayed, with the system underperforming in recent trials and with glaring deficiencies emerging.
According to recent reports published by the Economic Times, Sanctioned in 2014, the project is already running five years behind schedule and corrective measures would be required to meet the operational requirements of the armed forces. Sources aware of the recent trials told ET that deficiencies were observed when it comes to the mobility, surveillance, detection and firing capability of the system.
The QRSAM is required to protect mechanised formations of the Army against enemy aircraft and attack helicopters as they advance into contested zones. A detailed questionnaire sent to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was not answered. The research body has claimed that six successful tests were conducted off the Odisha coast.
However, sources said that in the recent validation trials – carried out between July and September – the system failed to even detect and engage hovering helicopters at low altitude and minimum range. As attack helicopters are a primary threat to advancing armoured formations, this underperformance by the surveillance radars of the system has raised alarm bells within the establishment.
During the limited Preliminary Staff Qualitative Requirement (PSQR) validation trials, the system was observed to have limited mobility due to excessive size and weight, which renders it inefficient to move across uneven terrain with advancing formations. Sources added that the firing success rate was also unimpressive, with only half the missiles hitting the designated targets.
Besides, the trial teams noticed low serviceability of various components of the system, with malfunctions observed in the radar, launcher and command vehicles almost on a daily basis. To meet service requirements and fill a critical operational capability gap in the army, the system will need to go through more rounds of developmental firing and simulation at the earliest.
The QRSAM has been under development for years, with the project to replace OSA-AK weapon systems first approved by the Defence Acquisition Council in June 2012. DRDO was sanctioned Rs 476.43 crore for the design and development of the system in 2014 after it gave an assurance that the process would be completed by 2017. After several hiccups, a capability demonstration was given in December 2021 but the present round of validation trials have raised concerns of further delays.
More about the Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile (QRSAM)
The Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air Missile (QRSAM) is a missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Bharat Electronics Limited and Bharat Dynamics Limited for the Indian Army, meant for protecting moving armoured columns from aerial attacks.
QRSAM has a fully automated Command and Control System. The missile system possesses two four-walled radars both of which encompass a 360-degree coverage, namely, the Active Array Battery Surveillance Radar and the Active Array Battery Multifunction Radar, apart from the launcher while Laser proximity fuze ensures that missile can’t be jammed.
It’s a compact and highly mobile air defence system system mounted on Ashok Leyland Defence Systems 8×8 truck, designed to provide 360 degree defence coverage. The transporter erector launcher (TEL) of the system is developed by Larsen & Toubro, while missiles are manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited. Each launcher has 6 missiles and can target 6 different targets. The QRSAM has electronic counter-countermeasure capabilities to remain immune to jamming. The single-staged missile utilized by the system is propelled using solid propellants. The missile is equipped with a midcourse inertial navigation system with a two-way data link and a DRDO-developed terminal active radar seeker. The missile has laser proximity fuze developed by Instruments Research and Development Establishment, to increase accuracy and reduces its susceptibility to jamming. The system has the capability to search and track targets while moving.
Its command and control system, target acquisition and fire control are fully automated. The surveillance and fire control radars developed by Bharat Electronics Limited, namely, the Active Array Battery Surveillance Radar and the Active Array Battery Multifunction Radar are four walled, configured to provide 360 degree coverage. The QRSAM has a maximum range of 30 km (19 mi) and can intercept targets flying at 10 km (6.2 mi) altitude. According to DRDO, currently the QRSAM has 90% indigenous component, which is projected to increase 99% incrementally.