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DRDO's 5 Deadliest Missiles

© Photo : DRDODRDO Successful Flight Test Indigenous Technology Cruise Missile
DRDO Successful Flight Test Indigenous Technology Cruise Missile - Sputnik India, 1920, 04.06.2024
In 2024 several positive missile tests were performed by Indian DRDO. Among them – New Generation AKASH (AKASH-NG), Very Short Range Air Defence System (VSHORADS), Indigenous Technology Cruise Missile (ITCM), Supersonic Missile-Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) and RudraM-II supersonic air-to-surface.


Since the launch of the IGMDP (Integrated Guided Missile Development Program) in 1982-83, led by Dr. Abdul Kalam, India's DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) has acquired and demonstrated competence in developing vehicles across the spectrum – Surface-to-Air, Air-to-Air, Air-to-Surface, Anti-tank, Cruise and Ballistic.
DRDO is additionally in the process of developing a surface-to-undersea missile
India now has a potent arsenal of strategic and non strategic missiles. DRDO has developed its missiles largely based on inhouse research and development. Our rockets may not be the best in class across the spectrum, but they pack enough punch to deter technologically more advanced adversaries.
DRDO’s Pursuit of Excellence
DRDO's pursuit of excellence in missile technology is evident from the rapid pace of development and testing projectiles. Since the beginning of 2024 itself, the DRDO has successfully carried out the following tests.


Missile Tested

January 13

New Generation AKASH (AKASH-NG) short range surface-to-air.

March 1

Very Short Range Air Defence System (VSHORADS) from a ground based portable launcher.

April 19

Indigenous Technology Cruise Missile (ITCM)

May 1

Supersonic Missile-Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART)

May 31

RudraM-II supersonic air-to-surface

DRDO's missile competence spans across the spectrum of missile systems (search & guidance radars, control vehicles and launchers) and sub-systems (propulsion, control, guidance, warhead and seeker.)
DRDO has fielded missiles types propelled by solid fuel rocket, dual-pulse solid fuel rocket, liquid fueled rocket, liquid fueled ramjet and turbojet. It's in the process of developing missiles powered by scramjet and solid fuel ramjet.

DRDO missiles navigate using inertial, SATNAV or a combination of both. DRDO has yet to demonstrate TERCOM (Terrain comparison) navigation as fallback in zones where SATNAV is jammed.

DRDO has acquired credible RF and IIR (Imaging Infra-red) seeker technology. However, it has yet to develop credible optical image correlation seeker technology.
In the following paragraphs, I will focus on India's non-strategic missiles only, and present 5 DRDO developed world class missiles that in my opinion are most awesome - based on the operational effectiveness and the technological sophistication.

DRDO's Deadliest 5

Here are the five deadliest DRDO missiles listed in order of their awesomeness!


BrahMos is a supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land.
The missile is developed by Brahmos Aerospace, a joint venture set up in 1998 between DRDO and Russia's NPO Mashinostroeyenia.
Primarily, Brahmos is an anti-ship missile. However, it has the capability to engage land based targets.
Since its initial induction into the Indian Navy on November 18, 2005 on INS Rajput, Brahmos Aerospace has tweaked the vehicle for better range and accuracy and has developed ground and air launched variants of the missiles.
As of today, Brahmos variants are the most potent weapon systems fielded by the Indian Navy, Army and Airforce.
The outstanding features of the Brahmos include
High supersonic speed cruise and manoeuvring
Outstanding accuracy
Great Destructive Power
Salvo fire capability against land and sea based targets with target assignment and automatic reassignment to ensure destruction of a group of targets.
Brahmos is powered by a liquid fueled ramjet engine. As part of the Brahmos project, the DRDO has mastered ramjet engine technology to an extent where it can independently develop ramjet engines.
Because of its high supersonic cruise speed and manoeuvrability and the ability to fly at low altitudes, adversary AD systems mostly cannot successfully engage the missile.

Brahmos is an analog of the Russian Onyx missile which has performed well in Ukraine. The dismal rate of interception of the Onyx by the world's most advanced AD systems in Ukraine is testimony to the near invincibility of the Brahmos.

The deadliest variant of the Brahmos is perhaps the Brahmos-A ALCM (Air Launched Cruise Missile) because launched from a Su-30MKI, its effective practical range can be 1000 to 2000 km.


The LRSAM/MRSAM medium range missile systems were jointly developed by the DRDO & Israel's IAI from the Barak-8 system, which was specifically developed by Israel to shoot down sea-skimming supersonic anti-ship missiles.
The LRSAM is the naval variant of the system and MRSAM – the Air Force variant.
The systems feature a dual pulse missile with high agility throughout flight based on thrust vectoring using tungsten jet vanes and electro-pneumatic control actuation system.
The missile, with a range of 70/80 km and a ceiling of 16 km, features an active radar seeker.
The two systems feature Network centric capability allowing multiple systems to be centrally controlled, allowing target engagements to be assigned to optimally positioned systems.
There are indications that the IAF is trying to integrate its MRSAM systems with the S-400 IADS (Integrated Air Defence Systems) that it is acquiring from Russia.
The dual pulse propulsion system was entirely designed and qualified for the missile by the DRDO.
The IN inducted the LR-SAM in November 2015 on INS Kolkata.


The RudraM ALCM (Air Launched Cruise Missile) is optimised for SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defence) operations.
Because of its high supersonic speed, large warhead and precision guidance, the missile is very destructive.
Three versions of the RudraM are known to be under development.
The IAF has reportedly inducted RudraM-I in limited numbers.
The RudraM-I because of its limited range (150-km), lower cruise speed (Mach 2.0), absence of SATNAV (Satellite Navigation), smaller warhead (55-kg) and limited role (ARM only) would not have qualified for this deadliest missile listing.
However, the follow-up RudraM-II is a deadly missile and it has already been flight tested twice. It's likely that the IAF will place large orders for the missile following completion of trials and contract signing. For our discussion, we will assume RudraM-II is operational.
The RudraM-II navigates using INS and SATNAV. It features a cruise speed of Mach 5.0, 300-km range and 200 kg warhead.
The missile has two variants:
ARM (Anti-Radiation Missile) with a passive RF seeker to destroy ground based RF emitting targets such as radars. The passive seeker developed by Defence Electronics Research Laboratory can reportedly detect frequency emissions across the radio frequency spectrum from 100 km away.
IIR seeker variant for destroying bunkers and aircraft hangars.
Other technologically advanced features of the Rudram-II include dual pulse rocket motor and monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) for identification of radiation emitting sources.

Pralay Tactical Ballistic Missile

Pralay is a land mobile quick reaction quasi ballistic missile, similar in concept to Russia's Iskander-M that has performed so well in Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine.
Powered by a solid propellant rocket motor, the missile follows a flat trajectory within the atmosphere to delay radar detection range. It's range can vary between 150-500 km.
The missile navigates to its target using inertial and SATNAV guidance. It can be controlled throughout its flight. It uses DSMAC (Digital Scene Mapping & Correlation) for terminal guidance with 10 m CEP (Circular Error Probability) accuracy
The missile is difficult for the adversary to intercept because of its high terminal speed, quasi-ballistic trajectory and the ability to perform evasive manoeuvres in the terminal phase of flight.
It is possible that the Pralay, like the Iskander-M, can also release decoys to frustrate adversary air defence systems.
The missile can feature different types of warheads including PF (Pre-fragmented), Monolithic PCB (Penetration Cum Blast) and Submunition PCB.
The Pralay missile features two sets of small fins to reduce its radar signature.

Akash Weapon System (AWS)

DRDO developed the Akash medium range anti-aircraft missile under the IGMDP using the Russian 2K12 KUB (SA6 Gainful) system as baseline.
The Kub missile system In Russia was replaced by the Buk (SA-11) missile system, the latest version of which is Buk-M3.
The Akash missile system was first inducted into the Indian Armed Forces in March 2012, almost 28 years after project clearance.
Despite the vintage technology on which it's based, Akash remains a credible AD system because of the following features
Its solid fuel Ramjet engine thrusts the missile all the way to intercept allowing the missile to sharply manoeuvre even during endgame. (Single pulse rocket powered missiles lose their ability to manoeuvre significantly after propellent burnout.)

The AWS features digitally-coded command guidance. The multi-function phased array Rajendra radar continuously guides the missiles to the target using digitally coded manoeuvring commands embedded into the tracking radar signal. The system doesn't use a separate guidance radio link and the tracking radar signal is too powerful, precluding airborne jamming.

One problem with command guidance is that in the terminal phase of engagement, ground-based target and missile tracking radars are usually too distant from the target to generate the target resolution needed for a successful intercept.
DRDO has addressed this shortcoming by fitting the Akash missile with a Ku-band active RF seeker for end game homing.
The AWS uses command guidance for the initial part of the flight but switches on its RF seeker for the end game. With a seeker lock the missile is better assured of a kill at extended ranges. In case of active seeker jamming or spoofing, the missile can continue target pursuit using command guidance.
In addition to the active seeker, the AWS now features a reduced footprint, 360° engagement capability and improved environmental parameters for deployment in high-altitude.
It's not surprising that the Akash AWS became the first DRDO developed missile to be exported. According to Wikipedia, Armenia acquired 15 AWS launchers from Bharat Dynamics Limited, with the transaction estimated to be valued at ₹6,000 crore (US$720 million).


Discerning readers will notice that our Deadliest-5 list overlooked some well known DRDO developed operational missiles such as the Astra, Nag and Helina. DRDO has made impressive strides, but still needs to plug some gaps.
In the near future, DRDO will likely operationalise other exciting missiles such as Astra Mk-2, Astra Mk-3, RudraM-3, Akash NG, SMART, SANT (Stand-off ATGM) and MPATGM. The deadliest list will surely have to expand.
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