Successful Indian Missile Intercept was in fact a Failure!

News reports published pictures of the interceptor being launched from the missile test range off Odisha coast. Photo: DRDO

On May 15, 2016 India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) announced it conducted a ballistic missile intercept test, to evaluate part of the country’s multi-layered ballistic missile defense. The test involved a target missile – a modified Prithvi missile – launched from a naval ship in the Bay of Bengal and it mimicked the trajectory of a ballistic missile. The formal announcement said the test was successful. News reports published pictures of theAdvanced Air Defence (AAD) Interceptor being launched from the missile test range off Odisha coast.

But news reports aired a week later said it was a complete failure, in fact, the Hindu reported yesterday; the interceptor did not launch at all. “The interceptor never took off to intercept the incoming “enemy” missile which merely fell into the Bay of Bengal,” informed sources told The Hindu. “Post-flight analysis is going on. We do not know whether there was a problem in detecting the missile, whether radars tracked it and communicated it to the interceptor,” said the sources.

In April 2015, a similar mission aborted seconds after the lift-off of the interceptor. In April 2014, the warhead in the interceptor failed to explode, although the interception of the incoming “enemy” missile took place at an altitude of 120 km.

India has raised interest in acquiring the Russian S-400 for its Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LRSAM) requirement. Thy system is designed to intercept aircraft and missile targets from long range. India is expected to buy up to five units of the missile systems.

Inaccurate reports on successful missile defense tests are particularly susceptible to false reporting, as are test reports on strategic weapons, since they can create false over- or under-estimation of defensive and offensive power, which could lead to over- and under-estimation of enemy capability under a pretense of strategic power and defensive ability.

A similar failure happened in Israel two years ago, as a critical test of the Arrow missile defense system claimed a success but in fact failed, due to a system malfunction.