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Indian Missile Systems for UPSC

Notable Missile Systems in India and their details

Missile Type   Range
Astra air-to-air   80 km
Trishul surface-to-air   9 km
Akash     30 km
Prithvi Air Defence (PAD)     2000 km
Nag surface-to-surface Anti-tank missile   4 km
Prahaar surface-to-surface SRBM 150 km
BrahMos land, naval, air Supersonic Cruise Missile 300 km
Nirbhay land, naval, air Subsonic Cruise Missile 1000 km
K-15 Sagarika underwater-to-surface SLBM 700 km
Dhanush sea-to-sea/surface SRBM 350 km
Shaurya surface-to-surface SLBM 1900

SLBM: Sub-marine launched ballistic missile

Missile Features
Astra Astra is a beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile (AAM).In terms of size and weight, the Astra is the smallest missile developed by the DRDO.It was envisaged to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft at supersonic speeds.
Trishul Used as anti-sea skimmer (to fly low to avoid radar) from ships against low-flying attacks.
Akash It has the capability to “neutralize aerial targets like fighter jets, cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles” as well as ballistic missiles.
PAD Anti-ballistic missile developed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere (exo-atmospheric).
Nag 3rd generation anti-tank ‘fire and forget’ guided missile (lock-on before launch system) where the target is identified and designated before the weapon is launched.
Prahaar High manoeuvrability.Primarily a battlefield support system for the Army.
BrahMos It is a supersonic cruise missile developed as a joint venture between Indian and Russia.It is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world.It is the world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile in operation.
Nirbhay Subsonic missile which is ancillary (providing necessary support) to the BrahMos range.
K-15 Sagarika It forms the crucial third leg of India’s nuclear deterrent vis-à-vis its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability.It was subsequently integrated with India’s nuclear-powered Arihant class submarine.
Dhanush It is capable of carrying nuclear warheads.It carries forward the legacy of the K-15 Sagarika.
Shaurya Surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSM) variant of the K-15 Sagarika.The nuclear capability of the missile enhances India’s second-strike capability.It reduces the dependence on the K-15 which was built with Russian assistance.

Prithvi Missiles

All the Prithvi variants are surface-to-surface SRBMs.

Name Version Range Payload in kg
Prithvi I Army version 150 km 1000
Prithvi II Air force version 350 km 500
Prithvi III Naval version 600 km 1000

Agni Missiles

Name Type Range Payload in kg
Agni-I MRBM 700 – 900 km 1,000
Agni-II MRBM 2,000 – 3,000 km 750 – 1,000
Agni-III IRBM 3,500 – 5,000 km 2,000 – 2,500
Agni-IV IRBM 3,000 – 4,000  km 800 – 1,000
Agni-V ICBM 5,000 – 8,000 km (Testing) 1,500 (3 – 10 MIRV)
Agni-VI ICBM 8,000 – 10,000 km (Under development) 1,000 (10 MIRV)

MIRV: Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicle

Anti-satellite weapons (ASAT)

  • In March 2019, India successfully tested its ASAT missile.
  • The ASAT missile destroyed a live satellite in Low Earth orbit (283-kilometre).
  • As per DRDO, the missile is capable of shooting down targets moving at a speed of 10 km per second at an altitude as high as 1200 km.

There are 2 kinds of Missiles, Ballistic and Cruise

Ballistic Missiles Cruise Missiles
It follows a ballistic trajectory with the objective of delivering one or more warheads to a predetermined target. It is a guided missile that remains in the atmosphere and flies the major portion of its flight path at approximately constant speed.
Target is predetermined. Fit for large targets. Target can be mobile. More appropriate for small mobile targets.
Guided only during relatively brief periods of flight and the rest of its trajectory is unpowered and governed by gravity. Are self-navigating
High altitude. Easy to track Able to fly in extremely low-altitude trajectory. Makes it difficult to track

Integrated Guided Missile Development Program(IGMDP)

India’s Missile Systems for UPSC IGMDP Prithvi Akash NAG Trishul Agni

Astra Missile

ASTRA the first indigenously developed air-to-air missile was successfully flight-tested off the coast of Odisha.

  • The Astra missile is developed by Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).
  • It works on the Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) technology that enables the fighter-pilots to shoot precisely at the enemy targets which are beyond their visual range.
  • The specifications of the missile are:
  • Speed: over 5,555 km per hour or 4.5 mach
  • Range: over 70 km,
  • Payload/warhead capacity: 15 kg.


Air to Air Missile (AAM) is a missile fired from an aircraft for the purpose of destroying another aircraft or any airborne object.

AAM is broadly classified into 2 types depending on the range factor of the missile.

  1. Short Range Air to Air Missile (SRAAM) or Within Visual Range Air to Air Missile (WVRAAM) – These Missiles are designed to engage aerial targets within a range of 30 km. Most of these missiles use infrared guidance and are called heat-seeking missiles. These missiles are designed for better agility, hence they are also called dogfight missiles.
  2. Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile (BVRAAM) – These missiles can hit targets beyond the range of 37 Km. These are radar-guided missiles. They don’t use infrared detector since the infrared signatures of aerial targets would be too weak at long ranges.

Astra is the Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile (BVRAAM) developed by DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation). It can engage aerial targets at a range of 80 km – 110 km. It has been integrated with Sukhoi 30 Mki, Mirage 2000, LCA, MiG-29 fighter aircraft.

Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air missiles (QRSAM)

DRDO has successfully test-fired indigenously developed Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air missiles (QRSAM) from a test range off the Odisha coast.

It has been developed to replace the ‘Akash’ missile defence system, and has 360-degree coverage.


  • It uses solid fuel propellant and has a strike range of 25-30 km with capability of hitting multiple targets.
  • It is capable of hitting the low flying objects.
  • The missile is an all-weather, all-terrain surface-to-air missile equipped with electronic counter measures against jamming by aircraft radars
  • The missile can be mounted on a truck and is stored in a canister.
  • The missile is equipped with a midcourse inertial navigation system with a two-way data link and a DRDO-developed terminal active seeker. The system has the capability to search and track targets while moving.
  • QRSAM is a compact weapon system and is mobile. It has a fully automated Command and Control System. The missile system comprises of 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.

Pinaka Missile System

An updated version of Pinaka Missile System, named Pinaka Mark II rocket was successfully flight-tested.

India’s Missile Systems for UPSC  Pinaka
  • Pinaka is an indigenous multi-barrel rocket launch system, which has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the Indian Army.
  • Its weapon system has a state-of-the-art guidance kit bolstered by an advanced navigation and control system.
  • The Pinaka Mark II Rocket is modified as a missile by integrating with the navigation, control and guidance system to improve the accuracy and enhance the range.
  • The navigation system of the missile is aided by the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).
  • It is an artillery missile system capable of striking into enemy territory up to a range of 75 kilometres with high precision.
  • The initial version of weapon system was called Mark I, which had a range of 40 km. The upgraded version or Pinaka Mark II has an extended range of 70 to 80 km.

Prithvi Missile  

Prithvi is a short range tactical surface to surface ballistic missile developed by DRDO. The Missile has been deployed by India’s strategic forces command.

Prithvi was the first missile developed under integrated guided missile development programme started in 1983.

Prithvi missile series uses either liquid or both liquid and solid fuels and are capable of carrying conventional as well as nuclear warhead.

Prithvi missile project has three variants for use by the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, and the Indian Navy.

The three variants variants of Prithvi missile series  that have been developed viz. Prithvi I, Prithvi II, Prithvi III.

  1. Prithvi I (SS-150) – Army version (150 km)  range with a payload of 1,000 kg
  2. Prithvi II (SS-250) – Air Force version (350 km) range with a payload of 500 kg
  3. Prithvi III (SS-350) – Naval version (350 km ) range with a payload of 1,000 kg


  • Prithvi-2 is capable of carrying 500-1,000 kilograms of warheads and is powered by liquid propulsion twin engines.
  • It has a strike range of 350 kilometres.
  • It uses an advanced inertial guidance system with manoeuvering trajectory to hit its target.


  • BRAHMOS is a joint venture between the Defence Research and Development Organisation of India (DRDO) and the NPOM of Russia.
India’s Missile Systems for UPSC  BrahMos MIssile from Russia

Brahmos is named on the rivers Brahmaputra and Moskva.

  • It is a two-stage (solid propellant engine in the first stage and liquid ramjet in second) air to surface missile with a flight range of around 300 km.
  • However, India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) has extended the range of the BRAHMOS missile to reach 450 km-600km, a shade above its current MTCR capped range of 300 km.
  • Brahmos is a multiplatform i.e it can be launched from land, air, and sea and multi capability missile with pinpoint accuracy that works in both day and night irrespective of the weather conditions.
  • It operates on the “Fire and Forgets” principle i.e it does not require further guidance after launch.
  • Brahmos is one of the fastest cruise missile currently operationally deployed with speed of Mach 2.8, which is 3 times more than the speed of sound.


  • It is a newly developed surface-to-surface tactical missile.
  • The trial of the missile was recently deferred by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) due to the cyclone Phethai.
  • It is a derivative of Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) exo-atmospheric interceptor which can destroy enemy weapons at high altitudes.
  • It has a payload of 1 tonne and it has the capacity to strike targets 350 km away.
  • It can travel up to 500 km if the payload is halved.
  • It is propelled by solid-fuel rocket.
  • It can fly faster than the conventional missiles in its class and can evade ballistic missile defence system.
  • It will be launched from its own canister-based transport erector launcher.

Nirbhay missile

  • Nirbhay is a long range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile designed and developed in India by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • The missile can be launched from multiple platforms and is capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads.
  • It is a two-stage missile powered by Solid rocket motor booster.
  • It is capable of carrying warheads of up to 300kg at a speed of 0.6 to 0.7 Mach (sub-sonic).
  • It has an operational range of 1000 km (long range).
  • The Nirbhay cruise missile is an Indian version of the American Tomahawk.

Third Generation NAG Missile

  • The Nag missile has been indigenously developed under the Indian Ministry of Defence’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), which also involved the development of four other missiles that are Agni, Akash, Trishul and Prithvi.

Nag Missile

  • Nag is a third-generation, fire-and-forget, anti-tank guided missile developed by India’s state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to support both mechanised infantry and airborne forces of the Indian Army.
  • It is an all weather conditions with day and night capabilities and with a minimum range of 500m and maximum range of 4 km.
  • Nag can be launched from land and air-based platforms. The land version is currently available for integration on the Nag missile carrier (NAMICA)
  • The helicopter-launched configuration, designated as helicopter-launched NAG (HELINA), can be fired from Dhruv advanced light helicopter(ALH) and HAL Rudra (ALH WSI) attack helicopter.

AKASH – MK 1S Missile:

  • DRDO has successfully test fired AKASH-MK-1S missile from ITR , Chandipur.


  • AKASH Mk1S is a surface to air missile which can neutralize advanced aerial targets.
  • It is an upgrade of existing AKASH missile with indigenous Seeker.
  • The Akash weapon system has combination of both command guidance and active terminal seeker guidance.
  • The medium range multi-target engagement capable missile was developed as part of the Integrated Guided-Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) other than Nag, Agni, Trishul, and Prithvi missiles.

Key Features

  • The supersonic missile has a range of around 25 km and up to the altitude of 18,000 metres.
  • The missile uses high-energy solid propellant for the booster and ramjet-rocket propulsion for the sustainer phase.
  • Several variants of the missile — Akash MK1, Akash-MK2 — with improved accuracy and higher ranges are under development by the DRDO.

Barak 8 Missile:

Israel has successfully tested India’s supersonic long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) — Barak 8. The weapon is the first LRSAM India and Israel has co-developed. 

What is Barak 8?

Barak 8 (the Hebrew word for Lightning) is an Indian-Israeli surface-to-air missile (SAM), designed to defend against any type of airborne threat including aircraft, helicopters, anti-ship missiles, and UAVs as well as cruise missiles and combat jets.

Israel Aerospace Industries describe Barak 8 as “an advanced, long-range missile defense and air defense system” with its main features being:

•    Long Range

•    Two way data link (GPS S band)

•    Active Radar Seeker Missile

•    360 degree coverage

•    Vertical Launch

•    Multiple Simultaneous Engagements

Ballistic Missile Defence (AAD)

  • Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) is a two tired defence shield which aims to destroy enemy ballistic missiles.
  • The BMD consists of two interceptor missiles, the Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) and the Advanced Area Defence (AAD) missile.
  • PDV/Pradyumna Ballistic Missile Interceptor is capable of destroying missiles at exo-atmospheric (high) altitudes of 50–80 km.
  • PDV is a two stage supersonic missile fuelled by solid motor in 1st stage and liquid fuelled in 2nd stage.
  • AAD/Ashvin Advanced Defense interceptor is capable of destroying missiles at endo-atmosphere (low) altitudes of 15-30 kilometers.
  • AAD is a single-stage supersonic solid fuelled interceptor missile.
  • The Ballistic Missile Defence shield is expected to be achieved by 2022.
  • AAD was recently successfully test-fired from a test range in Odisha.
India’s Missile Systems for UPSC  Exosphere Endosphere
India’s Missile Systems for UPSC  Ballistic Misile Defence System

Mission Shakti

Mission Shakti was undertaken to develop highly-potent Anti-satellite weapons (ASAT). It is a joint programme of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Anti-satellite (ASAT) System is missile-based system to attack moving satellites. 

  • ASAT propels India to the coveted space-superpower league.
  • India will now have the power to decimate satellites for pure military and strategic purpose.
  • With this missile, India will have the capability to interfere with satellites or engage in direct attacks.
  • ASAT missile can be air, sea or land-based.

Why is it made to destroy Satellites?

  • Satellites assume a great importance now-a days, because it is a part of critical civil and defence infrastructure of any country, manifested in the fact that a large number of crucial applications are dependent on it.
  • These include navigation systems, communication networks, broadcasting, banking systems, stock markets, weather forecasting, disaster management, land and ocean mapping and monitoring tools, and military applications.
  • Destroying a satellite would render these applications useless. It can cripple enemy infrastructure without causing any threat to human lives.
  • Outer space is also emerging as the fourth arena of warfare. Hostile state and non-state actors can therefore damage Indian space assets.
  • The ASAT capability has created some deterrence against potential hostile behaviour against Indian interests.


Kessler Syndrome

  • The Kessler syndrome (also called the Kessler effect, collisional cascading or ablation cascade), proposed by the NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978, is a scenario in which the density of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade where each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions.
  • One implication is that the distribution of debris in orbit could render space activities and the use of satellites in specific orbital ranges impractical for many generations.

Previous Years UPSC Prelims (MCQ) Questions from Defence:

Q.1) In the context of Indian defence, consider the following statements:
1. The Shaurya missile flies with a speed of more than 8 Mach.
2. The range of Shaurya missile is more than 1600 km.
Which of the statements given above is/ are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Q.2) With reference to Agni-IV Missile, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. It is a surface-to-surface missile.
2. It is fuelled by liquid propellant only
3. It can deliver one-tonne nuclear warheads about 7500 km away
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Q.3) Consider the following statements:
1. In November, 2006, DRDO successfully conducted the interception test using Prithvi-II missile.
2. Prithivi-II is a surface-to-surface missile and can be deployed to guard the metros against air attacks.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Q.4) Which one of the following is a modern tank?
(a) Bhim
(b) Akash
(c) Arjun
(d) Prithvi

Q.5) What is “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)”, sometimes seen in the news?
(a) An Israeli radar system
(b) India’s indigenous anti-missile Programme
(c) An American anti-missile system
(d) A defence collaboration between Japan and South Korea

Q.6) Consider the following statements:
1. INS Sindhughosh is an aircraft carrier.
2. INS Virat is a submarine.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2 

Q.7) Which one of the following is the best description of ‘INS Astradharini’, that was in the news recently?
(a) Amphibious warfare ship
(b) Nuclear-powered submarine
(c) Torpedo launch and recovery vessel
(d) Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier

Q.8) With reference to Indian defence. Which one of the following statements is NOT correct?
(a) With the induction of Prithvi-II, the IAF is the only air force in the world with surface to surface ballistic missiles under its command
(b) Sukhoi-30 MKI jet fighters can launch air-to-air and air-to-surface precision missiles
(c) Trishul is a supersonic surface to air missile with a range of 30 km
(d) The indigenously built INS Prabal can launch ‘Prithvi’

Q.9) From which one of the following did India buy the Barak anti-missile defence systems?
(a) Israel
(b) France
(c) Russia
(d) USA

Q.10) Which one of the following pairs is not correctly matched?
(a) Arjun: Indigenously produced Main Battle Tank (MBT)
(b) Phalcon: Cruise missile supplied by Russia to India.
(c) Saras: Indigenously developed civilian passenger aircraft.
(d) Operation Seabird: New Indian naval base at Karwar.

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December 2023