Akash and R73 missiles fail Tejas integration tests, prompting concerns

The failures of the Akash and R73 missiles integrated with Tejas in Vayushakti 2024 exercise highlight technical limitations, integration challenges, and training needs, necessitating continuous improvement efforts.

In a recent showcase of military prowess, the Vayushakti 2024 exercise brought forth unexpected setbacks, shedding light on potential hurdles in India’s defence arsenal. The failures of the Akash and R73 missiles, integrated with the Tejas aircraft, have underscored critical issues that demand immediate attention and resolution.

As the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization’s (DRDO) flagship surface-to-air missile, the Akash system boasts formidable capabilities, intended to intercept and neutralize airborne threats with precision. However, its recent misfire during the Vayushakti exercise has sparked concerns over its reliability and performance. Coupled with open-source revelations citing a 30% failure rate, scrutiny intensifies over Akash’s efficacy on the battlefield.


Meanwhile, the R73 missile, revered for its prowess in close-range air combat engagements, faces its own set of challenges. Despite its operational range and heat-seeking capabilities, media reports and expert analyses highlight shortcomings, including outdated infrared seeker technology and limitations in manoeuvrability. Moreover, observations from conflict zones, such as the Russo-Ukraine War, reveal vulnerabilities in tracking and countering modern threats, raising questions about the R73’s adaptability to evolving battle scenarios.

The failure of the Akash missile and R73 missile integrated with Tejas in the Vayushakti 2024 exercise indicates certain potential challenges or issues that need to be addressed.

Technical Limitations: The failures could be attributed to technical limitations or deficiencies in the Akash and R73 missiles themselves. It indicates the need for further research and development to improve their performance and reliability.

Integration Challenges: Integrating missiles with a specific aircraft like Tejas can present complex technical challenges. The failures may suggest that there are issues in the integration process or compatibility between the missiles and the aircraft. This points to the importance of thorough testing and evaluation before operational deployment.

Training and Operational Factors: The failures could also be indicative of training and operational factors. The personnel operating the missiles or the aircraft may require additional training or experience to effectively handle and deploy the integrated system.

System Evaluation and Improvement: The failures in the exercise highlight the importance of conducting comprehensive system evaluations and identifying areas for improvement. It is crucial to learn from these failures and take the necessary steps to rectify any shortcomings in the missile systems or their integration with Tejas.

The Akash missile is a surface-to-air missile system developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) of India. It is designed to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft, helicopters, and drones at a range of up to 25 kilometres. The missile system is known for its high accuracy and effectiveness in engaging multiple targets simultaneously. According to open sources and experts, the 2017 CAG report stated that the Akash Missile has a 30% failure rate.

The Akash missile program is facing various challenges, including problems with radar, electronic control units, and sensors, according to reliable sources. It is worth noting that during actual tests, a substantial 43% of the missiles encountered failure to launch, indicating the presence of significant technical obstacles within the program. Despite 16 board meetings held between 2019 and 2023, the concerns surrounding the Akash missile program have not been effectively addressed or resolved.

The failure of the Akash missile in the Vayushakti 2024 exercise raises concerns about its performance and reliability, necessitating a closer examination of its technical aspects and potential areas for improvement.

The R73 missile, also known as the Vympel R-73, is a short-range air-to-air missile primarily used for dogfight engagements. It has an operational range of approximately 30 kilometres (18.6 miles). This range allows the missile to engage enemy aircraft within visual range, providing a significant advantage during close-range air combat scenarios. The R73 missile’s heat-seeking capabilities and manoeuvrability make it a valuable asset for fighter aircraft like the Tejas, enabling them to effectively engage and neutralize aerial threats in combat situations.

Disadvantages of R73 as per open sources and media reports

– Non-imaging cryogenic cooled IR seeker, which is considered outdated compared to the current trend of using Imaging Infrared seekers.

– Lack of thrust vectoring capabilities, limiting its manoeuvrability and agility.

– Restricted launch off-boresight, with a maximum of 40 degrees for R 73 and 60 degrees for R 73 M.

– Ukrainian pilots involved in the ongoing Russo-Ukraine War have reported low tracking capabilities of the R 73 through clouds, leading them to rely more on their 30 mm cannons to counter Shahid 136 kamikaze drones.

– The system exhibits lower effectiveness in countering advanced ECM (Electronic Countermeasures) and advanced countermeasures, in comparison to more modern systems

Overall, the failures of both the Akash missile and R73 missile integrated with Tejas in the Vayushakti 2024 exercise emphasize the need for continuous research, development, and rigorous testing of these systems. It underlines the critical role of technical evaluation, training, and operational readiness to ensure that these missiles perform optimally in real-world scenarios. The insights gained from these failures will contribute to the ongoing efforts to enhance the capabilities and reliability of these missiles, thus strengthening the defence capabilities of the country.

Views in the article are the author’s own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Business Upturn.