The Centre has approved the procurement of seven additional squadrons of Akash missiles for the Indian Air Force at a total cost of Rs 5,500 crore. Among the four companies tasked with providing the primary components across the 500 to 600 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems on order, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) said that it has been tasked with supplying all electronics, guidance and radar. During an interview with DH, BEL’s chairman and managing director Mr Gowtama M V clarified that BEL was the lead integrator for Akash missile systems for the Air Force, while Bharat Dynamics Limited was the lead integrator for missiles destined for the … “We will deliver the first batch of systems for the missile within 12 to 18 months,” Mr Gowtama said, adding that the Army was also seeking to equip two regiments with the latest variant of the system. The chairman clarified that BEL was also developing a new radio-frequency seeker, which will be installed on board the missile to enhance interception of the target. “This onboard will track the target and direct the missile through a ground link,” he said. According to sources, some of the new missiles destined for the Air Force will carry this new target seeker. BDL will supply the rocketry while private companies such as Larsen & Toubro and Tata Power SED will deliver the system’s tracked and wheeled launchers.According to sources, the seven squadrons in mobile configuration will be deployed along the Indo-Pakistan and Indo-China borders. The 5.8-metre-long Akash missile was fitted with a 55-60 kg high-explosive pre-fragmented warhead. It is said to be capable of engaging multiple aerial targets such as combat aircraft and assorted missile systems up to a range of 25 to 30 km. The new systems are intended to supplement the two Akash squadrons inducted into the Air Force in July 2015. The missiles will replace Soviet-era SA-3B Goa, SA-8 Gecko, and SA-18 Grouse SAMs. The contract order had been approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security late August, but was announced on September 5 2019.