India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully flight tested the Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) booster on April 8. The test, conducted from the Integrated Test Range on India’s east coast, successfully demonstrated the reliable functioning of all critical components involved in the complex missile system and met all the mission objectives according to the Indian Ministry of Defence’s announcement.
The SFDR has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Laboratory in collaboration with other DRDO laboratories such as Research Centre Imarat and the High Energy Materials Research Laboratory. The SFDR-based propulsion enables missiles to intercept aerial threats at very long range at supersonic speeds. The missile was guided to high altitude to simulate aircraft release conditions prior to booster ignition.
This is the fourth successful test of SFDR which began as a joint effort with Russia. The first test was conducted on May 30, 2018. This test evaluated performance of a nozzle-less booster. The second test conducted on February 8, 2019 evaluated the ground booster, separation of ground booster and nozzle-less booster performance. The third test on March 5, 2021 successfully tested all the subsystems, including the booster motor and nozzle-less motor. SFDR uses two kinds of propellants: a nozzle-less booster high burn rate propellant and a boron-based high energy fuel rich sustainer propellant.
DRDO Chairman Dr. Satheesh Reddy said that with the successful trial of SFDR, the range of air-to-air missiles can be enhanced. In a recently released import embargo list, India has resolved to develop a 250km long range beyond visual range missile by 2026. India has ordered the domestic Astra BVR missile, with stated maximum ranges from 80-110km, for the air force and navy. A longer range dual pulse missile dubbed Astra Mk2 is also being developed. DRDO is developing various materials and technologies like thermal protection systems needed for sustained, longer endurance air-launched SFDR flights.