The first flight trial of Prithvi missile was in Feb 1988, designated as PE-01.
A chart was pinned, showing the marks awarded for the first flight trial. Missiles cleared and ready at Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) earned 10 marks, Missile on launch pad at SHAR was 20 marks, countdown OK up to T-0 was given 30 marks, Missile lift off vertically was 50 marks, takes a predetermined turn to move out of the safety zone was 75 marks, follow the trajectory was 90 marks and reach the terminal area was 100 marks. Prithvi Team earned all those points. But the PE-01 marked the entry of India as a missile power when PE-01 impact point was right on the dot.
When Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) started, a new team was formed to design, develop and productionise the Prithvi weapon system at DRDL. Lt Gen VJ Sundaram was the project director. The General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) specification was A reliable, mobile, short range, surface to surface missile with contemporary performance and indigenous design.
The Prithvi Project team interacted with a dozen ordinance factories, ten public sector undertakings (PSU), six academic institutions, fifteen scientific laboratories, and 40 industrial houses. That amounted to nearly 400 engineers and managers.
The Strap Down Inertial Guidance System was under development in the laboratory since early 1980’s. The system was rigged up and a number of sorties were carried out using an aircraft. The size of the system was quite big and weighed more than the Prithvi could accommodate.
A flight worthy package was ready in January 1988. It was a midnight drama at DRDL integration hangar. Phase test were over by 1’O Clock in the morning. The missile was ready for its journey to Sriharikota.
Warhead Test Vehicle and Balloon Testing
The Prithvi missile itself was being in development phases hence the concept of warhead test vehicle (WHTV) cropped up. After a number of experiments in the lab and conducting static ground tests, a system was developed which was flight worthy.
The sub system’s had to be tested as well. It should work at 50 meters or 1500 meters and so on. The Meteorological Dept stepped in with it s balloon.
Time 00130 hrs. Chilly winds and isolated stretch of grass field at Charlapally. “Charge and go” was heard. A balloon inflated in the midnight. The project team conducted the experiment to test the performance of switching mechanism. The balloon could be controlled to go up and down. The balloon dance went on till early hours to fine tune the mechanism.
Change of Guard
After the success of PE-01, medals were pinned. Lt Gen Sundaram was promoted and Dr. Saraswat who was the No 2 , became the new Project Director.
Army Marches in
An army unit for Prithvi was posted in Hyderabad. Col Kumar was the officer commanding. The premises of Bharat Dynamics Ltd (the production agency) was used for initial training, documentation readiness etc. Saraswat and his company was the nodal point.
Institute of Armament Training, Pune gave them a brush up Guided missile course. Golkonda venue was used for class room lectures. Kanchanbagh and Immarat Kancha was used for hands on training.
The result of successful of training was practically witnessed at Balassore when the Army team launched few Prithvi missiles from ITR as a part of user trials in June 1994.
Prithvi Weapon System
Prithvi missile is a Battle Field Support, Tactical, surface to surface missile which can accurately hit targets. Prithvi has field changeable warheads for different types of targets, such as defence installations, airfields, C3 installations, POL installations, bottleneck and bridges. The single stage Mk1 missile had a range of 40 kilometers to 150 kms. With a CEP of 150m.
Enter Air Force
Having delivered to the Army, the Prithvi team dug in to develop derivatives and innovative concepts. The Liquid engine of Prithvi could lot more. HAL delivered the extra long tanks for experiments in 1992.
Since 1988, the Indian Air Force (IAF) was toying with ideas with respect to Prithvi project. The “Project Devil” SAM project had instilled IAF’s faith in DRDL.
Without much fanfare an experimental missile with improved range and electronics was tested in 1992-93. All missions were satisfactory.
IAF decided to make a firm commitment. Prithvi-II was born. The missile had new gadgets including GPS.
Once again medals were pinned.
Prithvi Four and Prithvi strap on
Having done the P-II, Four engined Prithvi was conceived. A four engine test was static test fired at LPD test bed. P4 still rumbles on. PSLV had strap on’s why not Prithvi? However the idea is in cold storage now.
Navy Sails in
Indian Navy, examined Prithvi as a force multiplier. Prithvi, Naval Avatar “Dhanush” was a grand success.
The 2002-2003 war scenarios in Afghanistan and Iraq had churned the Prithvi designers to go beyond the Prithvi’s set range. The composites were introduced and a number of changes introduced. In April 2003, a extended range Prithvi flew beyond the barrier milestone. This is one more variant of the Prithvi Missile.
Prithvi development goes on.