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Floating Test Range (FTR)

Floating Test Range (FTR)In September 2015 The Hindu reported that India was building an Auxiliary Missile Launching Ship [AGML] a unique floating testing range a huge ship to overcome the limitations imposed by the land mass for carrying out missile tests of varying ranges for the two-tier ballistic missile defence (BMD) system to protect important cities. India had by that time conducted 10 interceptor missile tests, eight of them successful. Most of the trials were conducted in the endo-atmosphere, and a few in the exo-atmosphere.

Avinash Chander, Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems), DRDO, told Frontline in December 2012 : China has four [missile-testing] ranges. The U.S. has seven. We have only one. Now, if we have more than one range, we can have geometry in our territory. If I have two more ranges, one in Machilipatnam and the other in the Andamans, and also a floating test range, I can find a credible scenario where I can test my defence systems and launch systems in different directions to take care of incoming missiles with a range of 2,000 km to 5,000 km.

India developed the floating test range used to test missiles. The first FTR was stationed at sea in October 2019. Developed by the DRDO, the FTR is a 10,000-ton ship that can be used as a launchpad for missiles. The speciality of FTR is that the missile tests can be carried out without the issues of trouble to local population or any land limitation. The FTR vessel is 200 metres long and 60 metres wide, equipped with state-of-the art electro-optical missile tracking (EOTS), S-band radar tracking and telemetry devices apart from a launch pad, a launch control and mission control center.

Only few nations around the world have similar defence capability. According to a report by the Hindustan Times, apart from the testing launchpad, the FTR will also be used to launch anti-missiel interceptors destroy target missiles in mid-air. FTR will enable the authorities carry out such missile tests at much shorter notice as there would be no requirement of any notice from the local authorities.

The FTR, however, wont be used to test Agni missiles. The FTR has all the capabilities of Interim Test Range (ITR) with the capability to test missiles in deep sea with minimum safety precautions as the latter allows only a cone of two to three degrees to launch a missile. It is for testing all missiles including BMD, a senior official was quoted as saying by The Hindustan Times.

The FTR is part of Indias ambitious Phase II of the ballistic missile defense. In April 2019, the phase one of the Ballistic Missile Defence programme was completed. While Phase-II is about covering the skies of eastern India, the Phase-I was about securing national capital Delhi and financial hub Mumbai.

The floating test range (FTR) can be placed to allow trials at different ranges without a land mass limitation or threat to the population. The ship will be able to launch conventional missiles upto a range of 1,500 kilometres from a distance of 400 to 500 nautical miles in the sea. Phase II of BMD envisaged intercepting and destroying enemy missile with a range of 2,000 kilometre.

The FTR will be also used to test tactical missiles like Prahar and other futuristic missiles. With the FTR allowing live tests, not simulations, to interdict long-range missiles fired from the APJ Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast, the Indian BMD system will become more efficient with improved single -hot kill probability (SSKP) ratio, a term used for surface-to-air weapons. The FTR will speed up missile projects as it provides a ready-made safety corridor without getting caught into the advances notices to ships and aircraft flying in the area as well as the fear of hitting populated areas while testing BMD system.



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