June 22, 2012

US Reports that Agni IIs are NOT fully operational.

An Agni II on parade. "fewer than 10" deployed says an authoritative US report.
FAS Strategic Security Blog has analysed an update of the US Air Force Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat. The FAS analysis of June 9, 2009, states in part:
"The latest update continues the previous user-friendly format and describes a number of important assessments and new developments in ballistic and cruise missiles of many of the world’s major military powers. The report also helps dispel many web-rumors that have circulated about Chinese, Russian, Indian and Pakistani nuclear forces...

Chinese Nuclear Forces
As the DF-3A retirement continues (there are now only 5-10 launchers left of close to 100 in the 1980s), the liquid-fuel missile is being replaced by a family of solid-fuel DF-21 variants. The NASIC identifies four, including two nuclear versions (Mod 1 and Mod 2), one conventional version, and an anti-ship version that unlike the others is not yet deployed.


Thankfully, the report dispels widespread speculation by web sites, news media, and even Jane’s after images began circulating on the Internet, that a DF-25 had been deployed, some even said with three nuclear warheads. But it was, as I
predicted last year and NASIC now confirms, in fact a DF-21....

The NASIC report states that neither of China’s two types submarine-launched ballistic missiles is operational. This suggests that the multi-year overhaul of the JL-1 equipped Xia SSBN, which was completed last year, was not successful. The successor missile JL-2 for the new Jin-class SSBNs has not reached operational status either...

NASIC lists single warheads on all of the Chinese missiles, not multiple warheads as speculated by many. “China could develop MIRV payloads for some of its ICBMs,” the report states. Yet it also predicts that, “Future ICBMs probably will include some with multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles.” Whether that prediction – which appears to hint that China has more ICBMs under development – comes true remains to be seen, and the U.S. intelligence community has stated for years that one development that could trigger it is a U.S. ballistic missile defense system....

Russian Nuclear Forces

NASIC states that “Russia retains about 2,000 warheads on ICBMs,” which is far too many for the land-based ICBM force and so probably includes SLBMs as well. The ICBM force will continue to decrease due to arms control agreements, aging missiles, and resource constraints. Even so, “Russia will probably retain the largest ICBM force outside the United States,” and “most of these missiles are maintained on alert, capable of being launched within minutes of receiving a launch order,” according to NASIC...Indian Nuclear Forces
Even though Indian news media reports and private/corporate institutes have reported for years that Agni I and Agni II were deployed, the NASIC report shows that operational deployment of the road-mobile Agni I SRBM has only recently begun, with “fewer than 25” missile launchers deployed. NASIC seems to back our assessment from last year that the Agni II at that time was not yet fully operational, by listing “fewer than 10” launchers deployed.
Two short-range sea-based ballistic missiles are under development: Dhanush and Sagarika. Neither is operational yet, and NASIC safely estimates that the Sagarika will become operational sometime after 2010.

Despite Indian news media reports of development of a nuclear-capable cruise missile, no mentioning of such a weapon system is made by NASIC.

Pakistani Nuclear Forces

There are fewer than 50 launchers for the road-mobile Ghaznavi and Shaheen I SRBMs listed in the NASIC report, and the 2,000+ km Shaheen II MRBM is not yet operational but may be soon. Pakistan also appears to have two nuclear-capable cruise missiles under development: the ground-launched Babur and the air-launched Ra’ad."
The US information is at variance to announcements in India years ago, recorded in Bharat-Rakshak which states:
"In May 2001, and again in July 2001, the then-incumbent Defence Minister Jaswant Singh informed the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) that the Agni-II missile is operational, limited production had begun and induction being planned during 2001-2002. On 14 March 2002, Defence Minister George Fernandes informed Indian Parliament that the Agni-II has entered the production phase and is under induction. Agni-II is made by BDL in Hyderabad, with a production capacity of 18 missiles/year and costs about Rs.35 crore[39] for each missile."
With the US estimates and semi-official? projection by Bharat-Rakshak one can only conclude that India:
- wishes to publicly display its Agni Is and IIs even if they are not fully operational
- national pride and justifying defence expenditure are important
- scaring opponents (Pakistan and China) is important
- maintaining a level of secrecy and uncertainty assists the scaring (deterrent) effect
- providing no clear number of Agni Is and IIs assists the survivability of at least some of these land mobile missiles - as opponents can never be sure how many to destroy.
So who is correct? Or what is a better estimate of the number of operational Agni IIs?