February 15, 2010

The K-15 (aka Sagarika or Shaurya) mini SLBM - Hypersonic Cruise Missile is gradually developing

Interesting about the stabilising (retro-rocket?) instrument at top of the K-15 during initial launch phase. I assume it keeps the K-15 upright and gets out of the flight path once detached?
The Business Standard, February 17, 2010 reports:

Shaurya surfaces as India's underwater nuclear missile - The country’s top defence scientist has, for the first time, revealed that India’s new Shaurya missile, which can carry a one-tonne nuclear warhead over 750 kilometers, is specially designed to be fired from Indian submarines and could form the crucial third leg of India’s nuclear deterrent.

[India's first indigenously designed nuclear submarine, the Arihant, will be armed with 12 K-15s.]

If launched from a submarine off the China coast, it could hit several Chinese cities like Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai.

Air and land-based nuclear weapons are delivered to their targets by fighter aircraft and ballistic missiles, respectively. Since these can be knocked out by an enemy first strike, the most reliable nuclear deterrent has traditionally been underwater, missiles hidden in a submarine.

V K Saraswat, the DRDO chief and Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, revealed to Business Standard at the ongoing Defexpo 2010, “We have designed the Shaurya so that it can be launched from under water as easily as from land. The gas-filled canister that houses the missile fits easily into a submarine. The underwater leg of the nuclear triad needs to be totally reliable and needs a state-of-the-art missile.”

India’s undersea deterrent had so far revolved around the K-15 ballistic missile, built with significant help from Russia [?]. The K-15 was to equip the INS Arihant, India’s lone nuclear-powered submarine, which is being constructed in Visakhapatnam. But now, after rigorous underwater testing, the Shaurya could be the mainstay of Arihant’s arsenal.

“The Shaurya was developed from ground up as a submarine-capable missile,” confirms Dr Prahlada, the top DRDO scientist responsible for liaising with the military. “Every piece of technology for fitting it in a submarine is already in place.”

Shortly before the Defexpo 2010, Dr Saraswat had publicly stated that India’s missile technology was ahead of China’s and Pakistan’s.

Now top DRDO scientists have revealed that the Shaurya is not a ballistic missile, as it has been thought to be; it is actually a hypersonic cruise missile, which never leaves the atmosphere.

A ballistic missile is like a stone being lobbed towards a target. Rockets toss it upwards and towards the target; after the rocket burns out, gravity pulls the missile warhead down towards the target. Buffeted by wind and re-entry forces, accuracy is a problem; and, since the ballistic missile’s path is predictable, shooting it down is relatively easy.

The Shaurya has none of these issues. Its solid-fuel, two-stage rocket accelerates the missile to six times the speed of sound before it reaches an altitude of 40 kilometers (125,000 feet), after which it levels out and cruises towards the target, powered by its onboard fuel.

While ballistic missiles cannot correct their course midway, the Shaurya is an intelligent missile. Onboard navigation computers kick in near the target, guiding the missile to the target and eliminating errors that inevitably creep in during its turbulent journey.

The Shaurya, say DRDO sources, will strike within 20-30 metres of its target after travelling 750 kilometres.

Conventional cruise missiles, like the American Tomahawk and the Indo-Russian Brahmos, offer similar accuracy. But their air-breathing engines carry them along slowly, rendering them vulnerable to enemy aircraft and missiles. The Shaurya’s solid-fuel, air-independent engine propels it along at hypersonic speeds, leaving enemy fighters and missiles far behind.

“I would say the Shaurya is a hybrid propulsion missile”, says Dr Saraswat. “Like a ballistic missile, it is powered by solid fuel. And, like a cruise missile, it can guide itself right up to the target.”

Making the Shaurya even more capable is its ability to manoeuvre, following a twisting path to the target that makes it very difficult to shoot it down. In contrast, a ballistic missile is predictable; its trajectory gives away its target and its path to it.


The K-15 Shaurya/Sagarika could be described as a quasi ballistic missile as it has a low (atmospheric) trajectory and can perform maneuvers in flight or make unexpected changes in direction and range

Wiki explains - "The Shaurya missile is speculated to be the land version of the under-water Sagarika K-15 missile[6], although DRDO officials have reportedly denied its connection with the K-15 program[2] Similar to the BrahMos [in land, sea and air? launched mode], Shaurya is stored in a composite canister, which makes it much easier to store for long periods without maintenance as well as to handle and transport. It also houses the gas generator to eject the missile from the canister before its solid propellant motors take over to hurl it at the intended target.

Shaurya missiles can remain hidden or camouflaged in underground silos from enemy surveillance or satellites till they are fired from the special storage-cum-launch canisters. DRDO scientists admit that given Shaurya's limited range at present, either the silos will have to be constructed closer to India's borders or an extended range version will have to be developed. The Shaurya system will require some more tests before it becomes fully operational in two-three years. Moreover, defence scientists say the high-speed, two-stage Shaurya has high maneuverability which also makes it less vulnerable to existing anti-missile defence systems.[7] Shaurya can reach a velocity of Mach 6 even at low altitudes. On November 12, even before the missile crossed a distance of 300 km, it reached a velocity of Mach 5, heating up its surface to 700{+0} Celsius. The missile performed rolls to spread the heat uniformly on its surface. Its flight time is 500 seconds to 700 seconds. with its high-performance navigation and guidance systems, efficient propulsion systems, state-of-the-art control technologies and canisterised launch. It can be easily transported by road. The missile, encased in a canister, is mounted on a single vehicle, which has only a driver’s cabin, and the vehicle itself is the launch platform. This “single vehicle solution” reduces its signature – it cannot be easily detected by satellites – and makes its deployment easy.The gas generator, located at the bottom of the canister, fires for about a second and a half. It produces high pressure gas, which expands and ejects the missile from the tube. The missile has six motors; the first one is the motor in the gas generator.The centerpiece of a host of new technologies incorporated in Shourya is its ring laser gyroscope and accelerometer. The ring laser gyroscope was tested & integrated by the Research Center Imarat (RCI) based in Hyderabad.[8]

Shaurya missile was reviled to be designed specifically to be fired from Submarines. Top DRDO scientist has confirmed this and said that this missile is actually a Hypersonic cruse missile and not a ballistic missile, as it was earlier thought to be.

It seems odd that the DRDO and the Navy are re-announcing the K-15's nature and functions. It could be in place of continual testing milestones that would heighten public support. Still the new information is comprehensive and puts the K-15's capabilities in perspective.