June 4, 2012

Indian Agni, US MX, and future Indian Surya Missile Comments

1st Published November, 2008

Nuclear weapon systems naturally have many aspects - from reactors that drive submarine missile platforms, to dual use space developments, missiles and the bombs themselves

It is primarily up to intelligence agencies that have the full range of sources and methods, along wth numerous analysts to judge the accuracy/reliability of information.

A limitation of receiving information on the internet from original unpublished anonymous sources is you can't authenticate the sources. This is especially true when your website is receiving too many hits to for a sitemeter trackback of an anonymous coribution to a particular, familiar country/city/PC configuration. In a nutshell a blogger cannot do what large intel bodies can probably do.

Pete, see also Paine Christopher and M. G. Mckinzie, "Does the US Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship Program Pose a Proliferation Threat?", Science and Global Security, 1998, Vol. 7, pp. 151-193. specifically this Venn diagram "Historical sharing of nuclear weapons information".

My Comments

I agree that heavy lift space rocket boosters are a completely inappropriate basis for warhead carrying missiles. So India would not attempt to develop them in that direction. The initial claim was a technically obvious piece of disinformation from Anon2. Warhead carrying missiles of the Agni series rely on small enough size for concealment with the option of mobility and hardened silo protection.

Its useful to look at some specs for the US LGM-118 Peacekeeper "MX" missile. The Agni-IV/Surya is likely to be of the same order. For the MX:

"Weight 96.75 tons
Length 21.8 m
Diameter 2.3 m
Engine - 3 solid fuel stages, and post-boost vehicle storable liquid fuel motor .
Operational range 9700 km"

Manageably small size and quick reaction with minimal preparation suggests solid fuel stages for the Agni-IV/Surya. If range is to be sufficient then three stages are required.

Its more likely that Surya will evolve from what is known (the Agni-III) than be an unexpected leap based on (often old) speeches, papers and grand visions. This series of diagrams and descriptions from bharat-rakshak.com "AGNI - STRATEGIC BALLISTIC MISSILE" supports the evolutionary line. So thinking in terms of an Agni-III with an extra (third) stage to from the Agni-IV (or even V) may be more useful than clouding thought with the PR label "Surya".

Its not much good having two huge missiles standing like monuments. At least 20 Surya's scattered around India would be more sensible. As India is a democracy it would not be difficult for China or another enemy to locate fixed silo based Suryas. So the option that they be mobile - at least by rail - would make sense.
GSLV technology isn't really applicable to ICBM development. In 2009 India isn't going to rely on cryogenic engine technology to build an ICBM.

There isn't any evidence of Israeli-Indian cooperation in the nuclear weapons sphere.


The identification of the Indian nuclear test preparations posed a difficult collection problem and a difficult analytical problem. Their program was an indigenous program. It was not derived from the US, Chinese, Russian or French programs. It was totally within India. And therefore, there were some characteristics difficult to observe.

Paine Christopher and M. G. Mckinzie, "Does the US Science-Based Stockpile Stewardship Program Pose a Proliferation Threat?", Science and Global Security, 1998, Vol. 7, pp. 151-193.

specifically above Venn diagram


"Historical sharing of nuclear weapons information". The number of tests is given in parenthesis.

Note the isolation of the Indian programme. This supports Admiral Jeremiah's report
Where I disagree with the idea is the idea of the Indian launch vehicles being used to build an ICBM.

I see this in many reports and it is quite far fetched. The PSLV weighs 295 tons. The GSLV weighs 414 tons. Both Indian vehicles can be fueled and launched only from Sriharikota. Both take weeks to assemble. Neither is capable of conversion to an ICBM, unless India wants an enormous missile that takes weeks to assemble, days to fuel and is located at a known position, in the open, atop a launch pad.

There are also spurious claims of Israeli help with the SLBM project. Given that Israel has no SSBNs and no SLBMs, and has comparable solid fuel tech with India's, just why India would need Israeli help is unclear.

CHENNAI: The “Shourya” missile that was test-fired successfully on Wednesday “flew at five times the speed of sound, that is Mach 5, for 300 km” of its 600-km range, according to M. Natarajan, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister. Its velocity gradually tapered off during the remaining 300 km of its flight and then it plunged vertically over the targeted site in the Bay of Bengal.

What was outstanding about the Shourya’s success was the performance of its indigenous navigation system with the help of a ring-laser gyroscope, Mr. Natarajan said on Thursday. He called it “a sophisticated navigation and guidance system produced by the Research Centre, Imarat” (RCI) in Hyderabad.

“We flew our own navigation system in this missile. It worked very well. This is an important step forward for the country in the navigation of missiles, aircraft and spacecraft,” he said. No country would provide India this navigation system.

After the Shourya was fired from its canister, it rose to a height of 50 km and then flew horizontally to reach its targeted site. As it reached its maximum speed, it led to the missile heating up to 700 degrees Celsius. To cool the missile, it was rolled.

“We did a rolling manoeuvre which gives uniform heat to the missile,” said Mr. Natarajan, who is also Director-General, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

He watched the test-firing of the new missile from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea, Balasore, Orissa. Shourya is a product of the DRDO. The missile’s Programme Director was A.K. Chakrabarti.

While about 2,000 degrees Celsius was generated when Agni series of missiles re-entered the atmosphere, only several hundred degrees Celsius was generated during Shourya’s re-entry.

The missile had high manoeuvrability. So it could not be easily detected by the enemy, Mr. Natarajan said. Shourya is about 10 metres long. It can carry warheads weighing more than 500 kg.

W. Selvamurthy, Chief Controller (R&D), DRDO, said the Shourya missile provided the country with “a second strike capability” because it was a variant of the under-water launched K-15 missile (Sagarika). “We can keep the missile in a secured position [silo] to carry either conventional or nuclear warheads,” Dr. Selvamurthy said.

DRDO sources said that although the Shourya needed a silo with a maximum depth of 50 metres to lift off, it could be launched from 30-metre deep silos. It had a booster which fired underground and another which fired in the air. aid.