July 3, 2013

Indian strategic weapons programs - gradual progress

The following Indian strategic weapon update indicates gradual progress in several areas. No weapons mentioned in the article are fully developed and will not be fully operational for several years.  India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) update is partly to justify, to the public and politicians, the considerable amounts spent on weapons development.

Updates provided by DRDO include:

  • another test later this year of the Agni 5  ICBM. The test subsequently occurred on September 15, 2013 - see http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/a-second-agni-5-test-any-mirv.html
  • the reactor of Indian built submarine INS Arihant may go critical - it went critical on August 10, 2013 http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/ins-arihants-reactor-goes-critical.html 
  • a July 2013 test of India's future Ballistic Missile Defence system - see earlier test information - http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2012/11/another-successful-advanced-air-defence.html
  • another test of India's (part Israeli designed) Nirbhay cruise missile - details of first test http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirbhay_missile#First_Trial and
  • further tests of the Astra air-to-air and Nag anti-tank missiles.

  • In May 2013 V.K. Saraswat (above right) Director-General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Scientific Advisor to the Indian Defence Minister, was interviewed  (Read: Transcript of full interview) concerning a number of Indian strategic weapon programs, including India's first indigenously built submarine INS Arihant .


    On May 28, 2013, based on the Saraswat interview, The Hindu published the following article concerning:


    "Agni-V to be modified to attack multiple targets

    Weapon system to be fitted with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles
    The configuration of Agni-V, India’s long-range nuclear weapons capable ballistic missile, is set to be changed to make the 5,000-km weapon system deadlier and capable of attacking multiple targets.
    The modification is to enable fitting Agni-V with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs), V.K. Saraswat, Director-General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation and Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, told The Hindu. Another test in the present configuration of the three-stage missile would be conducted later this year.
    Besides imparting canister-launch capability, Agni-V would be equipped with MIRVs. “Work on that is going on and it is at design stage.”
    The resounding success of the maiden flight test of Agni-V in April 2012 catapulted India into a select league of nations having the technological prowess to develop Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles, he said. The Agni series will form the bulwark of land version of India’s nuclear deterrence triad.
    Meanwhile, the reactor on board the indigenously-built nuclear powered submarine, INS Arihant, is expected to go critical in a few weeks. The powering of the system should happen in a week or two, Dr. Saraswat said.
    (Once that happens, the 80-MWt (thermal) reactor would be in a position to deliver power to the platform and sea trials of Arihant would begin subsequently when the submarine is expected to move at the designed speed, go to the diving depth, attain maximum speed and perform all safety and emergency operations).
    Referring to the home-grown Ballistic Missile Defence programme, he said the next interceptor missile test to be conducted at a higher altitude of 100-150 km in July would be the most important one. “We have developed a new interceptor missile for it.”
    Another crucial DRDO missile test this year would be a “repeat launch” of ‘Nirbhay’. During the maiden trial of the subsonic cruise missile, the flight had to be terminated midway after it strayed from its trajectory. Dr. Saraswat attributed the problem to a manufacturing defect in the navigation sensor. Flight tests of air-to-air Astra and anti-tank Nag missiles would be also conducted."

    The Indian Government has indicated that once Arihant's nuclear reactor (under development for two decades) goes critical, Arihant will undergo several years of sea trials. Arihant, has already undergone limited trials at India's East coast naval base at Visakhapatnam for the last three years.

    The induction of INS Arihant into the Indian Navy's fleet will complete the crucial link in India's nuclear triad - the ability to fire nuclear weapons from land, air and sea.  So far, only the US, Russia, France, China, the UK (and possibly Israel) have the capability to launch a submarine-based ballistic missile.

    There is some concern over the overall strength of India's submarine fleet. India has 14 conventional diesel-electric submarines. Most are aging and outdated.
    Not mentioned in the DRDO update is India's most formidable submarine - the nuclear powered attack submarine INS Chakra (formerly the Russian Nerpa) long leased from Russia and built in Russia based on the Akula II design.

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