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India Claims Successful Development of SLBM

The Indian defense sector has indicated it successfully produced a submarine-launched ballistic missile even though the new weapon likely will require further testing, the Times of India reported on Tuesday (see GSN, June 26).

On Tuesday at the yearly Defense Research and Development Organization accolades ceremony, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was slated to award researcher A.K. Chakrabarti with the "technology leadership award" for leading the "successful development" of the nation's initial submarine-fired high-altitude missile, the K-15.

The K-15 has a reported top traveling distance of 466 miles and can be tipped with nuclear warheads weighing 1 metric ton.

"Apart from India, this capability has been acquired by four other nations, the U.S., Russia, France and China. Now, the SLBM system is ready for induction," the award reads. The United Kingdom loads its nuclear warheads on U.S.-made Trident missiles.

Information on India's SLBM effort has been closely guarded in contrast to its land-launched Agni ballistic missile program, which features regular media updates on testing and development of next-generation longer-range weapons.

India might be somewhat hasty in announcing the successful development of the K-15, according to the Times, which noted the missile has a ways to go before it can be fielded.

Even if the ballistic missile has been thoroughly vetted through multiple firings from submersible vessels and is now being manufactured, the submarine that would carry the K-15, the INS Arihant, is not yet finished with its "harbor-acceptance trials." The ballistic missile submarine will need a minimum of one more year before it is combat-ready, according to the Times.

After dock work on the atomic-powered submarine is finished and its reactor activated, the domestically developed vessel must complete comprehensive sea assessments and the trial-launch of the K-15.

The INS Arihant can be loaded with up to 12 K-15s or, at a later date, four of the developmental K-4 missile, which has a target distance of approximately 2,175 miles.

Once the INS Arihant assumes deterrent patrols, India would possess the full strategic triad -- the capacity to deliver nuclear weapons by air, land, and sea (Rajat Pandit, Times of India, July 31).

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