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Missile

Last Updated: April, 2016

India views its nuclear weapons and long-range power projection programs as the key to maintaining strategic stability in the Asia-Pacific region and attaining great-power status.

Missile Table for India

India's strategic missile programs have matured such that New Delhi currently has the capacity to deploy short-medium- and long-range ballistic missiles. Four decades of investments in indigenous missile-related design, development, and manufacturing infrastructure have made the missile sector nearly invulnerable to long-term disruption by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) (of which India is not a member), and other export controls.

India demonstrated its continued commitment to wide-ranging ballistic and cruise missile capabilities with a test of the Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in April 2012, a test of the Sagarika missile from a submerged pontoon in January 2013, a test of a submerged BrahMos cruise missile in March 2013, and a successful test of the Agni-III ICBM in April 2015. [1] Recently, Indian defense planners have begun to shift their focus from development of new missile technologies towards serial production of existing missiles. In a shift from previous policy, which promoted self-sufficiency, India is increasingly pursuing foreign collaboration, suggesting that New Delhi is now confident in its indigenous missile capabilities. [2]

Capabilities

For the past decade, India has concentrated on developing a triad of capabilities, with fair to moderate success. However, at present, land-based ballistic missiles remain the cornerstone of India's strategic capability. [3]

Ballistic Missiles

The Prithvi-I, Agni-I and Agni-II are India's only fully operational land-based ballistic missiles and form the foundation of the country's ballistic missile arsenal. [4] The Prithvi series of missiles includes three road-mobile, surface-to-surface systems (Prithvi-I, II, III); and one sea-to-surface (Dhanush). The Prithvi-I, with a range of 150 km and a payload of 1,000 kg, is known to be deployed with the 333rd and 355th Missile Groups of the Indian Army; however, it is unknown exactly where the missile groups are located. [5] The Prithvi-II, in service with the Indian Air Force since 2004, possesses a range of 250 km and a maximum payload of 500 kg. This missile, uses advanced inertial guidance systems to achieve an accuracy of within several meters and was successfully tested in 2014. [6] India developed the two-stage Prithvi-III as a ship-to-surface missile for the Navy, but the military has not deployed it due to technological difficulties. While every Prithvi-class missile is theoretically nuclear-capable, only the Prithvi-I is thought to be armed with nuclear warheads. [7]

India relies on the Agni program for medium and long-range ballistic missile capabilities. While the Ministry of Defense has declared the Agni-I, II, and III operational, Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen point to technical and reliability issues with all three missiles. [8] The 700 km Agni-I was retroactively manufactured to cover the range gap between the short-range Prithvi and the medium-range Agni-II. Both the Agni-I and II can deliver nuclear payloads to targets within 2000 km, encompassing Pakistan and most parts of south and southeastern China. [9] The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) conducted four successful tests of the 3,000 km Agni-III, entering it into service in 2011. [10] India conducted a successful Agni-III missile test in April 2015. The 4,000km two-stage solid-fueled Agni-IV was successfully fired in January 2014 and December 2014, carrying a 1-tonne payload over 3000km. [11] It was deployed by the Indian Army in late 2014. [12] India tested the three stage, solid fueled Agni-V to a range of 5,000 km, 500 km below ICBM range; however, China estimates that the missile's range is 8,000 km. [13] As of July 2014, the Agni-V has been introduced into India's armed forces. [14] In 2012, the DRDO announced that it was researching the possibility of equipping the Agni-V with multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV). Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen consider it unlikely this option will be implemented primarily because of the high costs involved in research and the possibility of arms race escalation in relation to Pakistan and China. [15] The DRDO announced it has tentative plans to begin test flights of the Agni-VI, possibly equipped with MIRV capabilities, in 2017. [16] Both the Agni and Prithvi missile series are manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), a publicly-owned contractor under the purview of the DRDO.

India's K family of missiles, including the K-15 (Sagarika); K-4 (under development); and K-5 (rumored); are designed to be submarine-launched. India began developing the Sagarika (K-15) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in the mid-1990s; however, without a submarine capable of carrying the Sagarika, India has been unable to test the missile from a vessel, and to-date has only test-launched the Sagarika from submerged pontoons. [17] American intelligence estimates place the range of the Sagarika at 300 km, but Indian media claim the range is roughly 700 km. [18] After entering testing in early 2008, the twelfth test of the Sagarika (and eleventh successful test), took place on January 27, 2013 from a pontoon submerged to a depth of 50m. [19]

The Arihant submarine project began in the late 1990s as part of the Indian Navy's top-secret Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) program. The first submarine, launched in 2009, successfully completed sea trials in 2012. [20] The Arihant is capable of carrying 12 nuclear-capable Sagarika missiles. India also began construction of a second Arihant-class vessel in 2015. [21]

The DRDO is developing an Agni-III variant SLBM with a 3,500 km range known as the K-4. Indian media have reported that the DRDO is developing a K-5 SLBM with a range of 5,000 to 6,000 km. [22] Little open source information exists on the status of the K-4 or K-5.

The Dhanush sea-to-surface ballistic missile is a variant of the Prithvi-II with a range of 350 km and maximum payload of 500 kg. Although the first test flight of the Dhanush was a failure (in 2000), eight subsequent tests have been successful, including a test in April 2015. [23] In 2013, the Dhanush was successfully tested for the final time. One of the newest missile systems, the Shaurya (Valor), has been tested several times since 2008. It is nuclear capable and can carry a 1-tonne warhead, enhancing the sea-based deterrent. [24]

Cruise

In March 2012, India tested and operationalized the 300 to 500 km BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, a joint Indian-Russian project. The BrahMos can travel at speeds up to Mach 3.0 and is equipped with advanced satellite navigation. [25] In January 2013, India launched a highly maneuverable version of the BrahMos from a naval warship in the Bay of Bengal. [26] In March 2013, India successfully test fired a submarine-launched variant from a submerged platform. An air-launched version of the BrahMos is also in development. [27]  The DRDO plans to test a hypersonic version named BrahMos-II in 2017. [28]

In June 2014, the DRDO successfully test fired the Astra air-to-air missile, India's first indigenously produced beyond visual range (BVR) missile; in May 2015, the Astra missile was successfully test-fired twice from Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jet. [29] The medium-range Akash (Sky) surface-to-air missile was also tested in June 2014, successfully intercepting an aerial vehicle. [30]

On October 17, 2014, India successfully tested its first indigenously designed and developed long-range cruise missile, the Nirbhay (Fearless). [31] This was the second test of the Nirbhay following an aborted test in March 2013. The Nirbhay can travel at speeds up to Mach 0.7 and has an operational range of 1,000km. [32]

Space

India has one of the world's most advanced space programs. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) first successfully launched an Indian space launch vehicle (SLV) in 1980, and has since become a leader in scientific and commercial spaceflight frequently contracting with other countries to launch satellites into orbit. As of July 2013, India has successfully launched 34 satellites into orbit aboard domestic rockets. [33]

Defense

Indian missile defense is a double-tiered system, using the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD/Pradyumna) missile for high-altitude (max 80 km) interception, and the Advanced Air Defense (AAD) Missile for lower-altitude (max 30 km) interception. [34] India's ballistic missile defense (BMD) plan is based on two phases of development. Phase one was operationalized in May 2012, and according to Indian defense officials, has the capability to protect two cities from missiles with ranges of up to 2,000 km. [35] India claims that the BMD system has a 99.8% kill rate; however, this assertion has been challenged by experts both within and outside of India. [36] India is currently developing phase two of the BMD program, charged with defense against 5,000 km-range missiles.

In early 2013 India considered purchasing the Iron Dome system from Israel, which has a claimed intercept rate of 90% against Palestinian rockets and mortars. The Iron Dome system could theoretically protect India from tactical nuclear weapons launched from Pakistan. While no such Indian-Israeli deal has come to fruition, more recent reports point to Indian efforts to purchase Russia’s anti-aircraft, anti-missile S-400 system in an effort to bolster its aging air defense programs. [37]

In 2009, the Advanced Air Defense (AAD) missile system was announced as an indigenous system to counter intermediate range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. [38] Since 2011, at least 7 successful tests have been confirmed. [39] In 2012, after a final successful test it was announced that the AAD would be integrated into Indian air defense in late 2014. [40] The DRDO reports that the AAD is "30% superior [to the U.S. Patriot] in terms of range and capability." [41] Assistance from Russia, Israel and France has increased the development and capabilities of the AAD. [42]

Import and Export Behavior

Russia continues to play a significant role in India's missile program. Strong defense ties between Moscow and Delhi date back to the Cold War, and have continued despite the collapse of the Soviet Union. [43] Russian expertise and materiel contributes to the BrahMos cruise missile, the Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), and India's fledgling missile defense system.

The BrahMos missile program was initially conceived as a joint venture between the DRDO and Russia's State Unitary Enterprise NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) in 1998. [44] India first tested the BrahMos in 2001, and had test-fired it 35 times as of July 2013. [45] In addition to being operationalized in two Army regiments, the Navy has received deliveries of the missile to be fitted onto destroyers. Submarine-launched and air-launched versions of the BrahMos are also in development. [46]

The Sagarika SLBM received technical assistance from Russia's NPOM, which also supplied the missile's guidance hardware. [47] India has reached out to Russia and Israel for assistance with missile defense, and expressed a particular interest in integrating Russian S-300 SAM and Israeli Arrow ATBM systems with its own multi-layer BMD. [48] In 2012, a representative of the US Department of Defense expressed willingness to cooperate with India on a BMD program. [49] In July 2014, the DoD reported that the U.S. intended to make a $200 million sale of Harpoon anti-ship missiles to India to be fitted on their submarines. [50]

India's missile program suffered under Western sanctions, imposed after the country's nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998. [51] Sanctions in the aftermath of the 1998 series of tests were particularly devastating, impeding a period of sustained momentum at the DRDO. U.S. sanctions were eased in December 1999, and nuclear-related restrictions were totally removed after India committed to assisting the United States in the "War on Terror." [52] U.S. sanctions against Indian defense subsidiaries are still a sticking point in bilateral relations, but the Obama administration has continued to relax export control restrictions with India. [53] Relations with the West have improved in recent years. India imported nearly $2 billion of U.S. arms in 2013, becoming its largest importer. [54]

Although it formally applied for membership in June 2015, India is still not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). In 2010, India received the Obama Administration's support for its requests to join the MTCR and other international export control groups, including the Wassennar Arrangement, the Australia Group, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). [55] The Obama Administration also expressed its support for a permanent Indian seat on the UN Security Council. [56] Much broader international support would be required for approval of any of these membership requests. Although granted a "waiver" status in 2008, India continues to seek admittance into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, with plans to place its next bid at the upcoming June 2016 NSG plenary session. [57] India and the United Kingdom also agreed to a GBP 250 million deal that placed British Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missiles on the Indian Air Force's Jaguars. [58] In addition to the Mirage 2000 and the Jaguar, a $20 billion deal with the French will add 126 Rafale fighter jets, capable of carrying a nuclear payload, to its delivery arsenal. [59]

History

1958 to 1970: The Push for Self-Reliance

India's first missile program began in 1958 - the same year Prime Minister Nehru approved the construction of a plutonium reprocessing plant at Trombay. [60] The project was a modest attempt to construct anti-tank guided missiles. [61] In addition, the missile group examined the development of a liquid fueled sustainer engine - most likely based on the SA-2 from the Soviet Union. [62] Both projects were undertaken by the DRDO and its principal missile laboratory, the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL). The program emphasized gaining scientific expertise and creating a technological base for eventually building modern missiles indigenously. [63] No plans were made in the short-term for the mass production of missile systems. However, the DRDO's technical and organizational shortcomings, opposition from the armed services, and weak support from politicians and civilian bureaucrats in the federal government resulted in the failure and ultimate termination of both projects. [64]

India received the French Centaure sounding rocket in May 1964, and began reproducing it with modifications. [65] Indian engineers therefore had 20 years of rocket experience, including satellite launches and recovery, before the country commenced a dedicated missile program in 1985.

1971 to 1980: Technological Setbacks

Two major programs occupied Indian missile efforts in the 1970s - Project Devil and Project Valiant. Inaugurated by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in December 1970, Project Valiant explored the development of a long-range ballistic missile with a range approaching 8,000 km. [66] For technological and bureaucratic reasons, Valiant was doomed from the beginning. Leading officials in the DRDO were unenthusiastic about the project, citing a crippling shortage of the scientific and engineering expertise needed to complete such an ambitious project. [67] Furthermore, inter-agency competition handicapped interest in the project and morale within the DRDO. After technical problems with the missile's engine proved too great to overcome, the project was shelved in 1974. [68]

In 1972, work began on Project Devil, an attempt to "acquire detailed knowledge" of an operational missile by reverse-engineering the Soviet-designed SA-2 surface-to-air missile (SAM). [69] The SA-2 is powered by a liquid fueled sustainer engine and a solid fueled booster; Project Devil engineers hoped to be able to produce it indigenously by the end of the decade. [70] The project suffered monumental technological and capacity setbacks, but fulfilled the core components of its mission: "two solid-fuel boosters and a three-ton liquid sustainer engine," which would later serve as the platform for the Prithvi missile series, emerged from the effort. [71] Nevertheless, the project failed to replicate the SA-2, and funding for the project ended in 1980. [72] Similar to India's "peaceful nuclear explosion" in 1974, these projects appear to have been a function of the political leadership's desire to demonstrate the country's technological prowess and project India as a great power, rather than an initiative to meet a pressing security concern. The armed forces' indifference to Project Devil and Valiant indicate that political rather than strictly national security considerations were behind missile development in the 1970s. [73]

The first successful launch of an Indian SLV came in 1980, after more than fifteen years of research and development. After the launch, the head of India's Space Sciences Technology Center (SSTC) noted that "India can now walk on two legs" (i.e., that India had a delivery system for its nuclear warheads). [74]

1981 to 1994: Becoming a Full-Fledged Missile Program

India began making its first substantive achievements in missile development after Indira Gandhi, a proponent of nuclear weapons, returned to power in 1980. In 1982 a committee was formed which studied 16 options for missile development. A year later, the committee unveiled the framework for the Integrated Guided Missile Program (IGMDP). The IGMDP was the organizational vehicle by which the DRDO engineered India's modern missile systems. [75] Along with the Trishul short-range surface-to-air missile, the Akash long-range surface-to-air missile, and the Nag anti-tank missile - of immediate interest to the armed forces in the early 1980s - the IGMDP produced the Prithvi and Agni missile series. [76]

Unlike the Indian missile projects in the 1970s, the IGMDP enjoyed consistent political and financial support throughout the 1980s and 1990s. [77] Amidst technology-denial sanctions imposed by the international community after India's 1974 nuclear test, political leaders and civilian bureaucrats pushed for increased research in dual-use civilian technologies such as the SLV. [78] New Delhi sponsored, for example, the development of the SLV-3, the motor of which was considered by some to be the first Agni "technology demonstrator." [79]

The simultaneous development of the Prithvi and Agni missile series emerged from a debate amongst DRDO officials in the early 1980s about whether to pursue liquid- or solid-fueled missiles. [80] Solid-fuel proponents argued that the simple design features and easy maintenance of solid-fuel engines outweighed the limited technological flexibility of liquid-fueled designs. [81] Prior experience with liquid-fueled motors in the 1970s under Project Devil and Project Valiant eventually led officials to pursue the liquid-fuel option for the Prithvi series, but they chose to use solid-fuel engines for the Agni series. [82]

Prithvi-I provided India with a rudimentary short-range option for deploying a limited nuclear strike capability against Pakistan. [83] By 1994, two successful flight-tests of the 1,400 km-range Agni missile confirmed India's re-entry vehicle technology and demonstrated mastery of staging. [84] The Agni program thus served as the foundation for the design and development of longer-range ballistic missile systems, while the Prithvi remained the country's lone operational strategic missile. [85]

1995 to the Present: The DRDO Consolidates Support, Changes Tactics

The latter half of the 1990s was characterized by continued technological development of the Prithvi and Agni ballistic missiles; unprecedented support for the DRDO's strategic missile program under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government; and India's pursuit of more sophisticated missile delivery options. [86] Though the army and air force initially balked at the price tag, India's armed services operationalized both versions of the Prithvi by the end of the decade under pressure from the DRDO and the prime minister's office. [87] The services soon realized that operating DRDO-built missiles was a sure method of gaining a crucial stake in the formation of India's nuclear policies. [88]

India's missile programs flourished under the BJP government, which rose to power in 1998. After years of nuclear opacity and tepid support for the guided missile program under Congress Party governments, the BJP tested nuclear weapons two months after taking office in 1998 and increased financial outlays for the DRDO's missile efforts. [89] The DRDO embarked on programs to develop shorter- and longer-range versions of the Agni (the Agni-II and Agni-III); a supersonic cruise missile (BrahMos) with Russian collaboration; and a naval variant of the Prithvi (Dhanush). [90] The DRDO also began developing a sea-launched ballistic missile, the Sagarika, which has been tested from submersible pontoons while awaiting the development of submarines capable of firing SLBMs. [91] India has sought U.S., Russian and Israeli collaboration in the development of an anti-tactical ballistic missile (ATBM) system, but has been stymied by U.S. reluctance to release sensitive technology to a non-MTCR member. [92]

Recent Developments and Current Status

The Agni ballistic missile family has undergone significant recent improvements in range and sophistication. India conducted a successful Agni-III test in April 2015. [93] After successful tests, two-stage Agni-IV production will likely end in late 2014 or early 2015 to be introduced into the Armed Forces. [94] The long-anticipated Agni-V was successfully tested in April 2012. [95] While its tested range of 5000 km falls short of ICBM status, the missile's range can be increased with relatively minor technological adjustments; experts therefore consider the Agni V to be an ICBM. [96] Even with a range of only 5,000 km, the Agni-V could hit any target in China, including Beijing. The missile is expected to be operational by 2015. [97] The Agni V is also slated to be equipped with MIRV technology, although this would require several years of extensive testing. [98] In May 2013, the DRDO announced the Agni-VI could be ready for testing as early as 2017. [99]

In July 2013, India announced it would begin withdrawing the 17 year-old Prithvi-I and replacing it with the 150 km solid-fueled, road-mobile Prahar missile, which was first tested in 2011. The Prahar is smaller, more maneuverable, and faster to launch than the Prithvi-I. It has a maximum payload of 200 kg, and is capable of carrying only conventional or tactical nuclear weapons. The timeline for the switchover from the Prithvi-I to the Prahar has not been announced. [100]

The successful test of the indigenous Nirbhay long-range cruise missile has been hailed as a hallmark moment in India's missile development. "The successful indigenous development of the Nirbhay cruise missile will fill a vital gap in the warfighting capabilities of our armed forces," DRDO chief Avinash Chander stated. [101]

India's 2008 lunar launch and planned 2013 Mars launch may mark a shift in the focus of India's space program from military and commercial dual-use ventures, including rocket propulsion and satellite launches, to purely scientific research. [102] The ISRO plans to send a manned mission to space in 2016. [103]

In February 2015, an Indian Defense Ministry source stated that India and Israel finalized an agreement to develop a medium-range surface-to-air missile system (MRSAM). The DRDO and Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) of Israel will jointly develop the MRSAM for Indian Army. [104]

India successfully tested a series of missiles in November 2015, including the Prithvi-II, Agni-I, Agni-IV, and Dhanush; as well an unarmed missile from the Arihant-class submarine. [105]

Despite recent advances in its missile and space programs, India’s attempts to obtain MTCR membership in 2015 were met with little success. After applying for membership in June 2015, Indian admittance was blocked when Italy broke the consensus-based vote during the MTCR’s October plenary session. [106] Experts speculate that Italy’s decision to break consensus may have had little to do with India’s missile technology control record, stemming instead from a bilateral dispute over India’s attempted prosecution of Italian marines for an incident off the coast of South India in 2012. [107]

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Get the Facts on India
  • 2008 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver permits nuclear trade even though it is not an NPT member
  • Abandoned its offensive chemical weapons (CW) program by 1997 and destroyed its entire CW stockpile by 2009
  • Developing a hypersonic cruise missile in collaboration with the Russian Federation

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.