India all set to complete the Nuclear Triad, To test ICBM
India is ready with its submarine-launched ballistic missiles and its final test could take place any day now. The nuclear tipped missiles which were developed under the Sagarika project have been codenamed ‘K-15’. The K-15 has a 700km range same as that of Agni-1 which is already a part of the Indian Army. The K-15s will be deployed on indigenously developed nuclear powered submarines. The integration of the missiles with the submarines would be complete within the next three years.
India has been on a ‘defense equipment shopping spree’ since the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999; India has acquired defense hardware worth $10 billion in the last eight years and will be spending another $25 billion in the next five.
Apart from the indigenous submarine program India has also given orders for the French made Scorpenes which will be with the Indian Navy by 2012. Add to that a Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Gorshkov, which will come bundled with about 16 MiG-29K fighter jets for a price tag of over $2 billion. India had been waiting for Gorshkov for a very long since it currently has only one carrier, INS Viraat which is expected to be decommissioned in 2012. India has also initiated a $750 million project to manufacture a heavy aircraft carrier at home which will also be ready by 2012.
In the past the Indian Navy had, at most, only one aircraft carrier at its disposal and it was rightly feared that the Navy would lose crucial time in sending the carrier from Arabian Sea to Bay of Bengal (or vice versa) in case of an attack form either Pakistan or China. Now they would have two carriers plus the nuclear powered submarines. In addition the Navy has also inducted the nuclear warhead capable supersonic cruise missile Brahmos.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) will the biggest piece of the pie. In what is being called the ‘Mother of all Deals’, the Air Force will be acquiring 126 fighter aircrafts for about $10 billion which will replace its aging fleet of MiG-21s. Some of the contenders for this mega deal are Mirage 2000-5 (France), F-16 and F-18 (USA), Gripen (Sweden) and MiG-29 (Russia). Apart from buying fighter jets from other countries, India has also been developing its own fighter jet called Tejas which is in testing & development stage.
Defense scientists are ready to test India’s first beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile Astra. The scientists hope to integrate the missile with the aircraft soon and conduct tests later this year. The Air Force will be looking to replace the more expensive air-to-air missiles like the French-made Matra Super 530D, Russian-made AA-12 Adder and Israeli-made Python and Derby from its Sukhoi-30MKI and Mirage-2000s.
Army has in its arsenal the mightiest of India’s all missiles, the Agni. The Army having inducted the Prithvi-1 (Range: 150 km), Agni-1 (Range: 700 km) and the Agni-2 (Range: 2,000 km+) is now planning a third test of the Agni-3 missile which has a range of 3,500 km, the test would take place later this year. Indian scientists, in addition to working on increasing Agni-3’s range by another 1,500 kms, is also working on Agni-4 which will have a range of 6,000 kms.
With Agni-4 India would join the club of countries with intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs. It is believed that India was under pressure from the US not to increase the range of its missiles but since the talks of the Indo-US nuclear deal have started Indian government has got a shot in the arm and is looking to take the next step in weapons development.
With India on the fast lane to become an economic super power it also needs to comprehend its economic development with advancements in military capabilities. And with an unstable neighborhood it becomes imperative for India to have a strong response mechanism against any possible future eventualities.