India test-fires SLBM successfully undersea, joins big league

India has quietly test-fired the last of its undersea missiles joining the ranks of US, Russia, France and China, an exclusive club of four with nuclear-tipped submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

Research reports suggest that the range of the missile, named B-5, could be from 700 to 750 km and the Hyderabad-based laboratory of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) confirmed that it was the 12th test in the series and final one that would unravel the process of incorporating the arsenal into the country’s nuclear-submarine INS Arihant in less than five years.

The test fire was conducted off the sea on Sunday at 1:40 pm from INS Arihant nuclear-powered submarine, reports NDTV journalists who were the “chosen ones” by the DRDO to witness and report the test.

But the test will not catapult India immediately into the club of SLBMs until the 6,000 tonne INS Arihant is cleared for harbouring off the country’s coast. It will take few more months before India officially commissions the nuclear-tipped missiles on the indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine. With its miniature 83 MW pressurized light-water reactor, INS Arihant will carry the one-tonne nuclear payloads in few years from now.

The SLBMs are crucial as they serve the purpose of second-round or retaliatory action in the nuclear warfare as they are mostly immune from the first nuclear strike. Incidentally, both the US and Russia, despite their arms reduction agreement (START II), retained most of their nuclear arsenal in the form of SLBMs.

The defence agency’s Hyderabad laboratory director A.K. Chakrabarty had reportedly briefed the NDTV journalists after the incident saying it was the 14th successful test, hinting at an early approval for the missile to be fitted on nuclear submarine soon. Chakrabarty was one of the distinguished missile scientists and was awarded the “Technology Leadership Award” by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in July.

Other undersea missiles under development include the K-4/5 series of 3,500 km range, the two-stage, subsonic Nirbhay cruise missile of 1,200 km range and the Brahmos super-sonic cruise missile of 290 km. The next series of India will be the Nirbhay and the testfiring will be undertaken next month.

India’s research program on nuclear-capable submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), known as K-15 Sagarika, began in 1999 as part of the country’s nuclear traid with the sole purpose of achieving retaliatory nuclear strike capability. The development of a launcher was completed in 2001 and the SLBM was taken up soon after.

The SLBM was mainly for use in INS Arihant, India’s first indegenously-built nuclear-submarine. The missiles under Sagarika have a length of 10 metres, diameter of 0.74 metres and weigh 17 tonnes. They are designed to carry a payload of up to 1,000 kilograms and cruise up to 700 km.

The final trial test of the missiles was successfully conducted on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 and the missile will now be integrated with INS Arihant.


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