India has inched closer towards completing its nuclear triad with a top defence scientist confirming on Monday that the country was ready to testfire its first submarine launched ballistic missile called K-15, capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
The K-15 is part of the Sagarika missile programme, a closely guarded secret until now.
S. Prahlada, the chief controller in the Defence Research and Development Organisation said the K-15, with a range of 700 km, would be launched from a submerged pontoon shortly. “All preparations have been completed for sub-sea testing and we are awaiting government approval,” he said at the fifth international land and naval systems exhibition, DefExpo 2008, organised jointly by the defence ministry and the CII.
The K-15 would be mounted on the long-awaited advance technology vehicle, India’s nuclear submarine programme, which would begin sea trails next year.
A nuclear submarine force forms a crucial leg of the triad. The navy is in the process of acquiring one Akula-class nuclear submarine on long-term lease from Russia.
India has the capability to deliver nuclear weapons using fighter aircraft and missiles, like the Agni and Prithvi, that can strike targets over 3,000 km away.
Nuclear-powered submarines can stay underwater for months and launch missiles.
The K-15 test marks the first step towards converting the missile into a militarily usable nuclear weapon. The US, Russia, the UK, France and China are among the few countries with a strategic deterrent force at sea in the form of submarine launched ballistic missiles.
Prahlada said the DRDO had also done the groundwork for the third test of the 3000-km range Agni-III missile.