India moved closer towards completing its nuclear triad with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test firing the country’s first-ever Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM), codenamed K-15. Part of the closely guarded Sagarika missile programme, it has a range of 700 km.
<b1>The test was conducted on Tuesday from a submerged pontoon off the coast of Vishakhapatnam. It marks the first step towards converting the missile into a militarily usable nuclear weapon. The missile has been under development for over a decade.
The SLBM would ultimately be mounted on the long-awaited advance technology vehicle (ATV), India's nuclear submarine programme, which would begin sea trails next year.
A nuclear submarine force forms a crucial leg of India’s nuclear triad. India has the capability to deliver nuclear weapons using fighter aircarft and missiles like Agni and Prithvi that can hit targets up to 3,000 km away. Nuclear-powered submarines can stay underwater for months and launch missiles. The ATV with a ballistic missile onboard would complete India's nuclear triad.
The United States, Russia the UK, France and China are among the select group of countries with a strategic deterrent force at sea in the form of SLBMs. The navy is in the process of acquiring one Akula-class nuclear submarine on long-term lease from Russia.
The DRDO has also completed the groundwork to conduct the third test of 3000-km range Agni-III missile. The first test had flopped but the second one was successful. Agni-III would put India’s credible minimum deterrence on a firm footing as no missile in the Indian arsenal had the range to strike targets in deep inside China. Agni’s earlier variants, the 700-km Pakistan specific Agni-I and the 2,000-km range Agni-II, have been inducted into the armed forces.
Agni-III’s induction could take up to two more years as the DRDO plans to conduct at least two more tests to validate the missile before declaring it safe for handing over to the armed forces. The research establishment has claimed it has the building blocks to develop an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) that can hit targets more than 5,500 kms away.