Agni-V, the 5,000-km version of the nuclear capable missile, is in the final phase of testing and is soon set for launch, a senior DRDO official said here today.
"Agni-V is in the final phase of testing. I cannot predict the exact date of its launch, but it will be launched shortly," Chief Controller R and D (Missiles and Strategic Systems) at DRDO, Avinash Chander, said.
He was addressing a press conference at the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory to mark the conclusion of its year-long golden jubilee celebrations,
Agni-V, touted as India's most ambitious strategic missile, will follow last year's test of the country's most advanced surface-to-surface missile Agni-IV.
The three-stage Agni-V and the two-stage Agni-IV are poised to add credible deterrence against countries which have missiles like the 11,200-km Dong Feng-31A, Chander said.
Agni-V will feature Multiple Independently-Targeted Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) with each missile being capable of carrying 3-10 separate warheads.
To a question, Chander said "we have Rs 20,000 crore worth production orders for Akash missile."
"By 2020, India will be among the leading countries in the missile development," he said.
BANGALORE: India’s big bang missile Agni-5 is moving towards the strike-zone carrying new technologies as a stepping stone for futuristic killer-missions. But silently, yet another story is being scripted for Agni-6, India’s club-class Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Range: in excess of 6,000 km.
Notwithstanding what happens with the A-5 launch, sources say missile scientists are already looking at newer possibilities in making future strikes meaningful and menacing. “There are many more areas in long-range missiles where future work can happen. Multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicles (MIRV), manoeuvring re-entry vehicles (MaRV) which are considerably lighter using all-composite structure and intelligent counter measures against BMD (ballistic missile defences) are some of them,” sources said.
But military experts point out that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will have to travel some distance before achieving the MIRV/MaRV capabilities. “It is a very complex technology. It’s worth waiting to see when A-5 is finally inducted into the Services, with what features and in what numbers. Range and accuracy are factors one must watch for,” a warhead specialist with the Indian Army told Express.
Avinash Chander, Chief Controller, R&D (Missiles and Strategic Systems), DRDO, told Express over phone from New Delhi that his team has taken stock of the road ahead.
“Future systems may carry different types of payloads such as high energy weapons. Further systems whenever planned, will have some of these (read as MIRV/MarV) features,” he said.
On the factors that have influenced A-5 development, Chander, the brain behind the missile, said India needs a platform which has the range to cover its emerging area of influence.
“It also needs high mobility, safety and accuracy. A-5 provides a state-of-the-art weapon, a mix of front-end capabilities,” he said.
On the launch date of A-5, he said: “The launch campaign will officially begin in the middle of the month.”
Mr. Yevstafiev, what do you think about various reactions of the successful Agni-V Indian intercontinental?
The first test launch was basically successful. It is a great achievement of the Indian research technology and we have to admit that India has become one of the major missile countries in this world. And it was developed for a number of years. Initially the idea was to develop Agni-III into number IV and number V, but then number IV somehow has not been tested yet and now we have Agni-V. This is a formidable missile with the range of, some people say it is 5000 kilometers, but I’m afraid they are misleading the public opinion because there are people who believe that it has a potential of 8000 kilometers. And of course the range of throw is a classified information but nevertheless between 5000 and 8000, this makes it intercontinental strategic missile.
The missile was coming under the Strategic Forces command. So, it is in a proper hands and it has been launched from a traditional place, there is a Wheeler Island where Defense Research and Development Organization of India has its sights. And it would take a number of test flights, not less than four or five, before a missile itself will become operational. Now it is a success but it is not yet operational and it will also take three or four years before they really develop what they say. They want to have at top of this missile MIRV system – Multiple Independently Targeted Vehicles with a number of, between two and ten, separately targeted nuclear bombs. And it will take some time, this technology is not yet ready.
And what we have of course it is a huge missile, it is almost 18 meters, and its diameter is 2 meters, it is really a robust and solid mechanism. It can carry about 1500 kilos of weight of load and it is enough to carry a vessel with a nuclear bomb or to have four or five MIRV bombs which could present a very serious difficulty for missile defense. And we have to give credit to Indians, they have mastered, which has taken more time in bigger countries like the United States and Russia, they right from the beginning have put the missile into a canister which is sealed and the missile could be kept for quite some time before it is being thrown out from a canister and after that it starts moving. Of course we know the Indians have serious successes in navigational systems, in GPS systems that’s why as far as guidance is concerned that’s quite a reliable thing because the standard of Indian electronics and space technology evokes respect.
So, having fired this missile Indians have stated by the firing test that they have joined the club of the great missile powers. Being the nuclear state they have declared that they have a very universal weapon for the future developments because of course they have their own threats perceptions and risks. And that’s why it has been done according to their view of developing situation. If you have a look on how far it can fly – it covers all China and it can come up to Europe. I wonder if these people in Europe, would they think about a threat from a third world country and what do they think about their missile defense system because it is much more developed than anything we have in Korea or in Iran for that matter.
Indian researcher Bahukutumbi Raman says that Agni-V is, like he put it, a Chinese centric missile. And he says that once it is put on operation, it can reach those parts of Eastern China on which its economic prosperity depends. Now, if that is really so? Are we going to see something like arms race between China and India?
The arms race between China and India is going on for the last 15-20 years. The range of Agni-V covers the whole of China, not only the areas on which the Chinese prosperity depends.
In terms of Indian perception of threats of course in the Indian General Headquarters, among the military China is the major threat and that’s why they have found now, say by 2015 they will have a reliable weapon to respond to Chinese threat. But on the other hand I think it will make the whole situation, as far as stability is concerned, more predictable and both sides, I would say, would be very cautious about playing with muscles.
But it is a certain warning to other countries around India, in the Indian Ocean and in other places that India has a potential and they have to deal with India very cautiously, they should not irritate India and it has Indian Ocean at her disposal because with this kind of missiles, they will have a number of them, they would control the whole area. And it happens, interestingly enough, it happens in times when Americans are trying to develop their assets and potential in Australia. And America is preparing for some sort of a showdown with China sooner or later. In this situation we have a new player, very important player who has got something to say.
And is the player going to take sides in that situation?
No, I don’t think India will take any sides in this because Indian policy is very mature. Indians know the border of their national interests and they won’t go a step over this border. They know the Chinese points of aim, so to say, which they should not step on. But in a long run I think it would play well in containing the United States.
Containing the United States?
Yes, in the long run, especially if China and India would agree among themselves and would really divide the spheres of interests, it could be a very serious reminder to the United States that they have to behave in this area because they are not the only one country which possesses this kind of formidable arsenal of weapons.
But interestingly enough India has close cooperation with the United States in nuclear matters. So, do you think that could be a leverage for the United States to apply some pressure to India?
No, I don’t think so. You know, the agreement with Bush Administration signed with India about scientific cooperation, but mainly in a nuclear field, in 2007 is of the particular interest to the United States because they know the Indians have a huge energy program which is based mostly on, due to rather poor energy resources, it is based mostly on the development of the nuclear industry. We benefit from this idea of Indians develop nuclear industry, Kudankulam which we are going to convert into something very spectacular.
But the Indian request is huge because Indians are planning within 20-25 years to build about 50 nuclear energy reactors and American industry which is not producing nuclear reactors now for the use in the United States, they have stopped producing them to the United States industry, they badly need some market for the advanced technologies in that. By the way, French are in the same boat, though of course French industry is of a much smaller size. That’s why the fight for Indian market in nuclear technology is basically a commercial fight for the share of Indian market. But the market is going to be so big that for the next 15 years there will be enough space for everybody to work on this market.
Mind you that Indians are very serious customers and they demand a lot of set benefits when they sign agreements and these set benefits would of course sponsor the Indian industry in developing their own technologies. And sooner or later they will produce more than 50% of what they need for themselves.
And now of course the final question based on your assessment. Just how good are the chances, the way you see, that eventually India and China might come to terms? Because now we’ve got more than half a century standing conflict between the two. And on the other hand there are so many forces which would be trying to prevent the two countries reaching any kind of agreement.
That’s true. And for example America very cautiously but they do have the share of really provoking the rift between the two countries, but very carefully. They don’t want to be caught red handed.
This is very difficult to predict but both countries are quite mature in their diplomacy and foreign policy. Both countries understand the level of their pretensions over the influence in this world and that’s why unless there is something very special, and very special in this case might be Pakistan which is an ally of China. But Indians are cautious with Pakistan, they don’t want to take upon themselves the burden of handling the affairs of this almost fail state and they really don’t mind the Chinese working there and having their share of influence in Pakistan.
But on the other hand there is no serious problem of fighting for resources up to now between China and India because China is trying to master the situation in the Pacific Ocean zone, and especially on those islands like Paracel or on other kinds of isles, and these are the priorities for the Chinese. They don’t show much their flag in the Indian Ocean. From time to time they come but just to show that there is the Chinese Fleet and so on. But they understand and they see that the Indian Ocean is the zone of influence of India, and they don’t provoke India for all kinds of responses.
The same thing with India, it is quite far from this Pacific Ocean area. It has a lot of things to do around the Indian Ocean and that’s why they are not a competitor for Chinese in the area. Whereas the United States, Japan, maybe even Indonesia, Vietnam, these countries are more anti-Chinese in a sense that they are afraid of Chinese, they don’t want to have the increased Chinese influence. And that brings me to some sort of a hope that understanding this Chinese and Indians, especially in times of possible Chinese-American tensions, they would keep quite good relationships among themselves.
Well, let’s hope so. Though there is the painful issue of Tibet.
Tibet of course is a point of disagreement but with the course, the way things develop, Indians will soon be deprived of their hope to have something in Tibet which would be more favourable to their heart then what is now. Chinese are moving there slowly but I would say resolutely and I don’t think Tibet is having some chance of independence.
And what about the new port which the Chinese are building in Pakistan?
Pakistan is a different thing. And Pakistan basically strategically is surviving on the strategic partner agreement with China. But times change. I believe that Pakistan in many respects is a fail state. And Indians do understand this and they don’t want to touch Pakistan in terms of military invasion.
But still, are the Chinese interested in getting the port and getting access into the Indian Ocean ultimately?
Not now. Time will come but now they have different priorities. I think they have a priority of China Sea oil resources and in the surrounding countries. In American opposition to this, they have the priority of Taiwan, deciding the future of Taiwan in some way which would be acceptable and they are very flexible on the way how to decide. So, for the next 15-29 China has enough to do in this area and if it is not going to provoke anybody on the other side of their borders, and they would prefer to have some sort of détente with India, this will work.
India must be transparent about its MIRV plans to avert a nuclear arms race in Asia. After the maiden test of the Agni V, the head of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), V.K. Saraswat, noted that several Agni variants could eventually be mated with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), or multiple nuclear warheads — while later conceding that it was not yet government policy to do so. On May 10, he explained: “Where I was using four missiles, I may use only one missile. So it becomes a force multiplier given the damage potential.”
MIRV’d arsenals can be more destabilising than their solo-warhead counterparts. First, accurate MIRVs can enable a state to potentially disarm an opponent completely with only a fraction of the single-warhead missiles that might be required. Coupled with a missile defence system that might intercept any residual forces unhit by MIRVs, a state might be in a position to achieve “nuclear superiority”. As during the Cold War, this is a blueprint for a nuclear arms race, since adversaries must ensure that they have enough nuclear forces to survive a MIRV’d first-strike attempt and saturate any missile defences. Second, against MIRVs, an adversary has an incentive to preemptively destroy a missile force while it is still on the ground, since it can destroy multiple warheads for each hit, as opposed to just trading one-for-one. This gives an advantage to the side that launches its missiles first, the very definition of nuclear instability.
DRDO is attempting to develop accurate MIRVs as well as a multi-layered ballistic missile defence architecture. Saraswat has boasted that such a system will have a 99.8 per cent hit-to-kill probability. Even if this is inflated, to an adversary like China or Pakistan, repeated claims about MIRVs and ballistic missile defences may look like anything but a “credible minimum deterrent” strategy. But India has a no first use pledge, which makes its pursuit of MIRVs and any thought of attempting a disarming first strike puzzling. So why would India want MIRVs?
There are several possible explanations. Since authoritative views from the government, particularly senior national security officials, on technological developments relating to nuclear strategy have not been aired in the public domain, we — and India’s adversaries — can only speculate.
The first possible explanation is that deploying MIRVs is not official government policy. Instead, to enhance its organisational prestige, DRDO seeks to indigenously develop the same capabilities, including MIRVs, as the superpowers, without giving much thought to the strategic implications. Some scholars have explained such trajectories as technological determinism: if a state can build it, it will try to do so, whether the technology fulfils a particular requirement or not.
Unfortunately, if this is the case, DRDO’s pursuit of its own prestige may upset Asian strategic stability by triggering concerns in Beijing and Islamabad that India’s nuclear posture is no longer one of “assured retaliation” but one of “nuclear superiority” that threatens the survivability of China’s and Pakistan’s nuclear forces. Such fears might force them to re-evaluate their nuclear requirements and rapidly expand their nuclear arsenals to make any disarming attempt by MIRV’d Indian missiles impossible. While China has historically been relaxed about this possibility, Pakistani nuclear planners have suggested publicly that they account for possible first strikes in how they size and deploy their nuclear arsenal. It may push China and Pakistan toward more dangerous postures emphasising preemptive launches, since they might fear that their nuclear forces face a “use them or lose them” dilemma in a potential crisis. This is incredibly destabilising.
The second possibility is that India has quietly decided to abandon its nuclear posture of assured retaliation and no first use in favour of seeking nuclear superiority, and that deploying MIRVs and missile defences are, in fact, government policy. Since all public signals continue to point to an assured retaliation strategy and continued reaffirmation of the no first use pledge, this is unlikely.
The third explanation is that the government may approve the development of MIRVs, but in order to enhance the survivability of India’s second-strike deterrent. If India’s civilian nuclear managers and Strategic Force Command maintain warheads separate from missiles, and anticipate that an adversary may try to target Agnis in a conflict to degrade India’s nuclear retaliatory capability, MIRVs enable one to retain sufficient retaliatory throw-weight even with a few surviving missiles. Suppose India has 100 nuclear warheads and 100 various Agnis in its future force posture. If three-fourths of the Agni force is disabled by strikes, the remaining 25 Agnis with multiple warheads can achieve the same retaliatory throw-weight as a full complement of single-warhead Agnis. Such a strategy is not entirely irrational, assuming India believes its warheads are survivable but its missile force will be small or vulnerable.
If this is indeed the strategy, the problem lies in convincing China and Pakistan that India’s MIRVs, and potential missile defences, are defensive rather than offensive. If so, the government should clarify exactly how deploying these capabilities are consistent with its longstanding strategy of assured retaliation. A MIRV’d sea-based force makes a lot of sense for an assured retaliation strategy. But the argument for a MIRV’d land-based force is harder to make. Especially since, at first glance, dispersed single-warhead missiles seem more stable than a MIRV’d force for an assured retaliation strategy: it optimises survivability by requiring an adversary to hit many more targets to disarm your force, still assures the ability to inflict massive damage, and minimises incentives to be struck first since it does not pose a disarming threat to the adversary.
India finds itself in a strategically awkward position: advertising the development of a potentially destabilising capability that it does not yet possess and for which it has not yet articulated a clear rationale. If the government does not envision a role for MIRVs, it should enforce greater discipline on DRDO messaging. Alternatively, if there is a clear role for MIRVs, it should articulate it publicly to alleviate Chinese and Pakistani fears of a tectonic shift in Indian nuclear strategy. Developing capability without a strategy is a recipe for disaster. There are both malign and benign explanations for developing MIRVs and missile defences. In this case, there is virtue in the government being transparent about its intended course, lest Asia quickly find itself in an unnecessary and dangerous nuclear arms race.
Trident II D5 Missile Achieves 143 Successful Test Flights
The U.S. Navy supported the Oct. 23 launch of a U.K. Royal Navy Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) built by Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT). The unarmed missile was launched from the submerged Royal Navy submarine HMS Vigilant in the Atlantic Ocean. The test marked the 143rd successful test flight of the Trident II D5 missile since design completion in 1989 - a reliability record unmatched by any other large ballistic missile or space launch vehicle.
In its Nuclear Posture Review, DOD unveiled its decision to convert all Minuteman IIIs into single-warhead ICBMs. Today, USAF has 450 of them. Many have one warhead, but some are “MIRVed,” meaning their nosecones have multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. These have up to three warheads.
Not for long, though, as plans call for USAF to “de-MIRV” them all. “This step,” claimed the NPR, “will enhance the stability of the nuclear balance by reducing the incentives for either side to strike first.”
How will “downloading” US silo-based missiles substantially reduce the nuclear threat? In weighing the answer, it is useful to review some history.
Writing in 1953 about the two nuclear superpowers, J. Robert Oppenheimer, former scientific director for the Manhattan Project (turned harsh nuclear critic), observed, “We may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at risk of his own life.”
In the 1950s and 1960s, though, weapons were inaccurate. Because one had to commit several weapons to be sure to cover a single target, the attacker would run out of weapons before he wiped out the enemy’s nukes. The foe’s second strike was assured, so neither side wanted to go first.
MIRVing upset that stability. The US flight-tested a MIRVed system in 1968 and began deploying the triple-warhead Minuteman III in 1970. The USSR soon followed, catching and up with and then far surpassing the US by the early 1980s. On both sides, accuracies sharpened, too.
As MIRVed ICBMs proliferated, Oppenheimer’s scorpions-in-a-bottle metaphor moved closer to reality, for two reasons:
Capability. Stacking multiple warheads on each missile dramatically increased each ICBM’s firepower and its usefulness in mounting a disarming counterforce strike. An attacker could fire off a portion of his own ICBM force while still keeping some in reserve.
Incentive. Missiles with many warheads instantly became lucrative targets. A single enemy silo might now hold three, six, or more warheads. Even if an attacker had to expend two warheads per silo, the offense would still enjoy the benefits of a favorable exchange ratio.
It was this push-pull combination that made the late Cold War nuclear balance precarious. In a crisis, either side—though still very fearful—might be tempted to go first in hopes of gaining a war-winning advantage.
One of the great ironies of the times was the central role played by arms control in promoting this upward spiral of nuclear danger. While the superpowers probably would have gone MIRV at some point, that day was hastened by SALT talks in the late 1960s. The push was to limit launchers—bombers and missiles—not warheads. The logical response was to make the fullest use of each launcher by piling on warheads.
Arms negotiator Paul C. Warnke memorably, and mistakenly, compared the superpowers to “apes on a treadmill,” with both “jogging in tandem on a treadmill to nowhere.” There was only one ape, though. Former Defense Secretary Harold Brown had it right when he said, “When we build, they build; when we stop building, they build.”
According to Natural Resources Defense Council estimates, the US and Soviet Union in 1975 each had roughly 2,200 warheads atop their ICBMs.
Over the next five years, the US total didn’t change, but Moscow more than doubled its MIRV force, winding up with 5,630 warheads fitted to its 1,400 or so land-based missiles. A huge number of these—more than 3,000 warheads—were found on the monster, 10-warhead SS-18 missiles. The Soviets had 308 of them.
In Western strategic circles, it was thought that the SS-18 force was powerful enough to destroy 65 to 80 percent of US ICBM silos, using two nuclear warheads against each, with more than 1,000 SS-18 warheads left over for further counterforce strikes.
Over time, as the arsenals grew, officials began to see the drawbacks of MIRVing, while it became clear single-warhead ICBMs were actually stabilizing. Such weapons reversed the push-pull dynamic set in motion by MIRVing.
“The principal cause of instability with current weapons systems is the disproportion between warheads and launchers,” wrote Henry A. Kissinger in 1983. “There is no effective or intellectually adequate solution to this problem except to seek to eliminate multiple warheads.”
Still, backing away from MIRV has been difficult. Washington took the first step in the 1980s, limiting deployment of its premier 10-warhead Peacekeeper to only 50 weapons. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the US moved to retire that big ICBM. The last was withdrawn in 2005.
Moscow has also reduced its reliance on MIRVed missiles. Some reports claim it retains in service only about 60 out of the 308 SS-18 missiles, and plans to go down to about 40.
According to the White House, USAF’s Minuteman III force has 550 warheads. Administration plans would cap the fleet at 420 deployed ICBMs, all with a single warhead.
In Russia, however, the situation is different. It has 331 functioning ICBMs, with about 1,100 warheads, an excess of 750 warheads. That is to say nothing about the US and Russian strategic submarine fleets, which are also equipped with high-performance MIRVed missiles.
It makes sense to end MIRVing and go to a single-warhead Minuteman force. Clearly, though, the golden age of single-warhead peace won’t arrive unless Russia follows suit.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has increasingly moved nuclear weapons to the periphery of its defense posture and has amplified the importance of its conventional forces in their stead. This shift has been facilitated by the continuous evolution of precision guided munitions (PGMs), which have been used extensively in recent conflicts.
In response to perceived conventional capability gaps, the United States began a program in 2002 designed to develop a conventionally-armed weapon which could strike targets anywhere in the world in about one hour – a degree of responsiveness currently only achievable with nuclear weapons. The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review Report detailed the requirements for prompt global strike (PGS) capabilities: “[to strike] fixed, hard and deeply buried, mobile and re-locatable targets with improved accuracy.” In addition, it is hoped that prompt global strike technology could serve as a more credible deterrent than existing nuclear weapons against non-nuclear powers or non-state actors. This mission has gained more prominence as the United States must increasingly balance the competing trends of restructuring its global military presence in the face of fiscal austerity and the escalatingmission requirements placed on conventional American military assets.
Some of the first concepts designed to satisfy the newly-defined PGS mission involved retrofitting existing Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles or Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles with conventional warheads – systems which could be made operational by the mid-2010s. Congress balked at funding the former proposal, however, citing concerns about inadvertent Russian retaliation in the event that a PGS launch was mistaken for a nuclear first-strike.
In the intervening years, support has gathered behind the concept of highly maneuverable hypersonic glide vehicles. Hypersonic vehicles could satisfy the promptness criterion and would be capable of penetrating sophisticated air and missile defense systems without putting American military personnel at risk. The politically delicate question of whether or not they would pass the “discrimination test” – whether they would threaten to provoke a nuclear response from Russia, which the Conventional Trident Modification program was deemed to have failed – will depend on the eventual method of deployment. The most prompt option would still require rocket boosters which would still conspicuously resemble ballistic missiles upon take-off. Although test failures have delayed the Air Force’s projected deployment date, hypersonic reentry vehicles remain a funding priority in Congress and may someday serve an important role in the PGS mission.
Strategic Implications and Future Trends
The advancements made by the United States in its conventional war-fighting capabilities have already impacted how Russia, China, and other nations pursue their strategic aims. By trying to further limit the role of nuclear weapons through the development and deployment of unmatched conventional military capabilities, the U.S. risks severely degrading the global security environment of other nations which cannot hope to match American defense spending. This may inadvertently lead other nations to view unconventional weapons proliferation as a potential defense against American conventional military superiority. The deployment of global strike weapon systems will undoubtedly impact this calculus in the minds of putative adversaries.
Weighing the costs and benefits of developing new prompt global strike capabilities in these contexts will be necessary as the Pentagon and Congress continue to push American strategic conventional capabilities forward.
The overall trend toward the increased use of precision guided munitions will likely continue in the near-term as the relative importance of nuclear weapons to the national security strategy of the U.S. continues to decline and as existing PGMs are enhanced and improved to become more accurate, more powerful, and more adaptable.
Obstacles and Alternatives
Although the PGS mission may have merit in concept, in practice global strike weapons will require extraordinary intelligence in order to prove viable. Stationary targets, such as missile silos, could certainly be held at risk by such systems – according to Russian Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, “The growing counterforce capability of U.S. PGMs may present a considerable threat to the survivability of Russia’s strategic forces.” But the idea of pursuing fleeting targets, otherwise out of the reach of American military assets, is one which has failed spectacularly in the past.
Perhaps the most critical dilemma which will face the development of prompt global strike capabilities will be its future role in a new American security strategy. With the growing strategic focus on the Asia Pacific and increasing concerns over sophisticated anti-access area-denial technologies being developed by China and other potential rivals, PGS may serve a role in destroying heavily defended targets or neutralizing defensive systems so that other assets can be safely deployed in-theater. Although it is infrequently discussed, it is in this context that the argument in favor of developing PGS capabilities is most compelling, and it is in this limited role that PGS offers the greatest potential against future threats. However, unproven and potentially destabilizing prompt global strike systems are not the only weapons which could accomplish this mission.
With the conversion of four Ohio-class submarines to cruise missile submarines – each submarine can carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles – the American military has at least developed an interim global strike capability which could be deployed in the event of a crisis, though a gap still remains in the theoretical cases of immediate need.
Unlike the currently planned prompt global strike systems, however, existing precision guided munitions have the ability to loiter in a target area for hours and can provide intelligence via on-board cameras and can be reprogrammed to engage more important targets as they arise. Given the importance of accurate intelligence to accomplish any global strike mission, this capability could prove decisive in helping to identify and eliminate potential targets.
Even as the United States continues to spend billions of dollars on ballistic missile defense systems, the development of cruise missile defenses has been slower to materialize. The absence of effective cruise missile defenses against even unsophisticated and antiquated Chinese-built Seersuckers cruise missiles during the early stages of the Iraq War (let alone more advanced terrain-hugging and stealthy) proved problematic for the United States. Although some progress has been made since then, cruise missiles will continue to pose significant challenges to potential defenders for the foreseeable future.
These trends may indicate that the usefulness of more advanced (and less destabilizing and less costly) cruise missiles and other precision guided conventional munitions may obviate the need for prompt global strike weapons in all but the most extreme circumstances in the future.
Determining the relative value of different capabilities of future PGMs will be a complex undertaking – attributes ranging from responsiveness, radar cross section, payload variability, range, and launch platform will all be important factors – but these developments will not occur in a vacuum. Russia and China already feel threatened by American conventional superiority – convincing them that the deployment of future conventional weapons will not threaten their strategic positions will prove challenging. Any guarantees to the contrary will ring hollow – especially as the U.S. continues to move forward with missile defense deployments in both Europe and Asia. Proponents of prompt global strike – both in and out of Congress – must keep this in mind.
Interesting. Point to note; Conventional warheads which would deliver force equivalent to tactical nukes are much bigger in size than the constraints would allow for the present missile designs which are optimised for small nuclear delivery packages. How does the US/Russia plan to solve that?
Both MOAB and FOAB are big bombs and they can be delivered by strategic bombers only. However, if the submarine fails to pack such punches as MOABs are able to deliver, do you think replacing nukes with conventional warheads would be a viable option from the strategic POV? @LETHALFORCE
MIRV: India’s technological solution for minimum nuclear deterrence
With lots of ifs and buts and long delay in project, Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) gives country a milestone in its missile development program by successful test of Agni-5 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).With this successful test at starting of this year India joined the elite club of countries that posses ICBM missiles.
Programme Director V. K. Saraswat discussing about technical aspects announces Agni-5 have MIRV “Capability” which the majority of the listeners understood as Agni-5 “Poses” MIRV capability. This article comprehensively talks about the ability and capability of having MIRV in Indian context.
Minimum Nuclear Deterrence?
After successful nuclear test at Pokhran India was considered as emerging nuclear threat by many western and neighboring countries especially Pakistan and China. Defending country’s stand on issue under Prime Minster Atal Bihari Vajpayee India declared its nuclear doctrine in United Nation. Which contain clause of having “Minimum Nuclear Deterrence” under which India will posse minimum nuclear warheads just as to defend its boundaries and prestige.
Recommence of MIRV:
The most vital component of missile technology in recent years is the deployment of Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRVs). The fundamental characteristic of deploying MIRVs is ability to deliver several warheads along separate trajectories, which confers its flexibility of multiple targeting. The independent targeting capability enhances missile’s ability by exhausting the missile defence, providing deep penetration and potential of destruction of larger area, effectively and precisely. The vital advantage of MIRVs in terms of nuclear capability is very high yield, which, facilitate hitting hard targets and wide area. With same amount of nuclear warhead MIRV can increase yield upto 8 times the normal yield. With minimum nuclear warhead capability we can have exponential area damage.
Why India needs MIRVs?
India recently tested its first ever Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), called Agni-5, with a range of 5000 Km . It was estimated that Agni-5 is capable of launching 4-5 multiple warhead, whose yield is unknown. Although head of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), V.K. Saraswat, noted that several Agni variants could eventually be mated with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs), or multiple nuclear warheads — while later conceding that it was not yet government’s policy to do so. The three vital reasons why India should possess MIRV technology could be, the potential threat from hostile neighboring countries, secondly strengthen its futuristic nuclear triad and thirdly its minimum nuclear deterrence nuclear policy. Pakistan’s aggressive attitude and China’s fairly strong degree of skepticism toward India and its well tested MIRV technology necessitate India’s step toward this technology. Secondly with single missiles carrying more warheads, denigrate problem of minimum nuclear deterrence policy and constructing more missile, silos and launchers. Thirdly MIRV technology can also strengthen India’s aspiration toward completing its nuclear triad.
Do we encompass the technology?
In contemporary technology MIRVs could be designed to have separate guidance system and propulsion packages on each re-entry vehicle. The maneuvering final stage of missile, also called Post Boost Control System (PBCS) or ‘bus’, carries both missile re-entry bodies (RV) and guidance and control system. This bus has ability to change orientation and trajectory. It is also estimated that most of the countries such as US (Titan III Trans stage and Minuteman), China (DF-31A) etc, followed the footprint of their space program by conceptualizing the technology of delivering multiple satellite payloads into orbit. Although ISRO successfully launched PSLV C-7 multiple satellite on January 10, 2007 and used Dual launch Adapter (DLA) to dispense four satellites, this technology adaptation in India’s future MIRV program is unpredictable. Final stage of PSLV C-7 has Trans-stage Post Boost Control System (PBCS) equivalent to US multiple launch technology. After the boost phase and orientation of bus suitably towards target, the minute rocket engines in each RV ignite. These vernier rockets are used for precise positioning, changing orientation and moving bus away from free falling RVs. This critical technology was used in upper stage of ISRO Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) which placed 2 ton satellite into orbit by maneuvering using liquid propellant vernier rockets.
What is holding Us??
Deployment of such technology is very complicated task and expensive one too. The bus guidance system, mechanism of holding RVs, and releasing them with nuclear warhead accounts for half the cost of each MIRV missile produce. The warhead technology has evolved over the period and can sustain a very high yield-to-weight ratio. The real challenge for India lies in miniaturizing the warhead and increasing the yield for integration onto MIRV platform. If India aspires to achieve high yield thermo nuclear warhead, then challenges is substantially greater. The thermonuclear test in 1998 might not have yielded desired result; the credibility of fabricating such high yield warhead is questionable.
In addition each re-entry has to sustain substantially high aerodynamic stress and aerodynamic heating, hence it is made of advance materials. Although ISRO and DRDO has robustly worked on aero-thermal structure and thermal protection system design over the past decade in its space and missile programs, but its effective use on MIRV platform is yet to be determined. Guidance and control computers must have enough memory and computational speed for guidance equation. Re-entry vehicle must have inertial component (Gyroscope and accelerometers) for precise and reliable targeting. This also becomes significant due to sudden change in mass distribution after disengaging from bus, which creates sudden oscillations and vibrations. India has indigenously developed Redundant Strap down Inertial Guidance System (RESINS) which employ Dynamically Tuned Gyros (DTG) and Servo Accelerometer (SA) for its space program. The entire attachment should be small and light enough to constitute in missile due to its weight and size constrain, created challenges for engineers.
The history over a decade has shown close interrelation and extents of interchangeability of technology between Indian space program and Indian missile program. These two programs have a profound base for India’s aspirations of futuristic technology. India so far has achieved great heights in its indigenous missile dreams and has all infrastructure and indigenous technology to materialise its MIRV dream. The bigger challenges in current scenario are the quality of nuclear arsenal, miniaturizing warhead, atmospheric reentry and expertise in military application of guidance and control in re-entry vehicle to integrate MIRV. Although for the latter part DRDO has worked substantially and its all missile tests so far are precise and accurate, but combining this accuracy with MIRV integration is a great challenge in itself.