India Should Develop ICBMs: Top Officer

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    NTI: Global Security Newswire - India Should Develop ICBMs: Top Officer

    A top Indian military officer has urged his country to create ballistic missiles able to reach other continents, the Hindustan Times reported on Saturday (see GSN, June 9).

    "India should pursue an ICBM program to acquire ranges of 10,000 kilometers [6,200 miles] or even more. Breaking out of the regional context is important as the country's sphere of influence grows. We have no territorial designs on any country, but India needs the capability to match its sphere of influence," Indian air force head Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik told the newspaper.

    New Delhi presently intends to limit missiles in its strategic arsenal to ranges of roughly 3,100 miles, enabling the potential delivery of warheads to China and Pakistan, according to the Times.

    "There's no point capping the missile program at 5,000 kilometers. If we have the technical capability, we should build on it," Naik said, becoming the first top-level Indian military officer to promote such a move while still in uniform.

    India's Agni 3 missile has a range of about 1,860 miles and is the nation's sole missile capable of hitting locations in Chinese territory, the newspaper said. The nation intends in 2011 to conduct its first trial flight of the Agni 5, a ballistic missile with a designed range of roughly 3,100 miles (see GSN, June 6).

    India holds the fundamental capabilities for creating ICBMs, "but where the warhead should go or what the range should be will have to be a political call," said a senior scientist with the Defense Research and Development Organization.

    The creation of an Indian ICBM would cost more than $2.2 billion, roughly 6 percent of the country's annual defense expenditure, according to the Times.

    China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are so far the only countries to possess ICBMs, some of which have ranges exceeding 9,300 miles, the Times reported. Ballistic missiles transport their payloads by temporarily entering outer space.

    "As of now, New Delhi has no strategic need for deploying ICBMs. But there's no legal regime that stops India from acquiring intercontinental reach," said Ashley Tellis, a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times, June 11).

    Meanwhile, Russia and India intend within 12 months to undertake work on a Brahmos cruise missile variant capable of flying at five times the speed of sound, ITAR-Tass reported (see GSN, March 22).

    “[The] main parameters of the hypersonic Brahmos 2 missile have been coordinated, and we will start practical works within a year,” program co-director Alexander Maksichev said.

    Separately, development is under way of an air-launched version of the Brahmos supersonic missile, he said; initial trial flights of the weapon could take place next year.

    “Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets will the first carriers of the air-based modification of the Brahmos missile. We hope it will fit other aircraft, as well,” Maksichev said.

    In addition, Russia in April started placing Brahmos supersonic missiles on one of three warships under construction for the Indian navy at Kaliningrad Yantar shipyard.

    The Brahmos missile weighs 660 pounds and can carry a nuclear or conventional warhead up to 180 miles. The weapon was initially tested in 2001 (ITAR-Tass, June 12).
     
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