Operation Shakti: 1998

Discussion in 'Strategic Forces' started by Kunal Biswas, Mar 18, 2012.

  1. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Operation Shakti: 1998

    Despite the U.S. government's self-declared "surprise" at India's multiple tests in May 1998, India's march towards an openly declared nuclear capability underscored by new tests was clear for a number of years.

    During the last several years the Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People's Party, or BJP) has emerged as the dominant power in domestic politics. One of its key platform issues has been its desire to make India an openly declared nuclear power. The BJP created a short-lived government for 13 days in May 1996, and it is now known that Vajpayee actually authorized nuclear tests at that time, and the devices got as far as being placed in the test shafts, before he called them off when it became evident that his government was unlikely to survive long enough to deal with the aftermath.

    Two years later however, on 10 March 1998, the BJP achieved a strong electoral victory and finally succeeded in putting together a governing coalition of 13 (later 20) parties. The BJP wasted no time in making clear its intention to deploy nuclear weapons. On 18 March 1998, the day before he was sworn in as Prime Minister, PM-designate Vajpayee declared "There is no compromise on national security. We will exercise all options including nuclear options to protect security and sovereignty,". An official planning report further stated directly that the new BJP government intended to "re-evaluate the nuclear policy and exercise the option to induct nuclear weapons".

    Considering the numerous test preparations that had been detected over the past three years, and Vajpayee's 1996 actual test authorization which was undoubtedly known to U.S. intelligence by that time, and after such announcements there would seem to be little excuse for being "surprised" by subsequent events. The underlying reason seems to have been a very ill advised cut-back in the analysis of imagery of the Pokhran site, combined with greater stealth on the part of the Indians. Given the considerable activity at the site over the previous three years, and the intelligence that the CIA undoubtedly had by then that Vajpayee had actually ordered tests during his previous short-lived government, it was not a difficult assessment to realize that Pokhran should be watched more carefully after Vajpayee took office, rather than less. It appears that the one NIMA (National Imagery and Mapping Agency) assigned to the site actually did detect suspicious activity on the morning of May 11, 6 hours before the tests (and about the time they were originally scheduled for detonation) and was waiting for further review of his findings when the tests were announced.


    On 4 May the colorful and controversial Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes reemphasized his views on nuclear arms, saying that ""My views have not changed after I became defense minister, ... I agree with our decision not to sign the CTBT or NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). We should not only keep the nuclear option open, but also think about exercising this option to make nuclear weapons". Only two days later Fernandes set off an international tiff with China when he declared China to be India's "potential enemy number one" and claimed that many tactical nuclear weapons were stationed on the Indian border. In retrospect these remarks by Fernandes seemed part of a deliberate strategy to prepare the ground for India's tests -- illustrating that India regards itself as acting on the world stage and facing threats from a recognized world power, rather than needing defenses against a regional state like Pakistan. In fact Fernandes, like the Defense Minister's who preceded him, was not in the loop regarding nuclear decisions. He was not on the very short list of government leaders who knew what was up.

    1998 Weapon Development Team

    Project Leaders:

    * Dr. Avil (Abdul) Pakir Jainulabdeen Kalam
    o Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister
    o Head of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO)
    * Dr. Rajagopala Chidambaram
    o Chairman of India's Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)
    o Chairman of the Department of Atomic energy (DAE)



    Development and Test Teams

    * Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) Leads
    o Anil Kakodkar, Director of BARC
    o Satinder Kumar Sikka, Lead for Thermonuclear Weapon Development
    o M.S. Ramakumar, Director of Nuclear Fuel and Automation Manufacturing Group;
    Lead for nuclear component manufacture
    o D.D. Sood, Director of Radiochemistry and Isotope Group;
    Lead for nuclear material acquisition
    o S.K. Gupta, Solid State Physics and Spectroscopy Group;
    Device design and assessment
    o G. Govindraj, Associate Director of Electronic and Instrumentation Group;
    Lead for field instrumentation
    * DRDO Leads
    o K. Santhanam; lead for test site preparations
    o Chairman of the Department of Atomic energy (DAE)
     
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  3. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Test Preparations

    The nuclear devices were moved from their vaults at the BARC complex in Mumbai in the early morning hours of 1 May, around 3 a.m., by four Army trucks under the command of Col. Umang Kapur of the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization). They were transported to Mumbai airport and flown at dawn in AN-32 transports to Jaisalmer airport, two hours away. An Army convoy of four trucks took the explosive devices to Pokhran, about an hours trip from the airport. Three trips were required to complete the delivery of the devices and associated equipment. The devices were delivered directly to the device preparation building which was designated Prayer Hall.

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    The Shakti Test Devices Identifier Description:

    Shakti I Two stage thermonuclear device with fusion boosted primary, intended for missile warhead;test design yield 45 kt, with a 200 kt deployed yield

    Shakti II Lightweight pure fission tactical bomb/missile warhead, 12 kt design yield

    Shakti III Fission experimental device, reportedly made with reactor-grade plutonium.

    Probably a fusion boosted design without the fusion fuel, 0.3 kt design yield

    Shakti IV 0.5 kt experimental device

    Shakti V 0.2 kt experimental device

    Shakti VI Not fired; another low yield experimental device



    According to Chengappa the plutonium for the devices weighed 3 to 8 kg, depending of the device, and were colored gray due to the coating applied to contain the radioactivity (and no doubt to prevent oxidation of the plutonium). The explosives surrounding the cores was colored a dull orange.

    Three laboratories of the DRDO were involved in designing, testing and producing components like advanced detonators, the implosion systems, high-voltage trigger systems. They were also responsible for weaponization -- systems engineering, aerodynamics, safety interlocks and flight trials.

    The tests were organized into two groups that were fired separately, with all of the devices in a group fired at the same time. The first group consisted of the thermonuclear device, the fission bomb, and a sub-kiloton device, and two more sub-kiloton devices made up the second group.
     
  4. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  5. H.A.

    H.A. Senior Member Senior Member

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    Good read....
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 18, 2012
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  6. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    The First Tests Are Fired

    The thermonuclear device was emplaced in the shaft code named White House (over 200 m deep), while the Taj Mahal shaft (over 150 m deep) was assigned to the fission bomb, and Kumbhkaran to the first sub-kiloton shot. The other three shafts for the second test series were designated NT 1,2, and 3.

    The Regiment 58 Engineers had learned a lot since 1995 about how to avoid detection by U.S. spy satellites. A lot of work was done at night, and heavy equipment was always returned to the same parking spot at dawn so that image analysts would conclude that they had never moved. Piles of sand were shaped to mimic the wind-aligned and shaped dune forms in the area. When cables were laid they were carefully covered and native vegetation replaced to conceal the digging.

    The first three devices were emplaced on 10 May, the day before the tests. The shafts were L-shaped, with a horizontal chamber for the test device. The first device to be placed was the sub-kiloton device in the Kumbhkaran shaft. The Army engineers sealed the shaft at 8:30 p.m. Then the thermonuclear device was lowered in the White House shaft, sealing this shaft took until 4 a.m. the next morning. By then the atomic bomb was being emplaced in the Taj Mahal shaft. It was sealed at 7:30 a.m., just 90 minutes from the planned test time.

    The actual timing of the tests were dependent on the local weather conditions. It was hot in the Thar Desert in early May, it reached 43 C on the day of the test. But the critical factor was the wind. Although the tests were underground, they were shallow tests and the sealing of the shaft could not be guaranteed to be leakproof (a number of shaft seal failures had occurred in the U.S. despite much deeper burials). Winds blowing toward inhabited areas, as occurred on the morning on 11 May were not acceptable. But by early afternoon the winds had died down and the scientists decided to go ahead with the tests. Prime Minister Vaypayee and Brajesh Mishra, his Principal Secretary, had waited at the official residence since at least 9 a.m. to hear the test results. Kalam called at 3 p.m. to tell the Prime Minister that the winds were dying down and the tests could be conducted during the next hour.

    K. Santhanam of the DRDO, who was in charge of the test site preparations, gave the two keys that activated the test countdown to Vasudev, the range safety officer, who was responsible for verifying that all test indicators were normal. After checking the indicators, Vasudev handed one key each to a representative of BARC and of the DRDO, who together unlocked the countdown system. At 3:45 p.m. the three devices detonated.

    The tests were conducted on the Buddhist festival day of Buddha Purnima, the same festival day on which the 1974 test was conducted. This appears to have been a coincidence, the tests having been conducted at the earliest date that they could be made ready, though it has been widely assumed to have been intentional.
     
  7. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    The Tests

    Seismic data collected by stations outside of India have placed the total magnitude of the first event at 5.0 (+/- 0.4), making it one of the largest seismic events in the world during the 24 hr period in which it occurred. The measured seismic center of the triple event was located at 27.0716 deg N latitude, and 71.7612 deg E longitude, which places it only 2.8 km from the 1974 test site (which was at 27.095 deg N, 71.752 deg E). The general area of these tests is usually given as Pokharan (or Pokhran), a town abut 25 km away. This is area is a military test range with four areas (A through D). The test sites are just outside the abandoned village of Malka, are 6 km to the northeast of the nearest inhabited village of Khetolai (population 1200), and 10 km south of Loharki, and are about 100 km from the Indian border with Pakistan.

    The first group of three tests (Shakti I, II, and III) were reported to have a combined yield of about 55 (or 58) kilotons and consisted of a two stage thermonuclear weapon design (Shakti I) with a yield of 43 kt, +/- 3 kt, (also stated to be 43-45 kt), a 12 kt test of a light compact weaponized tactical fission bomb, and a 0.2 kt tactical fission weapon. There were three shafts located about 1 km from each other and 3.5 km from the control room. The Shakti I shaft was designated "White House" (also called "Whisky"), the Shakti II shaft was known as "Taj Mahal" (also called "Tango"), and the Shakti III shaft was called "Kumbhkaran". The shots were fired simultaneously. The second phase of two tests (Shakti IV and V) had yields of 0.5 and 0.3 kilotons, and were fired in shafts designated NT 1 and 2 (for Navtala, the area where they were dug). A third device and shaft (NT 3) was prepared but was not fired. The second group of shots was conducted to generate additional data for improved computer simulation of designs.

    The claimed yields of these devices is not well supported by available evidence. Assigning yields to the different devices from direct outside measurement is impossible since only the total yield of all three can be measured
     
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  8. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Test: Shakti I


    This was a test of reduced yield two-stage thermonuclear bomb using a fusion boosted fission primary, apparently a 43-45 kt design test yield for a ~300 kt weapon. The available evidence indicates that the boosted primary performed correctly, but that the secondary stage failed partially.


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  9. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Test: Shakti II


    This was a test of a full yield test of a lightweight pure fission tactical bomb.


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  10. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Test: Shakti III

    This device was an experimental fission device using "non-weapon grade" (reportedly reactor-grade) plutonium. It was probably a test of fusion boosted device without the boost gas to prove the ability to use lower grade plutonium from India's large power reactor plutonium stockpile.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

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    Test: Shakti IV and V

    These two shots were fired in shallow shafts (NT 1 and 2) in an area known as Navtala Wells, due to the nine dry wells located close together there. These shafts were constructed very rapidly in 1996 using existing wells as the starting point for construction. One shot was fired in a sand dune, which made tunneling quite easy. Radiological measurements taken from bore holes at these shot sites, along with Shakti III have been published by BARC in a brief article

    India References



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  12. H.A.

    H.A. Senior Member Senior Member

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    such planning to explicit details was done....in regards to parking the vehicles in the exact same spot before dawn thats called perfection....
     
  13. Payeng

    Payeng Daku Mongol Singh

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    What I am interested is in Shakti III, experiment as India is known to posses a large stockpile of Plutonium and future MIRV along with multiple launch can help the cause.


    so Kunal what is the expect maximum yield of an Indian nuclear bomb?
     
  14. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    Payeng, it's 200-250kt.
     
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  15. bhramos

    bhramos Elite Member Elite Member

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    What happens if Nuke fired from Pak and Intercepted above in Indian Airspace!!!
    does it harm people in India?
     
  16. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    It is a nuke attack and be dealt with appropriately
     
  17. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

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    I guess the work of an interceptor is to blast away the incoming missile before it reaches it's target and explodes, by making sure the core is destroyed. How it does is another thing on which experts can comment.

    I guess he meant about the radiation being emitting when the interceptor hits the incoming nuke.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2012
  18. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    I think I misunderstood. No it will not harm as it will not explode just like that. The bomb has to be armed for it to explode and that usually happens just when the bomb is on the way down.
     
  19. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

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    Is it? I don't think bomb is armed when it is on it's way down mate. I guess the missile is armed just before it is launched, when target co-ordinates are identified and set. I am not sure though.
     
  20. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    No it's not armed at launch. If anything goes wrong, they will kill themselves.
     
  21. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

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    Alright. Could you please do a write up when you have time to kill - as to the sequence a nuke follows right from mating the core to the missile, deployment, till it hits it intended target. Would be great.
     

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