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India’s Missile Modernization Beyond Minimum Deterrence

Discussion in 'Indian Military Doctrine' started by layman, Oct 5, 2013.

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  1. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Every time India test-launches a new ballistic missile, officials from the defense industry go giddy about the next missile, which they say will be bigger, more accurate, fly longer, and carry more nuclear warheads.

    Until now, all Indian ballistic missile types have carried only one warhead each, an important feature that has helped constrain India’s so-called minimum deterrence posture.

    But the newest missile, the 5000+ kilometer-range Agni V, had not even completed its second test launch last month, before senior officials from India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) declared that the next Agni variant will be equipped to carry multiple warheads.

    While the single-warhead Agni V is a major defense weapon, the multiple-warhead Agni VI will be a “force multiplier,â€￾ declared the former head of DRDO.

    Moreover, the DRDO chief said that all future missiles will be deployed in large canisters on a road- or rail-mobile launchers to get “drasticallyâ€￾ shorter response time with an ability to launch in “just a few minutes.“

    It still remains to be seen if these are just the dreams of excited weapons designers or if the Indian government has actually authorized design, development, and deployment of longer-range missiles with multiple warheads and quick-launch capability.

    If so, it is bad news for South Asia. The combination of multiple warheads, increased accuracy, and drastically reduced launch time would indicate that India is gradually designing its way of out its so-called minimum deterrence doctrine towards a more capable nuclear posture.

    This would almost certainly trigger counter-steps in Pakistan and China, developments that would decrease Indian security. And if China were to deploy multiple warheads on its missiles, it could even impede future reductions of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.

    MIRVforia

    Indian defense contractors, engineers, analysts and news media reports have for years described efforts to develop multiple-warhead capability for India’s ballistic missiles. Some have even claimed – incorrectly – that some current ballistic missiles are capable of delivering MIRV. A couple of definitions will help:

    Multiple warhead (MRV – Multiple Reentry Vehicles) missiles deliver two or more warheads against the same target. The warheads all impact within a circle of a few kilometers around the target in order to destroy it more effectively.

    Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) missiles deliver two or more warheads against different targets. This requires a Post-Boost Vehicle, or bus, that can maneuver in space to release the reentry vehicles individually so that they follow different trajectories, allowing them to hit separate targets. Some MIRVs can hit targets separated by over 1,500 kilometers.

    MRV is relatively simple to deploy but MIRV is a much more complex and expensive technology. News reports and private web sites rarely differentiate between the two but automatically equate multiple warheads with MIRV. Similarly, multiple payloads don’t necessarily mean warheads but can involve penetration aids such as decoys or chaff. MRV might involve 2-3 warheads but 4 or more warheads imply MIRV.

    For reasons that are still unclear, Indian defense industry officials have for several years described development of multiple warheads for future Agni variants. In 2007, about a year after Agni III failed its first test launch and before Agni V had even left the launch pad, Avinash Chander, who has since been appointed to head the DRDO, said the next Agni variant would have a range of over 5,000 kilometers and “be a multiple warhead missile with a capacity to carry four to 12 warheads.â€￾

    So far that hasn’t happened and DRDO leaders have been unclear about what Agni version would receive the MIRV they are so busy working on. Vijay Kumar Saraswat, for example, made the following statement to NDTV shortly before he retired in May 2013 as DRDO chief:

    But only three months earlier, Saraswat was quoted by numerous newspapers as explicitly crediting the Agni VI, not the Agni V, with multiple warhead capability: “Agni-V is a major strategic defence weapon. Now, we want to make Agni-VI, which will be a force multiplier.â€￾ The new Agni variant “will have force multiplier capability by the MIRV approach which would enable us to deliver many payloads at the same time using only one missile. Work is on in this area and designs have been completed. We are now in the hardware realisation phase,â€￾ he said.

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    ZeeNews quoted an unnamed “top scientists from DRDOâ€￾ saying “Agni-VI missiles will carry four or six warheads depending upon their weight.â€￾

    After Agni IV and Agni V are handed over to the armed forces, DRDO’s “two major focus areas will be maneuvering warheads or reentry vehicles to defeat enemy ballistic missile defence systems and MIRVs (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles),â€￾ Chander said.

    Shorter Launch Time

    Ignore for the moment that none of India’s potential adversaries have missile defense systems that can intercept Indian missiles, DRDO is also working on making the missiles more mobile and quicker to launch by deploying them in “canisteredâ€￾ Transportable Erector Launchers (TEL).

    [​IMG]

    DRDO’s prototype missile canister-launcher, which looks similar to China’s DF-21 and DF-31 launchers, is intended to “drasticallyâ€￾ shorten the launch-time of India’s nuclear missiles. Credit: DRDO.

    The new canister-launchers “will reduce the reaction time drastically…just a few minutes from ‘stop-to-launch’,â€￾ according to Chander. “We are committed to making [the missiles] much more agile, much more fast-reacting, much more stable so that the response can be within minutes,â€￾ he said. In an interview withIndia Today, Chander explained: “In the second strike capability, the most important thing is how fast we can react,â€￾ he claimed and said: “All future strategic missiles will be canisterised,â€￾ with the first canister Agni V launch scheduled for early 2014.

    Contrary to the DRDO chief’s claim, however, “the most important thingâ€￾ in a second-strike posture is not how fast India can react but simply that it can retaliate. The ability to launch quickly is only relevant for two scenarios: One, if India’s adversaries have military forces that are capable of destroying Indian missile launchers on the ground before they can be used. China faces such a capability from the United States and Russia but neither China nor Pakistan has a capability to conduct a disarming first strike against India’s nuclear forces.

    The second scenario where a quick-strike capability could be relevant is if India planned to conduct a first strike against its adversaries, but only if the adversaries were able to detect preparations to strike. But planning for first strike would contradict India’s no-first-use policy.

    Nor is a quick-launch capability necessarily “more stable,â€￾ as Chander asserts. On the contrary, it could significantly decrease stability both in peacetime – by stimulating Chinese and Pakistani planners to further increase the responsiveness of their nuclear missiles – and in a crisis by shortening decision time and increasing risk of overreaction and escalation.

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    DRDO leaders Chander (second from left) and Saraswat (second from right) say they are working on multiple-warhead and quick-launch capabilities for India’s nuclear missiles.

    In addition to increasing warhead loading and responsiveness, DRDO is also working on improving the accuracy of warheads delivered by the missiles, although media reports about “pinpoint accuracyâ€￾ are probably greatly exaggerated. Even the statement by the Ministry of Defense that the payload from the recent Agni V test reached the target area “within a few meters of accuracyâ€￾ seems over the top. In contrast, back in 2007 when the Agni V was being designed, Chander said: “We are trying to attain an accuracy level of 100 metres.â€￾

    There is probably some overlap with conventional missions (the Agni missiles are dual-capable), but accuracy of 100 meters (300 feet) would bring Agni V well within range of the accuracy of the best U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles (in itself a reason to be skeptical). But their accuracy was pursued in support of highly offensive counterforce strategies designed to target and destroy each other’s ICBM silos, missions that are incompatible with India’s minimum deterrence doctrine.

    Conclusions and Recommendations

    Statements made by Indian defense officials over the past few years about increasing the payload, responsiveness, and accuracy of nuclear ballistic missiles are worrisome signs that India may be designing its way out of its minimum deterrence posture towards one with more warfighting-like capabilities.

    This includes development of multiple-warhead capability to move India’s nuclear missiles beyond “a defense weaponâ€￾ to “a force multiplierâ€￾ that can strike more targets with each missile. It includes upgrading launchers to “drasticallyâ€￾ shorten the launch-time to “minutes.â€￾ And it includes increasing the accuracy of the reentry vehicles to more effectively strike their targets.

    Where these requirements come from and who sets them is anyone’s guess, but they demonstrate a need for the Indian government to constrain its weapons designers and more clearly reaffirm its adherence to a minimum deterrence doctrine. Not only does the combination of multiple warheads, increased accuracy, and quick-launch capability challenge the credibility of minimum deterrence. It also sends all the wrong signals about India’s intensions and will almost inevitably trigger weapons developments in the nuclear postures of India’s neighbors – developments that would decrease Indian security and that of the whole region.

    India is, to be fair, not alone in taking worrisome nuclear steps in the region.Pakistan is developing short-range nuclear missiles envisioned for tactical use below the strategic level that appears to envision potential use of nuclear weapons sooner in a conflict. China is mixing nuclear and conventional missiles that could trigger misunderstandings in a crisis and researching MIRV capability that may well be motivating Indian planners to follow now rather than catch up later.

    Together, India, Pakistan and China have embarked upon extensive nuclear arms development and deployment programs with no apparent or declared end in sight. They seem to be making many of the same decisions (and mistakes) as the United States, Russia, Britain and France did during their Cold War. Now it is necessary to complement the nuclear postures with nuclear arms control measures for the region to constrain the forces.

    A first step could be to block deployment of multiple warheads on ballistic missiles to prevent what otherwise appears to be a dangerous new phase of the nuclear arms competition in the region.

    For its part, the Indian government should make a pledge not to deploy multiple warheads on its missiles a formal part of its minimum deterrence doctrine. Pakistan could easily join such an initiative.

    China should join its southern neighbor in a no-multiple-warhead pledge, which would reaffirm its existing minimum deterrence posture and also help reduce India’s interest in multiple warheads. Moreover, a Chinese pledge not to deploy multiple warheads on its missiles would ease U.S. and Russian concerns about China’s potential to “sprint to parityâ€￾ and therefore help ease the way for further U.S. and Russian reductions – something that both Beijing and Delhi favor.

    All sides would seem to benefit from banning multiple warheads on ballistic missiles and India could take the first and honorable step toward a safer future.
     
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  2. Paliwal Warrior

    Paliwal Warrior Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    First - Lets consider MIRV / MRV

    lets us keep in mind that India has space program which again is a dual use item.

    Second as for requirement of BUS and technology for launching multiple warheads in space - it has already been successfully tested in space

    Do you remember ISRO launching multiple satellites - i recall reading about three incidents when ISRO has launched multiple satellites ranging from 3 per launch to 10 per launch including micro satellites. many of them in LEO - the territory of Ballistic missile warhead apogee.

    I believe the technology to ready tested in space program and it can be easily transferred and adapted to Agni or whatever missile india chooses.

    India has been launching multiple satellite on PSLV successfully since 2008

    Pl find a few links as under

    Read this

    Indian PSLV successfully lofts multiple satellites | NASASpaceFlight.com

    Welcome To ISRO :: Launch Vehicles :: PSLV

    PSLV C-9 ISRO launches 10 satellites - YouTube

    ISRO set for another record launch of satellites this month - News Oneindia

    PSLV-C20 puts SARAL, 6 other satellites in precise orbits - The Hindu

    Just search more more


    Need for Quick reaction Missiles :

    There is one more scenario in addition to the above mentioned 2 scenarios for use of Quick reaction Missiles

    3. The agni is used in non nuclear role - With Indias growing real time surveillance capacity - when india detects launch ppreparation by the enemy it can decide to employ the Quick reaction missiles for preemptive strike against the missiles being prepared for launch.
     
  3. Manmohan Yadav

    Manmohan Yadav Brigadier STAR MEMBER

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    when you aim to be global power then you have to step Beyond Minimum Deterrence
     
  4. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Well unless and until we push the limits of the required modernization and indigenous developments we cant achieve greater levels to become a global power.
     
  5. S K Mittal

    S K Mittal Major SENIOR MEMBER

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    India has already taken steps to become global player.
     
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