India develops K-15 SLBM; becomes 5th country in world

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New Delhi, May 12 (UNI) For the first time ever, India has admitted to having successfully developed nuclear-capable K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), thus becoming the fifth country in the world to acquire such a capability.

With the successful development of this missile system, India has joined a select group of nations -- the US, Russia, France and China -- which possessed such a capability.

It has given the country a fallback capability to launch nuclear missiles in case the land-based or air-based weapons/launches were disabled/incapacitated for any reason.

The SLBM project has completed India's nuclear triad, giving it the capability of launching nuclear weapons from air, surface and underwater platforms.

India already has Agni-I (700-km range) and Agni-II (2000-km-plus) ballistic missiles, as also the Agni-III (3,500-km) as the land-based nuclear deterrent.

Fighters like Sukhoi-30MKI and Mirage-2000s, which could be jury-rigged to carry nuclear weapons, constituted the air-based leg.

SLBMs for a retaliatory strike is considered crucial given India's stated no first use policy for nuclear weapons.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had been conducting several subsystem level tests of the missile over the past one year. India, at present, does not have a submarine that could be used to test-fire the missile.

The K-15 missile is designed and developed by the DRDO to be integrated with the ''mother ship''.

The ''mother ship'' refers to the three indigenous nuclear- powered submarines being built at Visakhapatnam in the 25-year-old ATV (advanced technology vessel) project, which will overall cost around Rs 20,000 crore.

The first of the three 6,000-tonne ATVs, each designed to carry 12 vertical-launched nuclear-tipped SLBMs, would be 'ready to go to sea' for trials by early 2009.

It would, however, take two to three years for the two-stage solid-fuelled K-15 to be integrated with the first ATV and then be test-fired from it.

Powered by a turbojet, the K-15 missile, earlier known as Sagarika, could carry a nuclear warhead of 500-kg from an undersea location to a range of 700-km. It is 8.5 metres long and about a metre in diameter.

The admission came in the form of a citation to Scientist A K Chakrabarti and his team for receiving the DRDO Award for Performance Excellence - 2007.

''A K Chakrabarti, Sc 'H' and his team has designed and developed a state-of-the-art missile system with capability of being launched from sub-surface environment,'' read the DRDO Award citation.

The performance of the missile system was far higher than the specified requirement given by the user, it added.

''The missile system has already been accepted by the user and is presently under productionisation for induction into the services,'' the citation said.

In recognition of this rare scientific contribution, the DRDO Award for Performance Excellence 2007 is conferred on Mr A K Chakrabarti and his team of 86 scientists, it added.

UNI AG RP KN1956

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