Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tit for tat

Here is another India-post: New Delhi plans to conduct a two-stage ABM interceptor test in June this year. The following full-text is taken from newindpress.com:

Coming soon: 2-layered anti-ballistic missile
Hemant Kumar Rout

BALASORE: After successfully conducting exo-atmospheric (outside the atmosphere) and endo-atmospheric (within the atmosphere) interceptor missile tests, defence scientists are now planning a double-layered anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system.

‘If all goes according to plan, the two-stage ABM interceptor test will be carried out this June,’ a source at the defence base at Chandipur-on-sea told this website’s newspaper.

The scientists of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) would launch the two-layered missiles to intercept a single incoming target missile in both exo-atmosphere (above 40 km altitude) and endo-atmosphere (below 30 km altitude).

This new ABM system is being developed to counter enemy ballistic missiles. It has been configured with radars for long-range surveillance, tracking, command, control, communication and perfect interception to destroy in-coming missiles.

‘The DRDO is capable of converting the two-layered system into a potent defence missile system, with a range of 2,000 km,’ a defence scientist said.

On November 27, 2006, missile interception at exo-atmosphere was successfully tested when a Prithvi Air Defence (PAD), a modified version of Prithvi missile, was fired to destroy an incoming target missile above 50 km altitude.

India achieved a major milestone on December 6 last when an interceptor missile, dubbed as advanced air defence (AAD), destroyed an incoming missile just 15 km above the surface.

Both the interceptors were, however, developed at the Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) in Bangalore.

The success of both the missions had boosted the confidence of the DRDO scientists in networking an array of radars, optics, command, control and communication systems to track an incoming missile in real time, validate all the software computation to develop the double-layered ABM system.

Outside View: Pakistan tests its IRBM

RIA Novosti’s commentator Pyotr Goncharov wrote a short piece on Pakistan’s recent missile test. Naturally, he puts the test into the perspective of the relationship with India. Goncharov comes to the conclusion that the country’s nuclear potential was a major deterrent in the past, but today it is no longer playing this role. This is in between exemplified by the US-Indian “nuclear romance”. The author hints that Pakistan may turn to Russia in order to get support in its relations with India.
You can read the full article here.

Agnis get MIRVed

The Agni missile family will get new warheads. These warheads were touted by India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) to have five cutting-edge technologies:

· They will be multiple warheads (Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles, or MIRVs), with each missile delivering several warheads at the same, or even different, targets.
· Decoy warheads, which will be fired alongside the genuine warheads, so that enemy’s missiles are wasted in attacking decoys, rather than the real warheads.
· Maneuvering warheads, which will weave through the atmosphere, dodging enemy missiles that are fired at it.
· Stealth technologies to make the warheads invisible to enemy radars.
· Changing warheads’ thermal signatures, to confuse the enemy’s infrared seekers.

The head of DRDO, Dr V K Saraswat, said that the Agni-III and all future missiles will be equipped with these new warhead technologies. By 2015-2020, according to current planning, India’s missile force will consist mainly of Agni-III and Agni-IV missiles, all of them equipped with new-generation warheads. Avinash Chander, who is the director of Advanced System Laboratory (ASL), a unit of DRDO, said last year that the 5,000km variant Agni-III+ will have the capacity to carry four to 12 warheads. A generation of MIRVed missiles, hooray! Let’s see how long it will take before we can hear a similar statement from India’s western neighbor.

Jane’s quotes local press reports, according to which Dr V K Saraswat said that the 3,000 km-range Agni-III would make three more test flights during 2008. This information is contradictory to what his colleague M Natarajan, who is scientific advisor to the ministry of defense and chief controller at DRDO, said earlier. He spoke of two tests: “One, sometime within the first quarter of [2008], and another within nine to 12 months." The Agni-III+ is scheduled for trial in early 2009.

There is a certain degree of confusion about the designation of the Agni missiles: some sources claim that in addition to the 3,000 km Agni-III and the 5,000 km Agni-III+ a separate Agni-IV exists with a range of 6,000 km. Others regard the extended version of the Agni, namely the Agni-III+, to be the same as the Agni-IV. In some cases the Agni-IV is also labeled Surya-I. This is mind-boggling. I will try to find some clarification and share it with you.

Picture: © Advanced System Laboratory

Monday, January 28, 2008

When you have the shield...

“When you have the shield it is easier to use the sword.”

When I heard this quote from a speaker at the last week’s conference on Coercive Arms Control I felt reminded that I still have to catch-up with the developments on the U.S. missile defense bases. Here we go:

The percentage of Czechs opposing the plans of their government to host a radar station as a part of the U.S. missile shield has increased. In May 2007 61 percent were against that idea, in November last year the figure reached 68 percent and it climbed to 70 percent one month later.

Regardless of the vox populi the Czech politicians continue to discuss the matter with their U.S. counterparts. The officials were confidential and announced that they are close to an agreement and that the finish line is clearly within view. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg stated in an interview in mid December 2007 that negotiations between the Czech Republic and the United States on the stationing of the controversial radar base would probably last until February. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said that a draft accord on the radar base was scheduled to be submitted to parliament in April. However, he cautioned that "we prefer quality to speed" and that his government had not set any firm deadline for completing the negotiations. Obviously the quality was not as good as originally expected: on January 23 the Defense Ministry spokesman Andrej Cirtek was quoted: "Negotiations … are progressing, but it can by no means be said when they will be completed".

There is not only a change when it comes to the duration of the negotiations but also in terms of substance. It seems that someone paid attention to what Ellen Tauscher, the Chairwoman of U.S. House Strategic Forces Subcommittee, said earlier: Let’s NATO-ize! A similar comment was made by the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in late November 2007. During a meeting on January 17 also the Czech Prime Minister and U.S. Missile Defense Agency chief Henry Obering agreed upon that the U.S. missile defense shield should be part of NATO's system.

The fifth round of negotiations between the United States and the Czech Republic opened today in Prague. The Czech Prime Minister Topolanek will be in Washington from Feb. 27 to March 1 where the radar base will definitely also be on the agenda.

Let’s shift northward:

I blogged already earlier that the new Polish government takes a more rational approach towards the missile defense issue than the predecessor government did. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk manifested this impression when he indicated in early January that he was in no hurry to decide whether his country would become home to 10 U.S. missile interceptors. He also said on January 10 that "it is not a race against time. The essential thing is to get what we want from the negotiations". He continued that Poland will only agree to provide a base for US interceptor missiles if it boosts Polish security. BBC's Adam Easton, reporting from Warsaw, already gave a rough idea how such an improvement could look like: Poland now wants U.S. military hardware and a bilateral security agreement before it agrees to host the base. Warsaw is demanding as protection from possible Russian attack the installation of the U.S. Patriot air-raid defense system, or the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). A bilateral military agreement should also guarantee that Poland receives the most up-to-date US weapons, Tusk said.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried said that the United States "has treated these suggestions as serious proposals from a serious ally." The Washington was prepared for serious talks on these issues and hopes that now talks with Poland will be intensified, he added. Some analysts do not expect this to happen any time soon and point out that Warsaw is awaiting the new leadership in the White House before taking any firm decision.

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski poignantly said in an interview published in the daily Gazeta Wyborcza on January 6 that "This is an American, not a Polish project" and therefore one has to wait until the terms are right. The same Foreign Minister said on January 15 that his nation as early as next month could agree to house 10 U.S. missile interceptors. The deal is likely to come when new Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk visits Washington to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush in February, Sikorski said. The date for the meeting is not yet set, but it is likely to take place after Tusk’s visit to Moscow on February 8. Vladimir Putin will certainly remind Mr. Tusk that if the next U.S. president is a Democrat who decides to pull the plug on the antimissile system, Poland will find itself having incurred the wrath of Russia and having nothing to show for it. In the light of the recent gas and beef rows with Russia, Poland will act cautiously.

However, less than 17 years after the Warsaw Pact was dissolved and the Eastern European states transformed themselves into market economies, Poland shows that it understands the principles of capitalism only too well: the price is important. Sikorski’s statement that "We feel no threat from Iran" clearly indicates, that Poland is willed to wait until the offered price is right. It seems that within the nine days from January 6 to 15 the price was significantly increased. There is no information available on what was offered from the U.S. side but I will keep you posted as soon as I get some news.

At the moment the situation seems to be reversed from what it used to be towards the end of last year: now the Czechs come up with vague statements that resemble open-ended talk-shops while Warsaw appears to be keen on signing a deal.

Just as a brief addendum: recently the U.S. Missile Defense Agency posted a four-pager on their accomplishments throughout 2007. It is still too early to speculate whether the next year’s edition will hold ground-breaking entries on Poland and the Czech Republic.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Israel tests a new (?) missile

On Thursday, January 17, Israel carried out a missile test. Initially, the official side was very reluctant to come up with information and the Defense Ministry only confirmed the launch but refused to provide details concerning the type of missile and the purpose it served.

Soon various rumors spread. Some sources assumed that the missile was an advanced Jericho-2. Iranian media even regarded the missile to be an advanced version of the Jericho-3. This perception was – in an unusual consent – shared by Israeli radio. Others referred to Western military experts which reported that the new system can propel the missile to any point on earth – thereby granting the new missile system an intercontinental capability. A similar statement was made by weapons expert Isaac Ben-Israel, a retired army general and Tel Aviv University professor who is now a member of the Israeli parliament, who said: "Everybody can do the math and understand that the significance is that we can reach with a rocket engine to every point in the world”. Defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the project, said that the new missile can reach "extremely long distances," without elaborating.

A statement made by a senior Defense Ministry official took one option off the table: contrary to some media reports, the test-firing was not linked to Israel's development of a multi-layered defense system, dubbed the "Iron Dome" and aimed at intercepting rockets and missiles.

Later on the Israeli Defense Ministry explained that the launch was a successful test of a new rocket propulsion system coupled with a test missile of a two-staged ballistic missile. Because the Jericho-3 is believed to have a three-stage solid propellant, the missile tested on Thursday must have been a different type than Jericho-3. The Jericho-2 missile is – in contrast to the Jericho-3 – a two-stage missile.

The Jericho-2 is commonly reported to have a maximum range of 1,500 km (some reports claim there are two separate missile systems, the Jericho-2 with a 800 km range and the Jericho-2B with an extended 1,500 km range). However, it is often mentioned that the missile is designed in a way that it could reach far greater distances, up to 3,500 or even 4,000 km.

This leads to the assumption, that the Jericho-2 missile has been upgraded with a more powerful propulsion system that pushes the maxim range of the missile from the 1,500 km closer to the limit given by its design. This would also explain the statement of the defense official, because if the range of a missile is more than doubled, one can indeed speak of an “extremely long distance” (in comparison to the former range). However, the statement by the member of the Knesset must still be seen as euphemistic. Even if Israel was now in possession of a missile with a range up to 4,000 km, the missile would still be well below that of an ICBM. Regardless of the question whether the new (version of the) missile deserves the label ICBM or not, if it has a range of over 3,000 km it is suited to hit any place in Iran. This might serve both as deterrence of potential Iranian attacks and as an option to launch a missile strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities (for an assessment of Israel’s capabilities to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities see: Osirak Redux).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another test-flight of the Tiger

Pakistan conducted mid December another test of its first cruise missile, the Hatf-VII Babur (Arabic 'tiger'). The missile is subsonic and nuclear-capable; it possesses “near stealth capabilities and is a low flying, terrain hugging missile with high maneuverability, pin point accuracy and radar avoidance features”.

It is always stressed that the Babur was indigenously developed. However, the Babur cruise missile holds many similarities to the Tomahawk land attack cruise missile, with the two being roughly the same size and shape and having a similar wing and engine intake design. However, in 1998 US-destroyers fired Tomahawk missiles at Taliban bases in Afghanistan. Six of these missiles mis-fired and landed in Pakistan. Rumors exist that Pakistan reverse-engineered these Tomahawk missiles and developed its own prototype. In contrast to that, India’s oppositional Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party claimed that the missile was produced in violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime because of allegations that China had transferred cruise missile technology to Pakistan.

The Babur entered serial production in October 2005. Pakistan conducted five missile tests so far:

· August 11, 2005: land-based transporter erector launcher
· March 21, 2006: second test of the original 500km range missile
· March 23, 2007: upgraded version, range extended to 700km
· July 26, 2007: upgraded version, launched from the torpedo tubes of an Agosta 90b submarine
· December 11, 2007: a surface-to-surface version was test-fired

Officials have announced, Pakistan is already working on a second, more advanced cruise missile, with a range of 1,000km.

Watch this short clip for some general information on the missile:

Some analysts complain that due to the Hatf-VII Babur, India feels compelled to match the cruise missile with a similar weapon type of its own, namely Nirbhay, which is expected to be first test-fired in 2009. Others do not see the threat of an accelerated arms race but perceive a momentum of stability. Pakistan’s President Musharraf was quoted: “[The Babur] will further improve the existing military balance in the region”. An arms race, in which the involved actors compete in introducing certain types of weapons faster than their opponents do, show a certain form of continuity, but definitely not stability.

To put the Babur into the context of the South Asian missile proliferation: Sharad Joshi from CNS published a series of four articles in WMDInsights on the intensifying competition between India and Pakistan in the development of increasingly advanced, nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles. See
· India's Missile Program: Diverging Trajectories, WMD Insights, February 2007,
· Pakistan's Missile Tests Highlight Growing South Asia Nuclear Arms Race, Despite New Confidence Building Measures, WMD Insights, April 2007,
· India Successfully Tests Agni-III: A Stepping Stone to an ICBM?, WMD Insights, May 2007, together with Peter Crail, and
· India and Pakistan Missile Race Surges On, WMD Insights, October 2007.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Indian developments

Here comes the second and probably by far largest part of the catch-up, featuring today our special guest: India.

India achieved some major progress in the development of its nuclear-capable ballistic Agni-IV missile. The country announced in December major plans to increase its nuclear capabilities, saying it was close to testing the missile which is capable of hitting targets up to 6,000 kilometers (3,800 miles) away. Such a distance would nearly double the military’s current strike range, putting targets even in Europe within reach, and certainly the Chinese capital, Beijing. The test of this ICBM is scheduled for June 2008. This announcement came one day after neighboring Pakistan tested a nuclear capable cruise missile.

Also for the Agni-III new tests are planned before commercial production could be considered. According to the scientific advisor, M Natarajan, flight tests of Agni-III ballistic missiles would begin within months. The first test was held sometime within the first quarter of 2008, and a second test within nine to 12 months.

There is also some news on the indigenously developed Akash missile: in December India test-fired this nuclear-capable SAM in order to fine-tune it. This was the first test after the introduction of the Akash was approved in November 2007 and the last test before starting mass production. The Indian Air Force is all set to acquire a squadron-strength of the Akash, i.e. 16 to 18 batteries.

In general it can be expected that India’s missiles will be produced faster than in former times. V. K. Saraswat, the chief of India's missile development project, said the assembly lines were in place to speed up the production of the precision missiles. “The private industry has emerged as a co-developer of the sub-systems of the missiles, which is helping us in cutting down development time," he added.

Not only in the field of ballistic missile production India wants to shift gears. RIA Novosti reports that the Russian-Indian joint venture BrahMos has bought a manufacturing plant in the state of Kerala in south India to double the production of its supersonic cruise missiles. At the plant BrahMos missiles will be assembled, as well as components for Astra rockets made. The purchase of the Kerala plant allows the BrahMos company to increase its annual missile production to 50.
In an earlier post I referred to figures that plans exist to export up to 1,000 BrahMos cruise missiles. RIA Novosti provides now different data stating that experts estimate that India might purchase up to 1,000 BrahMos missiles for its Armed Forces in the next decade, and export 2,000 to third countries during the same period. If these figures are correct, several new plant acquisitions are necessary because it would take BrahMos otherwise 60 years to produce the 3,000 missiles.

The work on an improved BrahMos version has already started. Defensenews reports that:
India will put about $250 million into the joint Indo-Russia effort to develop a Mach 5 version of its BrahMos cruise missile. This scramjet version is already in advanced development and will enter service in six or seven years, said sources with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Building on the success of the first Mach 2.8 BrahMos, the program’s second phase will aim to develop faster and reusable cruise missiles with a range of 299 kilometers, the DRDO sources said.
The cooperation in the production of the BrahMos was no single case but rather something that will be standard for future missile systems. Prahalda, Chief Controller at DRDO headquarters, said that "New missile and weapons systems will be developed within a five-year time frame at low costs, with foreign partners and private industries".

The first of such ventures, Prahalda said, will be development of quick reaction missiles to counter threats from low-flying missiles and fighters and Astra, India first bid to develop a beyond-visual range air-to-air missile.

While India would be collaborating with Israel for development of surface-to-air upgraded spyder missiles, for Astra, New Delhi has roped in French and Russian collobrators [sic!].

The year 2008 will also bring some news for the Indian army which will start user trials for the sophisticated anti-tank Nag missiles in May-June in the Rajasthan desert. Design work on the missile started in 1988 and the first tests were carried out in November 1990.

But there are not only major developments on the offensive side. There is also something to report on when it comes to missile defense:
India’s genuine missile defense program started in 1998 after preliminary talks with Israel and the United States that aimed at the acquisition of the Arrow and the Patriot system, respectively, turned out to be unsuccessful. In November 2006 a first test was conducted (Prithvi Air Defence Exercise) during which Indian scientists tested an exo-atmospheric anti-missile system that could intercept targets 50-km above the atmosphere.

In December 2007 India conducted the second part of the two stage testing process. According to domain-b, India used this time supersonic interceptors to engage supersonic targets 15-km within the atmosphere. Reuters reported that V.K. Saraswat said that the tests of India's home-grown anti-ballistic missile system have been successful and the country expects it to be ready for military use in three years. The system will be capable of detecting, intercepting and destroying intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles from any country, he added.

According to Dr. Saraswat, the December tests have shown that the interceptor missiles can also be used as Surface-to-Air Missiles, e.g. to hit an aircraft, and could also be brought to bear against cruise missiles.

While highlighting the need for a missile defense system, Saraswat referred to India’s no-first-use policy, which makes it essential to have system in place which is able to take out incoming missiles that might be equipped with a nuclear warhead.

"Because we have a ballistic missile defence system ... a country which has a small arsenal will think twice before it ventures," he said in an apparent reference to old rival Pakistan.

K Subrahmanyan, a writer on defense issues, said that

"Pakistan is acquiring advanced missile technology from China. No missile defence system is perfect, but if we can knock out three out of every five warheads, it means our adversary has to fire more rockets. It is a means of deterrence."
Somehow I feel reminded of Dr. Strangelove and the “doomsday math” towards the end of the movie. However, on the Pakistani side of the border, analysts do not perceive the anti-missile system as a purely defensive measure. They take – rightfully – the position that such thinking is hastening an arms race:

"The first impulse is to ask how does Pakistan get [a missile defence system]," said Ayesha Siddiqa, a defence analyst. "The next will be to increase the number of missiles to make sure it has enough to evade the shield."
The missile defense system and its implications are not only of importance in regard to Pakistan but also for the India-Chinese relations. Indian media claims that China has put India's northern region under threat through reorganizing its missile facilities near Delingha in Qinghai province. According to this article, China is putting medium range missiles in this area which have a range of over 2500km and could put northern India, including New Delhi within range. One could once again raise the question about the egg or the hen.

BrahMos © RIA Novosti
V.K. Saraswat © AFP

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mom Russia

As promised, here comes the first part of my attempt to catch up with the events of the last four weeks, starting with Russia.

Russia celebrated the end of the year 2007 with additional pyrotechnics in the form of a series of four missile launches.

On December 8 it successfully test-fired an intercontinental RS-12M Topol ballistic missile, called SS-25 Sickle by NATO. Russia's Strategic Missile Forces regularly launch missiles to test their performance characteristics and decide whether they can remain in service. That was for example the purpose of the last Topol test on October 19 which led the extension of the missile's service life to 21 years, much longer than the 10 years originally intended. The missile test-launch in early December served an additional purpose: Strategic Missile Forces (SFM)spokesman Alexander Vovk told RIA Novosti that it contained new equipment able to pierce anti-missile shields.

Next in line was the test-launch of the R-29RM Sineva SLBM on December 17 by the K-114 Tula (Delta IV-class) nuclear submarine. The missile is liquid-fueled and also known as RSM-54, 3M27, and by its NATO classification SS-N-23. This was the first test-launch after the Sineva version of the missile was officially accepted for service in July 2007. The Sineva differs from its predecessor, the Skiff version of the R-29RM that entered service in 1989, in various aspects: the new missile has a longer range, a modern control system and an improved accuracy, which is estimated at 500m CEP. There was some confusion about the number of warheads it can carry, figures ranging from three to ten. For a discussion see the comments in this entry of Pavel Podvig’s Russian Forces Blog. As it seems to be an emerging standard, the Sineva is said to be able to “outperform any anti-missile system likely to be deployed”. However, it remains an unproven standard.

For an info-graphic of the Sineva-launch produced by RIA Novosti click on this picture:

Those who would like to practice their Russian can do so here:

The third test was conducted again by the K-114 Tula submarine. It was another successful Sineva test on December 25, this time from a submerged position.

On the same day Russia conducted its fourth December missile test. From the Plesetsk Space Center it test-launched for the second time its “new” MIRV-ed RS-24 ICBM, also known as Yars. The first test of this missile took place on May 29, 2007. It is needless to point out, that also the RS-24 “will enable the [Russian Strategic Missile Forces] to infiltrate any missile defense systems, even those that have not yet been established”.

Pavel’s video collection also holds a short clip on the start:

Russia holds also ambitious plans for the coming years. The SMFrecently announced that Russia would conduct at least 11 test launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2008 and would double the number of launches after 2009 "to prevent the weakening of Russia's nuclear deterrence under any circumstances."

Strategic Missiles Forces commander Colonel General Nikolai Solovtsov told a news conference that Russia is putting an average of three mobile and three or four fixed-site missile launching systems into operation every year.

In addition to further fielding current weapon systems, Russia also plans to develop new ones. SMF spokesman Alexander Vovk explained that “in the next five-ten years Russia’s SMF may adopt a new, more advanced [than the Topol-M] ballistic missile system”. Stratfor elaborates on that and comes to the conclusion that

a fundamentally new ICBM design probably would be closer to the SS-18 and SS-19 in MIRV capacity, though will almost certainly use solid fuel. If such a missile can be designed, tested and produced in meaningful numbers, it could represent a way for Moscow to meaningfully alter the downward trajectory of its strategic deterrent. Unfortunately for the Kremlin, its track record does not make for promising prospects in this regard.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

back online

Hello everybody,

the Missile Monitor awakes from its one-month slumber. In the next couple of posts I will try to summarize the major missile-related events of the past four weeks. A huge number of feeds, newsletters, digests etc. accumulated, so it will take a while. The first piece should be online before the weekend. From next week on the post will follow in the usual frequency.

Thank you for your patience.