Sunday, March 2, 2008

India successfully tests its first SLBM

India launched on February 26 a nuclear-capable SLBM off of its southeast coast near the port city of Visakhapatnam, which is home to the navy's Eastern Fleet. The test of the indigenously-developed SLBM with the designation Sagarika (K-15) was announced earlier this month. The nuclear-capable missile has a range of 700km and can carry a 500kg payload.

“This missile is a variant of the Dhanush and an advanced clone of Prithvi's naval version. The difference is that it can only be launched from a submarine,” a source at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) said.

The Sagarika is designed to be integrated with a nuclear-powered submarine that India is building and that is expected to be ready for sea trials by 2009. Since the Indian Navy does not have yet a submarine capable of firing an SLBM, the missile was launched from an underwater platform positioned 50 meters deep in the sea.

Developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization, the missile has at least twice been test-fired but without success as its trajectory deviated while in flight on both occasions. Other sources refer to six previous tests.

A defense ministry spokesperson said that “[t]he test was successful. We are waiting [for] further details.” Once the weapon is deployed, India would join the few other nations – namely United States, Russia, China, and France – capable of firing ballistic missiles from air, sea and land.

Soon after the test, Pakistan’s Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Afzal Tahir warned that the test “is going to start a new arms race in the region”. So far Pakistan possesses in addition to its various land-based ballistic missiles the Babur cruise missile that can be fired from warships, submarines and fighter jets and the Ra'ad ALCM which was tested on August 25, 2007.

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