India: Ballistic Missile Update – 2000

India has continued to produce and test all five of the missiles being developed under its Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP).

Prithvi-I: The nuclear-capable Prithvi-I surface-to-surface missile is currently in service with the Indian armed forces. Built by Bharat Dynamics Ltd. (BDL), the single-stage liquid-fueled missile was first tested in early 1988. It can carry a 1,000 kilogram payload 150 kilometers.

In June 1997, it was reported that India moved fewer than a dozen Prithvi-I missiles close to the Pakistani border. Prime Minister I. K. Gujral denied that India deployed the missiles, but Western officials confirmed in November that India had in fact shifted the missiles from storage in central India to sites about 100 kilometers from the Pakistan border.

Prithvi-II: In January 1996, India successfully test fired the longer-range nuclear-capable Prithvi-II. It can carry a 500 kilogram payload 250 kilometers, far enough to reach Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad. Prithvi-II is currently in service with the Indian armed forces. According to the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), four different types of warheads have been developed for the Prithvi, including a pre-fragmented warhead, two different submunition warheads, and an submunition incendiary warhead.

Agni: In April 1999, India tested the Agni-II, an intermediate-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Unlike the first Agni, which had a solid-fueled first stage and a liquid-fueled second stage, the Agni-II is believed to be powered entirely by solid fuel and is said to have a mobile launch capability. It reportedly is also equipped with a global positioning system (GPS). The 20-meter-long missile can carry a 1,000 kilogram payload 2,000 kilometers. Dr. A. J. P. Abdul Kalam, head of the DRDO, stated in 1999 that “Agni-II was designed to carry a nuclear warhead if required” and claimed in an interview that India had tested an Agni-sized payload during its May 1998 nuclear tests. The April 1999 missile test was reportedly designed to demonstrate the Agni’s mobile launch capability, its solid-fuel propulsion system, its features designed to carry special payloads, and its navigation, guidance and control systems.

Dhanush: A naval version of the Prithvi, the 8.5 meter long Dhanush, was tested in April 2000 from a ship anchored 20 kilometers offshore in the Bay of Bengal. The test was reportedly described as only a “partial success” by V. K. Aarte, scientific advisor to the Indian Ministry of Defense. Officials at the DRDO declined to provide specific details about the test, but naval sources reportedly said the missile crashed into the sea approximately 25-30 kilometers from the launch vessel.

Sagarika: The New York Times reported in April 1998 that Russia was helping India build a nuclear-capable sea-launched missile called the Sagarika (“Oceanic”). Both India and Russia denied cooperating on the project, but India reportedly confirmed in 1999 that its Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) was developing a 300-kilometer range cruise missile. According to the New York Times, Russia acknowledged to American officials in 1995 that Russian scientists were providing India with technological support, but insisted that their assistance was limited and involved only the technology needed to launch an underwater missile. However, an American official told the Times that Russia was providing “significant engineering services” as well as the parts and equipment necessary to build and launch the missile. It is possible that the Sagarika will be deployed on the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), India’s nuclear powered submarine, which is under development with Russian assistance.

Surya: Indian Defense Minister Rawat acknowledged in early November 1999 that India was developing the 5,000-kilometer range Surya (“Sun”) ballistic missile. Indian officials, however, subsequently denied Rawat’s statement.

Foreign helpers

Indian officials boast that all of its missiles are indigenously developed. After the successful test of the Agni-II, Dr. Kalam was quoted as saying: “I don’t have a partner in the Atlantic or beyond the Indian Ocean to help me,” and as claiming that the Agni is “less than 10 percent” imported. However, India’s missiles have all been developed with extensive outside aid. The United States has provided assistance recently. American companies Digital Equipment Corp. and International Business Machines (IBM) both supplied the Indian Institute of Science with supercomputers capable of designing nuclear weapons and missiles, and Viewlogic Systems Inc. of Marlborough, Massachusetts sold computer software to an Indian missile manufacturer.