FO­CUS ON AGNI- VI : A VIEW­POINT

SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - The views ex­pressed herein are the per­sonal views of the au­thor.

While BMD shield can stop a mul­ti­ple war­head/mis­sile at­tack, fo­cus ob­vi­ously is re­quired to keep up­grad­ing the mis­sile de­fence to min­imise the ef­fects by build­ing more and more safe­guards

Be­yond the nu­clear ca­pa­ble Agni-V, devel­op­ment of Agni-VI by the De­fence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) is wel­come news. This three-stage ICBM is ex­pected to be devel­oped by 2014 and likely to be in­tro­duced in ser­vice and op­er­a­tionalised by 2018-19. It will have a max­i­mum range of 10,000 kilo­me­tres, im­ply­ing ef­fec­tive range of about 8,000 kilo­me­tres.

With mo­bile launch­ers for the land vari­ant mount­able on both 8 x 8 Ta­tra ve­hi­cles and rail, plus the SLBM ver­sion fit­ted onto Ari­hant class sub­marines, the three-stage Agni-VI in­cor­po­rat­ing ‘seeker tech­nol­ogy’ will pro­vide a big boost to the In­dian armed forces as a force mul­ti­plier with strate­gic di­men­sions. The mul­ti­ple in­de­pen­dently tar­getable re-en­try ve­hi­cles (MIRV) war­heads that Agni-VI will carry are re­port­edly four to six though some sources talk of even 10 MIRV war­heads de­pend­ing on the weight of the war­heads.

Devel­op­ment of Agni-VI will pro­pel In­dia into the elite club of MIRV war­head ICBMs along­side coun­tries like the US, Rus­sia and China. Though In­dia’s mis­sile devel­op­ment is not aimed at any par­tic­u­lar coun­try, it is ax­iomatic that we can­not ig­nore the Chi­nese mis­sile devel­op­ment es­pe­cially the over­all ca­pa­bil­ity of nu­clear and bal­lis­tic mis­siles un­der China’s Sec­ond Ar­tillery Corps, which was the first mil­i­tary unit vis­ited by Xi Jing­pin.

Though the 2012 Mil­i­tary Bal­ance by the In­sti­tute of Strate­gic Stud­ies is be­ing pub­lished only by midMarch 2013, at last count, the over­all 500 mis­siles in­cluded some 70 ICBMs (in­clud­ing 20 of 13,000+ kilo­me­tres range, 24 of 11,200 kilo­me­tres range and 36 SLBMs in­clud­ing 24 of 7,200+ kilo­me­tres range. The lat­est en­try has been the Dong Fang 41 ICBM ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing a nu­clear war­head of 1 MT or up to 10 MIRVs with se­lectable weight war­heads. With a speed of Mach 10-25, launchpad from silo or road mo­bile TEL, it will have a max­i­mum range of 14,000 kilo­me­tres. Dong Fang 41, trans­lated as ‘East Wind’ in Chi­nese, has been in­ducted into the Sec­ond Ar­tillery Corps and gives China the first strike ca­pa­bil­ity in the US main­land.

China test-fired the DF 41 on July 24, 2012, while the China-Ja­pan con­tro­versy raged over the dis­puted Diaoyu­tai (Diaoyu or Senkaku) is­lands. With reach­able tar­gets in the US, the DF 41 pro­vides strate­gic mus­cle to China in the bal­ance of power in the Asi­aPa­cific re­gion. As and when China de­ploys a Car­rier Group at Hainan and de­ploys SLBMs, the bal­ance of power in Asia-Pa­cific will start un­der­go­ing a change.

China’s Dong Fang 41 ICBM

Aside from the de­ploy­ment of mul­ti­ple MIRV war­head mis­siles, what needs to be kept in mind is the Chi­nese con­cept of mass mis­sile strikes, both aimed at pen­e­trat­ing the BMD shield of the ad­ver­sary by en­sur­ing at least some war­heads strike in­tended tar­gets. Then is the ques­tion whether all the war­heads will merely be nu­clear or con­ven­tional or can one also ex­pect oth­ers like chem­i­cal and elec­tro­mag­netic (EM) war­heads, given the Chi­nese pen­chant to sur­prise the en­emy asym­met­ri­cally?

In­dia needs to ex­am­ine th­ese is­sues. Are we ca­ter­ing for an EM war­head mixed with con­ven­tional, nu­clear, chem­i­cal MIRV war­heads? While BMD shield can stop a mul­ti­ple war­head/mis­sile at­tack, fo­cus ob­vi­ously is re­quired to keep up­grad­ing the mis­sile de­fence to min­imise the ef­fects by build­ing more and more safe­guards. As for de­ter­rence, who is this de­ter­rence against if not China and Pak­istan. We need to re­view our nu­clear pol­icy in the con­text of both. De­ter­rence must be cred­i­ble and through the full spec­trum rather than only at ICBM level not­with­stand­ing the fact that longer ranges are in­tim­i­dat­ing to the ad­ver­sary. Pref­er­ence also needs to be given to ther­monu­clear war­heads (for greater ef­fect and cost ef­fec­tive­ness) and to the seabased de­ter­rent (SLBMs) as lat­ter are eas­ier to se­cure and de­ploy. Fi­nally, would be the re­quire­ment to have a ro­bust com­mand and con­trol sys­tem and the alacrity with which the sec­ond strike op­tion is to be ex­er­cised, should we con­tinue with this pol­icy.

LT GEN­ERAL (RETD) P.C. KA­TOCH

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