The Indian government has given its defense scientists the green light to accelerate development of its secret Sagarika missile program, and they are turning to Russia and Israel for help.
A senior scientist with the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said the program team has been authorized to increase the range of the submarine-launched cruise missile to 2,500 kilometers, from the planned 1,000 kilometers.
The missile is being developed by the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad, under DRDO supervision.
DRDO Director-General M. Natrajan denied during a Feb. 11 news conference at the Aero India 2005 defense exposition here that such a program exists, despite the fact that Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee at a news conference two days earlier disclosed there had been delays in the Sagarika missile program.
The senior scientist said Feb. 12 that his agency has the government’s permission to expand the missile’s range so it can be used as a nuclear-threat deterrent.
Development began with $225 million in 1991 and a 40-person team has been working on the missile program at the DRDL, the scientist said.
The DRDO since 2001 has carried out four land-launched flight trials of Sagarika prototypes that had a range of 300 kilometers. These tests took place at the Balasore missile test range in the state of Orissa.
The DRDO scientist said the government allocated another $581 million in January to carry out development of India’s first submarine-launched cruise missile with the expanded range of 2,500 kilometers.
Under this accelerated program, the DRDO has sought assistance from Russia and technical guidance from Israel so that within the next two years, the agency can carry out submarine-launched tests of Sagarika missiles that currently have a 300–kilometer range, the scientist said.
A senior Israeli Defense Ministry official said Feb 11 that Israel maintains a dialogue with the DRDO about the agency’s crucial programs, including missiles.
The DRDO in June will carry out another land-flight test of the Sagarika missile with a guidance system that has been improved with the help of scientists from Russia’s State Unitary Enterprise NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM), who are stationed at the DRDL.
A senior executive of Russian arms export agency Rosoboronexport confirmed Feb.12 that NPOM is giving technical assistance on the Sagarika program, including supplying critical hardware for the guidance system. The executive noted, however, that Russia has nothing to do with development of the missile as a nuclear deterrent.
Russian scientists also have helped their Indian counterparts make the Sagarika missile more accurate. This improved version will be tested in Balasore in June.
The developmental two-stage Sagarika cruise missile is 5.86 meters long and has a launch weight, including payload, of 5,600 kilograms. It uses solid propellant and can carry payloads of 500 to 1,000 kilograms. The missile employs a strap-on navigational system augmented by Global Positioning System equipment, and has a circular error probability of 25 meters, the DRDO scientist said.
He said the DRDO will submit to the Ministry of Defence a detailed development and prototype schedule within the next six months. Induction of the missile will be in five years at the earliest to coincide with the indigenously developed nuclear submarine — the Advanced Technology Vessel — becoming operational.
A senior Navy official said Feb. 15 the service for the first time will carry out launch trials of Russian Klub cruise missiles from Kilo-class submarines to be acquired from Russia later this year. He said the Navy does not have the capability to launch cruise missiles from submarines.