The K-15 missile, recently test-fired in the Bay of Bengal with success, is India’s first underwater ballistic missile. Christened Sagarika, it has a range of 700 km. It is 10 metres long, weighs 17 tonnes and can carry a one-tonne nuclear warhead. While the missile was launched from a submerged platform, it will eventually be deployed on submarines.
What makes this achievement noteworthy is that it takes the country closer to completing its nuclear triad—the capability to fire nukes from land, air and sea. So far, India only possesses the capability of delivering nuclear weapons from land and aerial platforms. The missile will soon be tested from INS Arihant, the country’s first indigenous nuclear submarine, which is currently being tested. Once that proves successful, the missile will be integrated with the submarine, making the country nuclear capable on all three fronts.
India currently has INS Chakra, the Akula-II class nuclear-propelled submarine, which it has leased from Russia for 10 years. However, because of various international treaties, the submarine does not come armed with strategic missiles. INS Arihant, on the other hand, will be able to carry 12 K-15 missiles. The submarine will be powered by an 80 MWt reactor and will weigh 6,000 tonnes.
Sagarika has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation. It has been under development since the late 1990s. The agency is also developing K-4 missiles that will have a range of 3,500 km. India has a no-first-use policy for nuclear weapons and the development of the missile boosts its retaliatory strike capability. So far, only the US, Russia, France and China have been successful in developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles.