The test of India's most potent nuclear deterrence missile in the Bay of Bengal which will demonstrate a survivable second strike capability has now been scheduled to mid December, sources aware of latest developments have said.
The test of the K4 submarine launched nuclear capable missile was scheduled to take place from the eastern coast as ET had reported but the window is likely to be used for an Agni series missile firing.
Sources said that the 3,500 km range missile, designed for the Arihant class of nuclear submarines, is likely to be tested from a fixed underwater pontoon as part of the developmental trials being conducted by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) within a fortnight.
An earlier window in November had to be cancelled as cyclone Bulbul hit the eastern coast. A successful test would mark a significant step towards operationalizing the nuclear capable missile.
The last test of the K4 was attempted in 2017 and there has been an urgency to expedite the developmental process, given that India’s second nuclear submarine, the INS Arighat is nearing completion and would be ready for trials soon. The K4 has undergone three tests in the past and is considered to be the real game changer that would give India a second strike option.
India does has an operational SLBM (the K 15) onboard the INS Arihant but its range is capped at 750 km, limiting second strike options and with that, the effectiveness of the nuclear triad.
Land-based Agni series of missiles have proved their worth with multiple tests over the past years and India has its Mirage 2000 fighter rigged to deliver strategic warheads but an underwater launched missile is widely considered to be the most potent second strike weapon.
DRDO has also started work on the K5, a 5000 km range SLBM that would be fitted onboard nuclear powered submarines as well, to match the range of the Agni V, India’s longest range land based missile.
A successful integration of the K 5 would demonstrate that India has a credible triad in place – the ability for a strike by land, sea or air. The most recent landmark on the strategic front was the first deterrence patrol by INS Arihant that was carried out in November last year.
Marking its significance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the Arihant crew, with the government announcing a completion of the `country's survivable nuclear triad’. The PM described the indigenous development of the Arihant and its operationalisation as a symbol of the “country's technological prowess and the synergy and coordination among all concerned”.