With the launch of B05 India has entered a club of select countries US, Russia, France, the UK & China - who have a strategic deterrent force at sea

The Sagarika (K-15, B05) missile is a 700 km ranged Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM). It is reportedly based on the Prithvi design. The program started in 1992 and was originally part of a program that would adapt a ramjet engine. Developed by the DRDO in 2007, it tested the Sagarika on several occasions from a submersible pontoon launcher.

It was tested again in February of 2008 from another pontoon, simulating the environment of a submarine. Its final trial was on January 27, 2013 as it successful hit a predetermined target from an underwater battery. It typically carries warhead of around 500 kg, and uses solid fuel.

India’s INS Arihant nuclear submarine is equipped with a B-O5 Submarine Launched Strategic Missile (SLBM) capable of hitting targets with nuclear warheads at a range of 650 km is fully operational.

Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman made a formal announcement during the annual award ceremony of the Defence Research Development Organisation in New Delhi on Monday (14-May-2018).

India has already deployed the submarine-launched version of the B05 at INS Arihant. Indian scientists are currently in the process of developing the land version of the missile.

It is an indigenous missile with several innovative designs and a unique mechanism. Numerous critical technologies were proved in the successful trials, which paved the way for developing other long-range strategic missiles and has the potential to be launched from submarine, ship, and land.

It is evident from defence minister's statement that the "Sagarika" had indeed undergone a series of secret testing before it was operationalised by the navy, and during this crucial period complete radio silence was maintained.

Strategic Implications

A nuclear armed Sagarika missile deployed on a submarine would complete India’s nuclear triad. The only submarine capable of being deployed with Sagrika missiles is the INS Arihant. Though India has leased nuclear powered attack submarines in the past, INS Arihant is India’s first indigenously built nuke submarine. Reportedly, the Arihant could carry up to 12 Sagarika missiles as well as torpedoes and submarine launched cruise missiles. This would allow India’s submarine to place a nuclear strike near a foreign powers coastline to deter or retaliate against that power.

However, this would require a certain amount of risk from the submarine due to the short range of the Sagarika. The proximity of the submarine to the shore could severely limit its manoeuvring capability in the event it was discovered. Furthermore, there is no indication that the Arihant is currently carrying Sagarikas, or that the Sagarika has been produced in any quantity other than for test flights.

To counter the above scenario, defence scientists at DRDO have also been testing longer-range K-series submarine-launched strategic missiles for the past few years. The long range (3,500 kilometres) K-4 missiles have so far been tested three times successfully from underwater pontoons, but the last test from a pontoon in December 2017 failed as the missile did not activate properly during the test.

India has also started working on the K-5, which has a range of 5,000 kilometres, as well as the K-6, with its range of up to 6,000 km, for nuclear-powered submarines.

Our Bureau