K-15 Sagarika (codenamed B-05) nuclear-capable submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM)

HYDERABAD: The engineer with Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL), who was honey trapped by a Pakistani spy with the lure of love and marriage, had leaked classified information on India's missile programme, including development of nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched missiles, said top police sources. He was arrested on Friday after a tip-off by intelligence agencies.

The accused, D Mallikarjuna Reddy, 29, worked in the Advanced Naval System Program at DRDL's Research Centre IMARAT complex in Hyderabad since 2018. Charged with espionage, Reddy spilled the beans during interrogation and police are planning to seek his custody to elicit more information.

The Pakistani spy, who masqueraded as Natasha Rao, befriended Reddy on Facebook and vowed marriage while successfully extracting sensitive data on India's nuclear deterrence program.

The accused shared data on technical components of surface-to-surface Agni missiles and the K-series missiles (named after scientist and former president APJ Abdul Kalam). The K-series missiles are specifically manufactured for Navy's Arihant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.

Since his job profile entailed field visits to defence manufacturing units to assess work progress and fix deadlines, he had access to specialised components used in the missile development. A loner at heart, Reddy quickly succumbed to Natasha's sweet-talk and coughed up classified information about the K-series missiles, a top police source told TOI.

He shared details of 3,500 km range K-4, 6,000 km range K-5 and 1,500 km range K-15 Sagarika series codenamed B-05 - all nuclear-capable submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM). "Since SLBMs are launched from submarines, they are lighter than land-based nuclear missiles like Agni. Also, the testing phase of K-4 which can carry a payload of 2.2 ton is over and currently under production," said a senior intelligence officer.

The engineer was in touch with Natasha for two years between January 2020 and December 2021. "Natasha had two other Facebook accounts with assumed names of Simran Chopra and Omisha Addii and would converse with Reddy through FB messenger and WhatsApp, but never made a video call. Also, she turned down multiple requests by Reddy to share her photos or videos with him. She had posed as an employee of a UK-based defence journal and befriended Reddy on Facebook," said an officer with Rachakonda police.

A laptop and two cell phones seized from Reddy have thrown up crucial evidence, including photos and detailed text on missile development, which was shared with Natasha. Investigators also found the spy's voice clips in English and Hindi on Reddy's phone.

Since the engineer claimed Natasha sought his bank account details, but did not transfer money, police are scanning his accounts and trying to verify if he was acting alone or part of a bigger espionage gang.