India successfully tests nuclear-capable ballistic missile ‘Agni P’
The Defence Research and Development Organisation has stated that India has successfully tested the new generation nuclear-capable ballistic missile ‘Agni P’ (Prime) from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam island off the Odisha coast, on 18 December 2021. The ‘Agni P’ is a two-stage canisterised solid propellant ballistic missile with dual redundant navigation and guidance system. Various telemetry, radar, electro-optical stations and downrange ships positioned along the eastern coast tracked and monitored the missile trajectory and parameters. The DRDO further stated “the missile followed textbook trajectory meeting all mission objectives with a high level of accuracy”.
Agni-P is a new generation advanced variant of the Agni class of missiles. It is a two-stage canisterised solid propellant ballistic missile with dual redundant navigation and guidance system that can be launched from rail and road and stored for a longer period. It can be transported across the length and breadth of the country, as per requirements. This second flight-test has proven the reliable performance of all the advanced technologies integrated into the system. The first test flight was carried out by the DRDO on June 28 this year.
Agni-P has a range capability between 1,000 and 2,000 kilometres, weighs half of Agni III and has new kinds of propulsion and new guidance. It also comes with the technologies found in the 4000-kilometre range Agni-IV and 5000-kilometre range Agni-V. India is considering creating a new rocket force to oversee and control the country’s missile forces. This would help integrate forces and dual-use infrastructure. China created its own rocket force in 2016.
Agni class of missiles are the mainstay of India’s nuclear launch capability, which also includes the Prithvi short-range ballistic missiles, submarine launched ballistic missiles and fighter aircraft. Agni-V, an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with a range of over 5,000 km, had been tested several times and validated for induction. India has also operationalised its submarine-based nuclear launch capability, completing the nuclear triad. This aspect assumes significance, considering India’s stated No-First-Use policy.
INS VISAKHAPATNAM COMMISSIONED
Heralding yet another chapter in the indigenisation of advanced weapon systems in the Armed Forces, INS Visakhapatnam was commissioned into the Indian Navy in the presence of defence minister Rajnath Singh at Naval dockyard in Mumbai on 21 November 2021. The 7,400-tonne warship is an indigenously developed stealth guided missile destroyer, packed with state-of-the-art weapons and sensors with modern surveillance radars and is a tribute to the professional acumen of India’s indigenous warship design capabilities.
INS Visakhapatnam is the first of the four ‘Visakhapatnam’ class destroyers, indigenously designed by the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design. The warship, described by the Raksha mantra Shri Rajnath Singh as “one of the most technologically advanced guided missile destroyers in the world which will cater to the present and future requirements of the armed forces and the nation,” is indeed a symbol of India’s growing maritime prowess.
INS Visakhapatnam is fitted with a modern surveillance radar which provides target data to the gunnery weapon systems of the ship. Indigenously developed rocket launchers, torpedo launchers and ASW helicopters provide the warship with anti-submarine warfare capabilities. Besides the above, some of the other major indigenised equipment system onboard are the combat management system, torpedo tube launcher, integrated platform management system, automated power management system, foldable hangar doors, Helo traversing system, close-in weapon system and the bow mounted sonar. The ship is also equipped to fight under nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) warfare conditions.
The commissioning of this, the first of four Visakhapatnam class guided missile destroyers is a big boost to the capabilities of the Indian Navy in providing security in the Indian Ocean Region. Speaking on the occasion, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Karambir Singh, said, “INS Visakhapatnam will augment the Indian Navy’s mobility, reach and flexibility towards accomplishment of its tasks and goals and is a shining example of self-reliance”. The warship, named after a coastal city in Andhra Pradesh, which means “The City of Destiny” symbolically also heralds the changing power dynamics in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), especially as the Chinese footprint in the IOR is steadily increasing, with Beijing having invested in port facilities in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, at Gwadar in Balochistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh and Kyaukphyu in Myanmar.
With its current phase of ship building, the PLA Navy (PLAN) could have about 425 platforms by 2030, which is more than double of the 170 platforms that India is likely to have at that time. Off course, Chinese naval capability is not just for the IOR but to maintain Chinese interests in the South China Sea as well as in the wider Indo-Pacific, but India would need to continue to bolster its naval capability and that is why the addition of an indigenously built warship is essential in the Indian context. However, while the capability to indigenously design and construct warships is a great leap forward in ship building capability, a large part of the inventory of INS Visakhapatnam is still imported. The main gun is of Italian origin, the Barak missile and fire-control radar are from Israel and the gas turbines are from Ukraine. Core competencies in these areas will hopefully also be developed over the years if India is truly to become Atmanirbhar. Also, the time lines for ship building will need to be cut down. It must be remembered that the construction of INS Visakhapatnam began in October 2013 and the ship was launched in April 2015. But it took eight years after that for the warship to be commissioned in November 2021. We should now aim to halve the time lines for delivery of the remaining three Visakhapatnam class of destroyers.
INDIAN NAVY COMMISSIONS SUBMARINE INS VELA
Within a week of the Commissioning of the Guided Missile Destroyer INS Visakhapatnam, the Indian Navy commissioned yet another potent weapon platform, the Submarine INS Vela on 25 November 2021.
INS Vela is a Scorpene class submarine, built by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) Mumbai, in collaboration with M/s Naval Group, France. This is the fourth of the six submarines the Indian Navy is inducting under the Kalvari class submarine Project 75. Three submarines, INS Kalvari, INS Khanderi and INS Karanj have earlier commissioned under Project 75.
The Scorpene class submarines have advanced stealth features and are equipped with both long range guided torpedoes as well as anti-ship missiles, making them extremely potent platforms. The state-of-the-art SONAR and sensor suite in each submarine provides the platform outstanding operational capabilities. These submarines also have an advanced Permanent Magnetic Synchronous motor (PERMASYN) as its propulsion motor.
INS Vela is fitted with advanced weapons and sensors, all of which are integrated into the Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System (SUBTICS). Once a target is classified, the submarine may choose to engage it using either her sea skimming missiles also known as Flying Fish or heavy weight wire-guided torpedoes. The submarine’s mascot is the Sub-ray, which is an amalgamation of the submarine and the stingray. The stingray is known for stealth, aggression and offensive power. Its flat body allows it to sit on the bottom of the ocean, camouflage itself to predators swimming above as it lurks for its prey underneath.
Speaking at the event, the CNS, Admiral Karambir Singh said that INS Vela showcases India’s notable strides in indigenous submarine construction as also the journey from being a “buyers navy to a builders navy” and that Project 75 will transform Indian Navy’s war-fighting in the underwater domain in the years to come. “INS Vela is a potent platform with an ability to undertake the entire spectrum of submarine operations. And given today’s dynamic and complex security situation, Vela’s capability and fire power will play a crucial role in Navy’s ability to protect, promote and preserve India’s maritime interest across the seascape of the Indian Ocean Region while acting as a clear deterrent to our adversaries,” he said.
The CNS also made mention of Project 75 India – P 75 (I), stating that while Project 75 has been an important step in enhancing the Navy’s capability, under Project 75 India, being undertaken under a Strategic Partnership model, India envisions achieving complete self-reliance in submarine construction and life cycle substance. The Project P 75 (I) aims to develop all facets of the submarine construction ecosystem within the nation and also involves transfer of several niche technologies.
In June, the Defence Acquisition Council, headed by the Raksha Mantri, Shri Rajnath Singh, approved issue of RFP for construction of six Conventional Submarines under Project P 75 (I) under the Strategic Partnership (SP) Model. This project envisages indigenous construction of six conventional submarines equipped with the state-of-the-art Air Independent Propulsion system at an estimated cost of Rs 43,000 crore. This project will significantly enhance India’s ability to work with cutting edge defence manufacturing technologies with the implications not only for the Navy but also for the nation.