India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC), which handles missiles with nuclear warheads, fired Dhanush and Prithvi-II missiles on Friday within a gap of an hour, establishing the readiness of India’s nuclear deterrence systems. Both Dhanush and Prithvi-II are surface-to-surface missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. They are products of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The twin-success, coming in the wake of the DRDO firing an interceptor on March 6 to bring down an "enemy" ballistic missile in mid-flight, has boosted the morale of the DRDO missile technologists.
While the Naval personnel of the SFC fired the Dhanush from the Indian warship "Suvarna" at 10.03 a.m., off Puri, Orissa, an Army team from the SFC launched the Prithvi-II from a massive truck stationed at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, near Balasore, Orissa. The Prithvi-II launch took place at 11 a.m.
V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, told The Hindu from Chandipur, that it was "a copybook launch" of the Dhanush, with a flawless performance. The missile rose from Suvarna stationed about 100 km from the Orissa coast, reached its full range of 350 km and splashed down in the targeted area of Bay of Bengal with a circular error probability (CEP) of less than ten metres. In other words, the missile hit the targeted area with a high accuracy of less than ten metres.
An hour later, at 11 a.m., the Army’s SFC team launched the Prithvi-II from land and it travelled a distance of 350 km before impacting on the targeted area in the Bay of Bengal with a CEP of less than ten metres.
Radars and electro-optical systems located along the coast tracked the vehicles and monitored their performance. Ships stationed near the impact point witnessed the final event. The two missiles were selected at random from the depot.
The successful launches from sea and land established that "different forms of [India’s] nuclear deterrence are in place," said Dr. Saraswat, who is also DRDO Director-General. The SFC fired the Prithvi-II in full drill, starting with the selection of the missile, conducting the firing and monitoring its trajectory. The SFC launched the missiles as part of its training exercise which it conducted regularly. "The launch of these two systems validate their production, training of personnel, the missiles’ induction into the armed forces and their readiness” to be fired, Dr. Saraswat said.
K. Sekhar, Chief Controller (Missile Systems and Low Intensity Conflict), DRDO, said the two successful launches demonstrated the missiles’ reliability and that their systems had been designed well. The successes established India’s capability to launch missiles on demand, Dr. Sekhar explained.
W. Selvamurthy, Chief Controller (Life Sciences), DRDO described the launches as "exciting" and 100 per cent successful. "They reassure our missiles’ capability. Suppose, you want to attack a target both from land and sea, this will be the strategy that the SFC will adopt," said Dr. Selvamurthy.
Programme Director V.L.N. Rao and ITR Director S.P. Dash witnessed the event from Chandipur.
Dhanush and Prithvi-II were launched in a similar salvo mode on March 27, 2010.
There are Army, Navy and Air Force versions of Prithvi, which is a single-stage missile that uses liquid propellants. Both Dhanush, the Naval version and Prithvi-II can carry nuclear warheads weighing 500 kg each. The stabilisation platforms of Dhanush-based ships enable its launching even during rough sea.