T.S. Subramanian

India joins select club in underwater missile capability

CHENNAI: India on Tuesday proved that it had the capability to launch missiles from underwater by test-firing successfully the Sagarika missile from a pontoon off the coast of Visakhapatnam. The pontoon simulated the conditions of a submarine.

Shortly after noon, the missile’s booster ignited and Sagarika rose from the pontoon. Then in a spectacular display of firepower, it cleaved out of the waters of the Bay of Bengal and tore into the atmosphere as the air-booster erupted into life. It impacted the sea over 700 km away.

‘A proving trial’

“It is through. There was no problem,” said a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) missile technologist. “It is a proving trial. It has been consistently successful. This is not the first time that we have launched the missile. We have done it earlier a few times although it went by different names.”

The tactical, submarine-to-surface missile, is a light, miniaturised system, which is about 6.5 metres long and weighs seven tonnes. Powered by solid propellants, it can carry a payload of about 500 kg. It can be launched from different platforms — from the ground, from underwater and mobile launchers.

In a couple of years, India will be able to fire the Sagarika from a submarine. Ultimately, it will be launched from the indigenous nuclear-powered submarine under construction at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu and Visakhapatnam. The missile can carry both nuclear and conventional warheads.

DRDO missile technologists said the successful launch almost completed the country’s triad of minimum, credible nuclear deterrence from sea, land and air.

“It is a great day for the country’s missile technology and national defence capability. We are getting into the possibility of completing the triad. This successful launch will give us the sea capability,” they said.

The missile has the latest technologies in aerodynamics, control and guidance and navigation, a scientist said.

Sagarika was developed at the DRDO’s missile complex in Hyderabad. The complex consists of the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) and the Research Centre, Imarat (RCI).

While the missile was designed and developed by the DRDL, the ASL provided the motors and propulsion systems. The RCI’s contribution was in avionics, including control and guidance systems and inertial navigation systems.

M. Natarajan, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister; V.K. Saraswat, Chief Controller (Missile and Strategic Systems), DRDO; Prahlada, Chief Controller, R and D, DRDO; Avinash Chander, Director, ASL; P. Venugopalan, Director, DRDL; and A.K. Chakrabarti of DRDL watched the launch of Sagarika from a vessel. Mr. Chakrabarti played an important role in the launch.

There were no men on board the pontoon when Sagarika took off. A naval ship was positioned kilometres away from it.

The DRDO had placed the missile’s fire control systems on the ship and the pontoon and the vessel were connected by a cable.

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