By Hans M. Kristensen
Every time India test-launches a new ballistic missile, officials from the defense industry go giddy about the next missile, which they say will be bigger, more accurate, fly longer, and carry more nuclear warheads.
Until now, all Indian ballistic missile types have carried only one warhead each, an important feature that has helped constrain India’s so-called minimum deterrence posture.
But the newest missile, the 5000+ kilometer-range Agni V, had not even completed its second test launch last month, before senior officials from India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) declared that the next Agni variant will be equipped to carry multiple warheads.
While the single-warhead Agni V is a major defense weapon, the multiple-warhead Agni VI will be a “force multiplier,” declared the former head of DRDO.
Moreover, the DRDO chief said that all future missiles will be deployed in large canisters on a road- or rail-mobile launchers to get “drastically” shorter response time with an ability to launch in “just a few minutes.“
It still remains to be seen if these are just the dreams of excited weapons designers or if the Indian government has actually authorized design, development, and deployment of longer-range missiles with multiple warheads and quick-launch capability.
If so, it is bad news for South Asia. The combination of multiple warheads, increased accuracy, and drastically reduced launch time would indicate that India is gradually designing its way of out its so-called minimum deterrence doctrine towards a more capable nuclear posture.
This would almost certainly trigger counter-steps in Pakistan and China, developments that would decrease Indian security. And if China were to deploy multiple warheads on its missiles, it could even impede future reductions of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. Continue Reading →