India to Develop ICBM
The Deccan Herald reports that according to sources in India’s Ministry of Defence, India will soon develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a flight range of 9,000-12,000 km based on their experience with the Agni intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM).
While Agni is a two-stage solid fuel ballistic missile capable of delivering a 10-15 kiloton nuclear warhead up to 2,500 km, the ICBM is projected as a three-stage solid and liquid ballistic missile, with solid fuel rockets based on the Agni in the first and second stages, and a liquid propellant rocket in the third stage. Projections include a 2,500-3,500 kg releasable front section with two to three warheads of 15-20 kilotons each, a launch weight of 270-275 tonnes and a CEP(Circular Error Probable) impact error of around 2.0-2.8 km.
Note that CEP impact errors of this magnitude make such missiles useful for city targeting only – this is not precise enough to attack hardened bases, especially given 15-20 kiloton (kT) warheads that are roughly the size of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.
Those figures may also be wrong, as even basic modern inertial guidance plus stellar update should provide CEPs of under 1 km. By comparison, current Chinese CSS-9 (DF-31) ICBMs have an estimated CEP of 0.3 km, and the late 1980s technology Russian SS-18 Mod 4 ICBMs had an estimated CEP of 0.5 km. Even Russia’s SS-9 ICBM, which was phased out by 1979, had an est. CEP around 1.2 km. As one might imagine, the U.S. D-5 Trident II submarine launched missile has an est. CEP around 0.1 km, as do its land-based Minuteman III ICBMs.
India’s ICBM is scheduled to be test-fired by 2008, and is expected to be added to the Indian armed forces’ deterrence arsenal by 2015. We would note here that for reasons DID has covered, many major Indian defense projects come in years late. This needs to be taken into consideration when offering outside estimates.
The Indian armed forces currently possess 12 ground-based Prithvi short-range missile launchers as part of the 333rd missile regiment, based near Hyderabad. They have conventional warheads and a flight range of 150-250 km, with installation capabilities for single warheads with a yield of 10-15 kT. Indian defense sources apparently believe the same launchers could be used for the launch of ICBMs. See Deccan Herald article.