The Prithvi-II is an Indian short-range ballistic missile with a range of 350 km. It is an upgraded variant of the Prithvi-I and shares its basic design with the ship-launched Dhanush and Prithvi Air Defense interceptor. In service with the Indian Air Force since 2003, the Prithvi-II serves as a nuclear delivery vehicle in India’s Strategic Force Command.
Prithvi-II at a Glance
- Originated from
- Alternate name(s)
- P-II, SSM-250
- Possessed by
- Short-range ballistic missile (SRBM)
- Road-mobile transporter-erector-launcher
- 9.5 m
- 1 m
- Launch weight
- >4,600 kg
- 500 – 1,000 kg
- Conventional unitary, submunition; nuclear
- Single-stage, liquid propellant
- 250 – 350 km
- In service
India’s Defence Research and Development Office (DRDO) proposed the Prithvi-II alongside the Prithvi-I missile in 1983. The Prithvi-II concept—originally titled SSM-250—incorporated longer fuel and oxidiser tanks to achieve a 250 km range. In December 1990, the DRDO authorized production of extended fuel and oxidizer tanks, preparing three sets by 1992. From 1992 – 1993, the DRDO flight tested the Prithvi II, and in 1996, the Indian Air Force placed its first orders for the missile.1
The Prithvi-II measures 9.5 m in length, 1.0 m in body diameter, and weighs over 4,600 kg at launch. It is a single-stage, liquid-fueled missile, with an engine that generates six tons of thrust. This enables the missile to reach a maximum range of 250 to 350 km depending on the weight of its payload. India did not test the missile to a 350 km range until 2011.2
The missile incorporates a hybrid GPS-inertial guidance system to reach accuracies of up to 50 m CEP.3 Like the Prithvi-I, the missile is capable of loading a variety of conventional unitary and submunition warheads, but is explicitly described as a “nuclear-capable” system by the Indian government.4 30 Prithvi-II missiles are believed to carry nuclear warheads.6India has also begun upgrading its Prithvi-Is to the Prithvi-II configuration, but it is unclear how many of these upgrades India has completed.7.
Since its formal induction into active service, India carries out regular flight tests and user trials of Prithvi-II. The Indian Strategic Forces Command has performed at least 18 user trials since 2009.
- Defence Research and Development Office, IGMDP: Integrated Guided Missile Development Program, (New Delhi: India Department of Defence, 2008).
- The Indian Express, “India successfully test-fires indigenously developed missile,” May 18, 2016, Accessed on http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/india-successfully-test-fires-indigenously-developed-prithvi-ii-missile-2806807/.
- DRDO 2008, pp. 329-337; O’Halloran 2015, 37 – 39.
- “Prithvi II missile successfully test fired,” India Press Information Bureau, June 9, 2011, http://pibmumbai.gov.in/scripts/detail.asp?releaseId=E2011PR869.
- Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Indian nuclear forces, 2020,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 76, No. 4 (2020), pp. 217 – 225.
The Indian Air Force accepted the Prithvi-II into service in 2003. While India employs 30 Prithvi-II launchers in its nuclear forces, it remains unclear if conventional units exist. Even those missiles designated for nuclear missions would not be continually mated with nuclear warheads due to India’s procedure of storing nuclear warheads and missiles separately.5“Arms Control and Proliferation Profile: India,” Arms Control Association, January 2018, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/indiaprofile
- Kristensen and Korda 2020, p. 218.