The Indian sub-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) program began sometime in the 1990’s but has been shrouded in secrecy for much of its history. These efforts seem to be bearing fruit though, with India’s first ballistic missile submarine likely to be inducted into operations in 2016.1 Work on an Indian SLBM likely began with the Sagarika or K-15/B-05 program, which has now given way to the K-4 or Shaurya program.
Sagarika / Shaurya at a Glance
Originated from: India
Possessed by: India
Class: Short-Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM)/Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM)
Length: 10.8 m (Sagarika), 12 m (Shaurya)
Diameter: 0.8 m
Propulsion: Two-stage solid propellant
Range: 700-750 km (Sagarika), 3,000-3,500 km (Shaurya)
The Sagarika has a maximum range of 700 km and is powered by a two-stage solid propellant motor. It has a reported length of 10.8 m, a body diameter of 0.8 m, and a launch weight of 5,500 to 6,300 kg. The payload can be HE or nuclear with a weight of 500 to 800 kg. It uses Inertial Navigation System and Global Positioning System with terrain contour matching in the terminal phase.2 Its short range would likely preclude it from being used as a survivable strike option against China, as it would require the Indian submarine to be able to launch from the South China Sea. Similarly, the K-15 would also not be able to target Islamabad in Pakistan due to its range constraints.3 Because of this limited operational utility, the Sagarika is most likely an R&D platform for the development of a longer-range SLBM. Between 2004 and 2008, it reportedly underwent 10 different test firings with the first fully integrated test in January 2010.4
Early testing of the Shaurya happened on land, with many suggesting that it was the land-based version of the Sagarika after tests in 2008 and 2011.5 The missile underwent its first undersea launch in March 2014 from a submerged barge, also demonstrating an expanded range of 3,000 km.6 The missile was tested again, firing at a depressed trajectory from an undersea barge and allegedly to a range of 3,500 km.7
Technical details on the Shaurya are difficult to ascertain, as the program is held as a tight secret. Jane’s estimates that the Shaurya has essentially the same characteristics as the Sagarika, including the similar short-range, treating the missile as essentially a ground-launched version.8 Others have reported that it is longer at about 12 meters and weighs around 17 tons with the ability to carry up to a 2 ton payload.9 While Hans Kristensen and Robert Norris suggest that the Indian SLBM will have to be adjusted to successfully carry the Shaurya,10 others claim that the missile has already been tested from the Arihant.11 It is likely that the missile is intended to carry a nuclear payload to complete India’s nuclear triad of delivery vehicles and could likely be outfitted with other conventional payloads.