The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) off late is testing new missiles almost every week and thus expecting a test of K5 is not a hyperbole.
India has always maintained a “Non first Strike” nuclear policy and thus for india, the second strike capability is of paramount importance. The nuclear stockpile is one of the premier reason “why cold war was cold” and world did not see third world war. The deterrence created by the nuclear stockpile is very important for the world peace. Today when the new world order is getting established the need of a credible second strike is even more important.
K series missile has always been shrouded in secrecy. Out of all the missile programs of India, details about K-series missiles are the least available in the public domain. As these were basically nuclear ballistic missiles which were intended to give India the second strike capability and nuclear deterrence, these were developed silently.
It all started in the 90s when a program was initiated to develop submarine-launched ballistic missiles that were initiated under the BMD program started by DRDO. These missiles were intended to be equipped with the Arihant class nuclear submarine which was already under development by India. Let’s take a look at the K-series missiles in depth.
|Type||Range||Weight of Warhead||Status|
|K15||750-1500 KM||1 Tonne||Deployed|
|K4||3500 KM||2.5 Tonne||Completed Trials – Induction status unknown|
|K5||5000 KM||1 Tonne||Unknown|
|K6||6000 KM||2-3 Tonne||Unknown|
|Air Launched||200 KM||500 KG||Hypersonic Missile – to be fitted on SU30 MKI|
K- Series missiles
This series consists of four missiles.
- 1) K-15 Sagarika
- 2) K – 4 missile
- 3) K – 5 missile
- 3) K – 6 missile.
1) K – 15 Sagarika missile
First, of the series, K-15 Sagarika has a rumored range of 750 to 1500 kilometers. The weight of the total missile weighs around 6-7 tonnes and the warhead can go up to 1 tonne. This missile has completed trails and is now in full-scale production. The underwater launcher development was completed by 2001 and was handed over to the Indian navy for sea trails. The first tests were conducted in 2008 from a submerged pontoon in Vizag. The Arihant class got this missile in 2009 and later on the harbor trails began. Though a lot of developmental trials were conducted in between, the final developmental trail was conducted in January 2013 and according to the then DRDO director, the missile achieved pinpoint accuracy.
K-15 missile during launch in 2013
2) K – 4 missile
The next in the series, K – 4 is the longer-range missile with a rumored range of up to 3500 kilometers. This is a nuclear-capable missile and its maiden trial was conducted on March 24 in 2014 amid rising tensions along the LoC. This missile weighs around 20 tonnes and can carry a warhead of up to 2.5 tonnes. This is a two stage missile unlike K -15 which is a single-stage missile. After this many developmental trails took place till 2017. On December 17th, 2017, the test ended as a failure due to a discharged battery. Multiple tests of this missile were postponed due to various reasons. The last two tests were conducted on 19th and 24th January after which the missile was ready for serial production.
3) K – 5 missile
The longer 5000-kilometer range K – 5 missile is still under development by DRDO and not much information about this missile isn’t available in the public domain. The only information that is available in the size of the warhead which can range up to 1 tonne and can carry nuclear payloads. This missile is also reported to carry multiple warheads (MIRV) of 500 kilos each.
4) K-6 missile
K-6 missile is also currently under development by DRDO and is rumored to have MIRV capabilities with a range of 6000 kilometers and beyond. This missile is touted to carry a warhead of 2-3 tonnes and is currently being developed by Advanced naval systems lab.
Before knowing about K- 5 and K-6 missiles it is a good time to learn about MIRV technology. MIRV expands into “Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle”. In this technology, the warhead will be divided into smaller payloads which can be directed hit different targets. This technology was first developed by the US for its Minuteman-III ICBM. Later on Russia, China, France, and Israel (speculated) have confirmed the possession of MIRV technology.
MIRV consists of the main rocket motor which helps the missile enter into a free-flight suborbital ballistic flight path. After the boost phase is over the first stage drops off and the second stage motor ignites. After that, the missile shroud is ejected and the third stage motor ignites. After the third stage is terminated, the post-boost vehicle maneuvers itself and reenters the atmosphere. Later the warheads are detonated either as air or ground bursts. Damage caused by these can be severe as the warheads are distributed over a range of areas and not confined to a single point.
Typical flight path of a MIRV missile
Importance of these missiles
These missiles have strategic importance as these missiles can give us the second-strike capability and the targets can be neutralized from a distance without risking our submarines. As these are nuclear-capable, these missiles can be used for power projection and to keep enemies at bay.