How many agni missiles does India have
The exact number of Indian nuclear weapons is unknown. It is estimated by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (Nuclear Notebook) and SIPRI that India has 130 to 140 nuclear warheads and enough fissile materials to produce up to 200 nuclear weapons. India has been in the process of modernizing its arsenal for a number of years. At least four new systems are currently in development. In addition, India is building two new plants for the production of plutonium.
There are currently seven nuclear-capable systems in operation: two air, four land and one sea-based. The development program is well advanced and new land- and sea-based long-range missiles are expected to be deployed in the next decade.
According to IPFM (2014) India has up to 600 kg of weapons grade plutonium, enough for 150 to 200 nuclear weapons. This plutonium has not yet been fully used for nuclear weapons, but more plutonium is needed for the new weapon systems. India is able to produce around 140 kg of weapons-grade plutonium per year in its Dhruva plutonium reactor and, according to IPFM, plans to build two more reactors for the production of plutonium. A prototype breeder reactor is under construction at the Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Center near Kalpakkam, which will significantly increase the production volume.
India has traditionally cited Pakistan as the primary target for its nuclear deterrent. Lately, however, India seems to have moved more into the focus of India. The increased ranges of the new missiles are an indication of this development.
In 1999 India wrote its nuclear weapons doctrine. It was based on the doctrine of the official nuclear weapon states: "India pursues a doctrine of credible minimal deterrence". This consists of:
- sufficient, viable and operational nuclear forces
- robust command and control systems
- effective education and early warning potential
- Planning and training for atomic operations
- the will to use nuclear weapons.
The nuclear forces are said to operate on the basis of a combination of air force, land-based and sea-based missiles, which "cause unacceptable damage" to the attacker in a retaliatory strike.
In 2003 the official and shorter version of this "minimal deterrent" doctrine was published. Where "minimal" is not understood to be limited to a small armed force, but leaves the possibility of expansion open: "Nuclear retaliation for an initial deployment will be massive and cause unacceptable damage".
So far, a policy of non-first use has applied, but since 2003 India has reserved the right to retaliate in the event of an attack with chemical or chemical weapons (US example).
The fear is that India will introduce an automated missile launch (i.e. the missiles are launched by signals from the early warning system) and that a nuclear war will be triggered "accidentally". Another problem is that all Indian nuclear delivery systems can also be equipped with conventional warheads. This can have serious consequences during a conflict, as the enemy cannot see clearly whether a conventional or a nuclear attack is involved.
The most advanced is the Agni-4 rocket, which is already in production but not yet in operation. The medium-range missile can carry a single warhead more than 3,200 km. It was last tested in January 2017. Agni-4 is to be stationed in 2018 and can almost completely reach China from northern India, including Beijing and Shanghai.
With a range of 5,000 km, the Agni-5 is almost an ICBM that can reach China from anywhere in India. Agni-5 was last tested in December 2016. Initially it was suspected that the Agni-5 missile would be equipped with multiple warheads or even with multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRV). So far, however, there have been no reports that this assumption is true. Such equipment would also reduce the range due to its weight. Missiles with MIRV capabilities would contradict the minimum deterrent doctrine and risk an arms race in the region. However, China's announcement that it will equip some of its ICBMs with MIRV, as well as Pakistan's missile test with MIRV, could strengthen those in the military-industrial complex that prefer this development.
Allegedly an Agni-6 - a true ICBM with a range of 8,000-10,000 km - is planned that could also be launched by submarines, but this claim could be exaggerated.
The old sea-based Dhanush short-range missile is of little use because the launch would have to be too close to the Pakistani or Chinese coast. So the ship would be vulnerable. As a replacement, India has built the new Arihant nuclear submarine, which can fire 12 nuclear missiles of the type K-15 (Sagarika). However, the submarine is still in the testing phase. A second submarine (Aridhaman) is being built. India may build a total of three or four submarines and a new base for them near Rambilli on the east coast.
Two nuclear weapons are being developed for these submarines: K-15 has a relatively short range of 700 km, while K-4 already has a range of around 3,000 km. This makes the K-4 missile more important for India because it could reach Islamabad and large parts of China. The K-4 was last tested in March 2016. The Arihant submarine can be equipped with four K-4 missiles, each with only one warhead. Future submarines may be able to carry twice as many missiles.
Processing status: January 2018
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