Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:49 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 02:49 | SYDNEY

India new boomer


Sam Roggeveen


21 January 2008 13:40

India Today has a story revealing intriguing new details about the Indian Navy's secretive Advanced Technology Vessel, a nuclear-powered submarine set to be launched in 2009. But there's no hint of the sources for much of this new information, and the story contains some questionable claims, so should be treated with caution. 

  • Regarding the new ballistic missile that the ATV will apparently carry: if the ATV program is designed to provide a second-strike capability against China, why use a missile with only 750km range? The ATV would have to sail through the Straits of Malacca to get within range of most of China's population centres. Wouldn't it be smarter to put one big long-range missile in each of the four missile tubes, rather than three small ones in each tube?
  • Also on the missile, is it really possible to squeeze eight warheads into such a small nosecone? And given India wants to build three ATVs with 12 missiles each, that makes 288 warheads in total, which is at least three times the number of warheads India is now thought to possess — does India have that much weapons-grade plutonium? If India intended to ramp up its fissile-material production, what does that say about India’s claimed goodwill in terms of negotiating a global Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and otherwise remaining self-restrained in its nuclear weapons ambitions?
  • The proposition that the ATV project was delayed because it was thought to be a violation of the NPT is puzzling, given India is not a party to the NPT and has no plans to become one.

All that said, the story could be correct in all details: the notion that a country would build a costly weapon system that made little strategic sense is not without precedent. But Indian defence projects routinely suffer appalling delays and calamitous cost overruns, so file this story under 'Believe it when I see it'.