India, a nuclear weapon superpower
India has developed its nuclear arsenal in last few decades. However, India’s two neighbors and potential adversaries are also nuclear powered nations. Thus, piling up of nuclear weapons leads to an arms race paradoxically leaving the region insecure instead of being the weapons of peace. It is estimated that India has produced enough military plutonium for 150-200 nuclear warheads. India is building several new plutonium production facilities as more plutonium will be required to produce warheads for missiles now under development. Moreover, India continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal. Five new weapon systems are now under development that will complement or replace existing nuclear capable aircraft, land-based delivery systems and sea-based systems.
While Russian and American nuclear forces are missile-centric, India heavily relies on bombers as first nuclear-capable ballistic missiles were fielded by India only in 2003. India maintains three or four nuclear strike squadrons of Cold War-vintage, French-made Mirage 2000H and Jaguar IS/IB aircraft targeted at Pakistan and China. Nuclear bombers have a life of their own and despite the upgrades they are getting older. India is actively seeking modern fighter-bomber that could take over the air-based nuclear strike role in the future. Evidently, India is buying thirty-six French Rafale fighters that are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
India’s fifteen years old nuclear missile force has four types of land-based ballistic missiles; the short-range Prithvi-II and Agni-I, the medium-range Agni-II and the intermediate-range Agni-III. At least two other longer-range Agni missiles are under development- the Agni-IV and Agni-V. It is expected that short-range and redundant missile types could be potentially discontinued. Only medium and long-range missiles could be deployed in the future to provide a mix of strike options against near and distant targets. The other missiles in line are the Nirbhay ground-launched cruise missile which is similar to the US Tomahawk, a sea-based, short-range ballistic missile Dhanush which is fired from two specially configured patrol vessels. Reportedly, India is building three or four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, which will be equipped with a short-range missile or a bigger missile with a range of 2000 miles. India’s ambitious missile development program aims to field a diverse missile force that will be expensive to maintain and operate. There is a need to come up with a command and control system that will look after the proper and timely use of the missile systems for country’s safety and security.
Indian Army leases Heron UAVs from Israel
The Indian Army has leased four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) named Heron developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) that will be delivered between August and December. The four Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs will be possibly deployed along the 3488 kilometers India-China border. The Indian Army signed lease agreement in January using the emergency powers granted to the armed forces to speed up military purchases. The lease period is for three years.
This development comes in the backdrop of the ongoing disengagement between the forces of India and China from the north and south banks of Pangong Tso. The militaries of both the countries are engaged in a border stand-off along Line of Actual Control (LAC) since May 2020 violating several agreements signed since 1993. The diplomats and senior military commanders of both the nations are expected to meet soon to discuss pulling back troops from other contested areas along the LAC. To keep an eye on potential future incursions by Chinese troops, the whole LAC from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh will be monitored with a mix of technology (like UAVs) and soldiers. These will be deployed at critical areas that are seen as vulnerable to incursions and it is said that there are 23 such critical points across LAC.
Last year India had inducted two American High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones into the Indian Navy procured on contract for one year under Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020. The Sea Guardian UAVs are unarmed versions of the Predator series used by the US in its Afghanistan operations. Leasing of military hardware will help doing away with the huge initial capital outlays.
Navy deploys women officers on warships
In 1998, women officers were deployed onboard warships for the first time, but due to certain logistical and other issues the decision was changed soon after. After a gap of around 23 years, Indian Navy has recently deployed four women officers of which two are posted on the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and two others on the tanker ship INS Shakti. The lady officers deployed onboard the tanker vessel INS Shakti include a doctor who is excited to serve on the warship. Few years ago, the Indian Navy had started building separate cabins and toilets on warships to prepare the vessels for lady officers. Recently, Indian Navy has deployed a lady officer as the first woman defence attach posted abroad. Lieutenant Commander Karabi Gogoi is posted at Moscow as a naval attaché.
Fuel Cell based Air Independent Propulsion system is ready
An important milestone was achieved in the development of fuel cell based Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). As per the user requirements the land based prototype was operated in endurance mode and max power mode and proved itself. The system has been successfully developed by Naval Materials Research Laboratory (NMRL) of DRDO with the support of industry partners L&T and Thermax. AIP enhances the submerged endurance of the vehicle by several folds providing a force multiplier effect to the lethality of the diesel electric submarine. Fuel cell based AIP has several merits in its performance as compared to similar other technologies. Its capacity of generating hydrogen onboard makes it stand out among the peer technologies being pursued worldwide. After crossing the user specific test, the technology has reached the stage of maturity and is ready for fitment into the target vessels. Secretary of DRDO G Satheesh Reddy lauded the efforts of the teams involved in development of the technology and called upon the DRDO fraternity to come up with more such advanced technologies.