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India’s Nuclear Arsenal recently went up the Sophistication Curve

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January 11, 2022

Why in news?

In the final months of 2021, India conducted two major missile tests - the Shaurya hypersonic weapon test and the Agni-P missile test.

What is the Shaurya hypersonic weapon?

  • It is a surface-to-surface, medium range, nuclear capable hypersonic missile that can reach speeds of 7.5 Mach.
  • It is indigenously developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under the project code-named B-05.
  • It is a land variant of short range Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles K-15 Sagarika.
  • The newer version of the missile has a strike range of 750 km to 1800 km depending on the payload.
  • It can be used by both the Navy and the Army.
  • Shaurya is a canister-based system, which means that it is stored and operated from specially designed compartments.
  • This is a two-stage missile that uses solid propellants and can deceive enemy radars after launch.
  • The missile is less vulnerable to anti-ballistic missile defence systems due to its high manoeuvrability.
  • Only the United States, Russia and China have developed technologies to field fast-manoeuvring hypersonic missiles that fly at lower altitudes and are extremely hard to track and intercept.

What is Agni-P?

  • Agni Prime (Agni P) is the first of the new generation advanced variant of Agni class of missiles.
  • Agni-P is a two-stage canisterised solid propellant ballistic missile that can be launched from rail and road and stored for a longer period.
  • This nuclear ballistic missile, which has a range capability between 1,000 and 2,000 kilometres, weighs half of Agni III and has new kinds of propulsion and new guidance.
  • Since it is a canisterised missile, it reduces the time required to launch the missile while improving its storage and mobility.
  • It also comes with the technologies found in the 4000-kilometre range Agni-IV and 5000-kilometre range Agni-V.
  • Due to its long range, this missile can be used to target enemy armadas in the Indo-Pacific.

Agni-V, an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with a range of over 5,000 km, had been tested several times and validated for induction.

What is the significance of these missile tests?

  • Strategic stability - These missile tests indicate that India is on course to fielding a more sophisticated nuclear arsenal with greater diversity of delivery systems.
  • These missile developments might mean for strategic stability, especially between India and Pakistan.
  • Hypersonic weapons-  Shaurya is likely to be highly effective in taking out enemy early radars, static military installations such as airbases and command and control (C&C) facilities.
  • Nuclear deterrence- The Agni-P missile is capable of delivering multiple independent re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) or multiple warheads against a single target creating an opportunity for India to strengthen nuclear deterrence.
  • Shift in India’s no-first-use policy- Several analysts have inferred that Agni-P and Shaurya together represent a shift in India’s no-first-use policy although officially there is no evidence.
  • Canisterization of missiles- It also means that the canisterization of missiles is not only for longer range missiles such as intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), but also for the Agni-P, which is a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM).
  • Canisterized missile capabilities give India counter-force strike options, especially against Pakistan.
  • Readiness to tackle adversaries- India’s pursuit of higher readiness levels in the form of Agni-P and Shaurya is only a justifiable insurance against a risk-prone adversaries such as China and Pakistan.
  • Beijing has deployed its Dong-Feng (DF)-26 IRBMs in the Xinjiang region of Western China and India’s Shaurya hypersonic weapon is equally a response to it.



  1. https://www.livemint.com/opinion/online-views/indias-nuclear-arsenal-recently-went-up-the-sophistication-curve-11641833370514.html
  2. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/oct/03/india-successfully-test-fires-nuclear-capable-hypersonic-missile-shaurya-2205284.html
  3. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/india-successfully-tests-nuclear-capable-shaurya-missile/story-fkYlozVJ5oq1MWO26GOwNN.html
  4. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/nuclear-capable-agni-p-missile-flight-tested-all-you-need-to-know-1889286-2021-12-18


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