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K4 Missile Test – Moving Towards Credible Second Strike

Published Jan 20, 2020
Updated Mar 02, 2020

The underwater platform test of K 4 – the 3500 km range ballistic missile which is planned for deployment with nuclear powered submarines denotes a steady path towards a credible second strike capability.

Multiple media sources quoting ANI reported that India had successfully carried out the test firing of the  K 4 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) on 19 January.

SLBMs are seen as a weapon of deterrence launched from submarines that can remain undetected for long under the sea and thus unlike land based nuclear weapons will be difficult to neutralize in a first strike.

India’s Nuclear Doctrine of Minimum Credible Deterrence and No First Use deems it imperative that a SLBM be deployed in a nuclear powered submarine so as to provide the country a high degree of assured deterrence vis a vis China and Pakistan two nuclear powers in the region.

The K 4 test was from an underwater platform in the sea during day and not a submarine thus much distance has to be travelled before a credible capability is developed.

K-4 and K 15 are two underwater missiles which are being developed for deployment on nuclear powered submarines as the INS Arihant.

‘K-15’ under the Sagarika project on 26 February 2008 was fired from a pontoon successfully.

The K-4 is a two-stage, solid propellant IRBM that uses a Ring Laser Gyro Inertial navigation system for a 20-30m CEP as per Missile Defence Advocacy

The first K-4 launch test occurred in 2014 with preparation for a second test currently underway as per Missile Defence Advocacy. The Range of K 4 is said to be 3500 kms. It is not clear to what range was the test on 19 Jan was held, what was the results on the target and so on.

The K 15 Shaurya has a range of over 700-kilometre.

As per Missile Defence Advocacy completion of the K-4 will allow the INS Arihant to fulfill its role as a nuclear deterrent to China and Pakistan. This would grant India the capability of launching ballistic missiles from the Bay of Bengal while remaining protected by warships and planes from the Andaman and Nicobar Command based at Port Blair.

The K-4 will greatly increase India’s second-strike capabilities in the region as well while also increasing the nation’s capability against China. While some argue that this could further support India’s “no first use” policy, others speculate that the K-4 may stir an arms race between the regional states.