The Indian missile development programme has encountered a setback with two successive failures within a week, including a worrying development in which a submarine-launched nuclear-capable missile got stuck in its testing canister following an unsuccessful test.
Sources told ThePrint that a recent test of the Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile (QRSAM) failed during its test on 22 December at Chandipur-on-Sea in Odisha. It hit turbulence within 1.5 seconds of the missile taking off, as an actuator did not respond to a software command, according to sources.
QRSAM is being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to meet urgent requirements of the Indian Air Force for protection of vital assets. It is meant to complement the Akash short-range surface-to-air missile. It is supposed to take down fast-moving incoming air targets like missiles and fighter jets at extremely short notice. This was the third test of the missile.
More worryingly, there has been major concern with the failure of the K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), which is being developed for the nuclear triad to give India the capability to take down long-range targets from under water.
A test carried out on 17 December ended in failure after the missile did not launch from an underwater pontoon, it is learnt. The missile, believed to have a range of over 3,500 km, is to be equipped on the INS Arihant and Arighat nuclear submarines as a second strike option.
Sources said that the K-4 missile did not activate during the test, with its battery getting drained after the launch command was given. It is believed that DRDO scientists were even unable to retrieve the missile from the test pontoon following the failure, raising safety concerns for the programme.
Indiaâ€™s lone nuclear missile-carrying submarine, the INS Arihant, is currently equipped with the 750 km range B-05 SLBM. However, the limited range of the missile and a struggle to keep the Arihant functional raises concerns on the effectiveness of the nuclear triad.
The 3,500-km range K-4 missile was to be the real game changer, giving India a second strike option over all potential target positions. While it has been tested three times before, the unsuccessful test last week raised concerns as the missile was to be launched from the INS Arihant shortly. Careful assessments are now being made to pinpoint the reason for the failure, and assess whether it would lead to safety considerations for a submarine launch.
DRDO has also started work on the K-5, a 5,000 km range SLBM that would be fitted onboard nuclear-powered submarines, as well as a futuristic K-6 project to develop an underwater launched missile with a range of up to 6,000 km.