India conducted a successful test-firing of its under-development K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) for the second time this week, on Jan. 24.
The launch took place from a fixed underwater pontoon off the country’s eastern coast in the Bay of Bengal, as was the case of the first test. The test-firings are reportedly part of the developmental trials being conducted by the missile’s developer Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
K-4 is a two-stage nuclear-capable intermediate-range SLBM. The missile is being developed to be deployed on Indian Navy’s Arihant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), along with the shorter range (750 km) K-15 (B-05) missiles which are currently operational.
The completion of the K-4 will allow INS Arihant, the first Arihant-class SSBN, to fulfil its role as a nuclear deterrent to China and Pakistan and enhance the country’s second-strike capabilities. The missile’s longer-range would grant the submarine the capability of launching missiles while remaining safe in the Bay of Bengal.
The solid-fueled K-4 missile is developed from land-based Agni-III intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). The missile is reported to be 12 meters long and 1.3 meters wide with a weight of around 17 tonnes. It can carry a nuclear warhead weighing up to 2 tonnes.
The developmental testing of K-4 was started in January 2010, when the missile successfully ejected from a pontoon submerged 50 meters below the surface of the water and breached the surface.
The first test-firing of the missile was carried out on 24 March 2014 from a submerged pontoon 30 meters deep in the Bay of Bengal off the Visakhapatnam coast. The test was successful and the missile reached its designated target in the Indian Ocean at a range of 3,000 km.
The missile was then reportedly tested from a submerged platform in the Bay of Bengal on 7 March 2016. But, this test was not officially confirmed by the Government of India or DRDO.
In April 2016, it was reported that an unarmed K-4 missile was successfully tested on 31 March 2016 from submarine INS Arihant, 45 nautical miles off Vishakhapatnam coast in Andhra Pradesh. The missile, in full operational configuration, was fired from 20-meter deep and covered more than 700 km before zeroing on the target. The trial was carried out with the support of the personnel of Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and DRDO provided all the logistics. SFC is responsible for the management and administration of India’s tactical and strategic nuclear weapons stockpile.
On 17 December 2017, an attempt to launch K-4 missile reportedly ended in failure. The failure was attributed to a discharged battery.