How Ballistic Missile Defence Interceptor Will Help India Protect Its Nuclear Arsenal

India set to be among elite club of nations with an indigenous long-range ballistic missile interceptor, the others include the US, Russia and Israel
How Ballistic Missile Defence Interceptor Will Help India Protect Its Nuclear Arsenal

India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully completed the phase-II test of its Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) interceptor AD-1 last week. The test was conducted at DRDO’s Integrated Test Range (ITR) on APJ Abdul Kalam Island in Balasore, Odisha.

Often described as an instrument of deterrence, the BMD is a system to counter ballistic missiles from enemy states. According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after the test, the sub-systems and the flight of AD-1 met all mission parameters, with the collected data substantiating the mission's success. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told the MoD that most nations do not have the capability of a missile interceptor with such advanced technologies and that India's is a unique case. 

India's BMD Measures

The need to have an advanced missile defence system became apparent to India in the aftermath of the Kargil war with Pakistan. With its hostile neighbour willing to use nuclear-armed ballistic missiles against India, the country's MoD made it a priority to acquire defence missile systems from friendly powers. China's amassment of ballistic missiles has also been a major cause of concern for India's defence establishment.  
This eventually led to a $5 billion defence contract with Russia according to which India is currently in the process of procuring five S-400 defence system. In addition to this, India also started investing in indigenous development of such a system which reached a significant milestone last week.  

The Significance Of AD-1

The AD-1 is an interceptor missile system that is capable of neutralising incoming long-range ballistic missiles as well as aircraft at both low exo-atmospheric and endo-atmospheric levels. It is powered by a two-stage solid motor with an indigenously-developed advanced control system, navigation and guidance algorithm for accurate guidance to its target, according to information shared by the MoD.  

Such a defence system becomes especially significant in case of a war involving nuclear missiles. “If one side has a 100% effective anti-ballistic missile (ABM), its nuclear arsenal is effectively safe from a pre-emptive or a second strike by the enemy. Thus, the side with an ABM is incentivised to initiate a conflict, knowing it will be safe from response from enemy weapons remaining after a first strike,” says Andrew Green, a London-based defence analyst.  

DRDO chief Dr Samir Kamat says that India now has the capability to intercept missile in the 5,000 km class with the help of AD-1. This places India in an elite club of nations with such air defence capability. 

BMDs Around The World

The US has been at the forefront of developing defence systems aimed at intercepting ballistic missiles and other hostile projectiles. Its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system has been operational since 2008. They also have a sea-based interceptor system called Aegis.  
The Arrow is a family of missiles used in the Israeli BMD system. It has been operational since 2000 and was jointly developed by the US and Israel. The Russian use of its indigenous S-400 BMD can be witnessed in its ongoing conflict with Ukraine. Several countries have procured the S-400 from Russia including India, China and Turkey.  
BMD: To Use Or Not?

The use of Ballistic Missile Defence systems is, by and large, viewed as an incentive to stockpile nuclear arms and hence a threat to nuclear disarmament around the world. However, it is gradually becoming a crucial component of 21st century warfare and is already giving rise to a new arms race. Andrew Green points out that if one country has an effective missile defence system, then their nuclear arsenal is safe from a pre-emptive strike by their enemy.  

He summarises the use of BMD with an interesting rhetoric – “Why would I not punch you first? You can't hit me back and I'd therefore win.” The question remains whether India, if and when threatened with nuclear war by its neighbours, will resort to such a logic.  

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