Monday, July 10, 2006

The Agni III and the GSLV failed launches.

A friend of mine asked me about the failure of the Agni III and I said to him "what would DRDO have done if the launch had been successful?... test some more right?.. or did you think that the Army was going to deploy the missile after just one test?... remember this is India - not Pakistan.. we don't simply have to translate the Chinese manuals and repaint stuff - we have to do real tests."

Then my friend asked me if there was something more at work - he pointed out that the GSLV had failed in a similar fashion as the Agni III. He speculated that perhaps the Americans had somehow carried out a boost phase intercept of both launchers. I said anything is possible in the world - American defence R&D is highly protected and we really don't know the full extent of their capabilities. They could very well have something that knocks a rocket out the sky, but it is also possible that someone at DRDO or ISRO made the same kind of mistake. Yes ISRO has had a number GSLV launches and DRDO has had a number of Agni launches - we are building on existing technology but if there is a protocol common to both - then that could be responsible for both the crashes. The protocol may have failed to due to sabotage or due to a more complicated cause. It is difficult to say at this point what made the rockets crash.

However it is possible to say that rocketry despite all the advances made in the last 50 years is still a very difficult activity. Every nation has had to take a hit now and then on this account so now its India's turn. Look on the bright side - no astronauts were killed. Now if you understand that - you can understand my lack of enthusiasm to rely on land based ballistic missiles as a nuclear delivery system. This proves my assertion (in response to Henry Solokski's PSLV == ICBM tirade).

Ofcourse in this fertile media environment - our old friend Rajat Pandit had jumped in with some nonsense about the Armed Forces wanting a nuclear tipped LACM. This is something he and his associate editor cooked up - no one in the armed forces gives these kinds of interviews. Then our equally great friend George Hype ... err.. I am sorry Iype came up with a sugar coated diss-DRDO piece. I would personally endorse any move by DRDO or ISRO to strap either of these two gentlemen to the next rocket they fire into the sky. That way these two outstanding reporters can get a first hand understanding of key issues in rocketry.

Vishnu, who is a dear friend of a friend said recently,

"Someone commented that this has been the worst year for Indian defence ...

Its true and its not because of the Agni failure or the GSLV thing ... its because of the Navy War Room leak ... and no one here ... to the best of my knowledge ... wants to get into a debate on this ... The Navy War room leak is very very unfortunate ... and as the full extent of the leak becomes evident ... the whole thing seems to be going from bad to worse. But, we on this website ... jingos hat we are ... will continue to look the other way. "

Well.. I don't know abotu the GSLV and the AIII but we all know who is responsible for the Navy War Room leak.


At 2:57 PM, Anonymous SSJ said...

We, India need to pretend that we are not good enough with ICBMs (hence we won't pose a threat to world). This time is of strategic importance in terms of international decisions affecting India (beginning of high-tech outsourcing, US-EU-India Nuke tech exchange, preference to democratic India against communist China etc etc.) I think the A3 and GSLV failure were calculated.

At 8:01 PM, Blogger DKPatel said...

At least Agni3 program isn't on indefinite hiatus like the Kaveri so in time we can expect successful re-launches.

At 1:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

posted this on BR(it strongly reflects what mavericks wrote in this article before;pointing a finger towards americans)
"just suggesting a crazy idea. Is the theory hold true that USA may have shot down the missile!!! any takers."

this is what I got in response
"Yes, I believe so. It was those damn martians helping them you see. Martians, those little green men.... havent you seen them?"

My suspicion has been strengthened with the recent
media briefings of White House and State department officials. Why defend a failed test?
If we look at the pattern,A-III & GSLV has been well tested. One also should remember N.Korean missile failed too.But that was preceeded by American warnings that the missile may be shot down. Does one see any pattern?

At 6:54 AM, Blogger s c r a p s s t u f f s said...

GSLV had problems with one of the strapons not pulling its weight. DRDOs problem was with second stage separation failure. So I don't think they are connected.

As far as sabotage goes, I guess its possible but knocking out a missile and space launch vehicle during boost phase will not go undetected (unless the YAL-1A was used, probably).

Again I must disagree with the preference for a sub-based ballistic missile. With India's limited resources at the most we may be able to deploy 5 SSBN and the US can easily mob them with multiple SSNs to each SSBN. Land based missiles (especially solid fuelled ones with their low footprint) that are road mobile (and rail mobile) stand a better chance of surviving a launch successfully. With the huge Indian landmass and rail network, atleast an Agni-II should be able to hide from prying eyes. An Agni-III with its higher weight might be restricted from most roads and rail lines but if the freight corridor is sanctioned and built well, that will be taken care of as well.

At 7:09 AM, Blogger maverick said...


Junta - remember we can't test these things without warning the Pakistanis. Once the Pakistanis know - everyone else knows.

If someone wanted to do something to the platform. They could easily do it, since we publicly announce the launch, this is why I keep saying that these land based platforms are completely useless when it comes to guarenteeing any kind of deterrence regime. By the time we deploy them - every aspect of their flight envelope will be compromised due hostile surveillance.

Given the inherent complexity of these platforms - they are unreliable and require quite a bit of testing. That is why for the longest time the Americans relied on SAC to deliver the goods - even though there were a very large number of missile tests and it was only in the early 70s that the first signs emerged that missiles could yeild a reliable delivery platform. That was when the development of airplanes like the XB-70 Valkyrie was stopped in favor of the minuteman and other systems.

Given all these factors it is a complete stretch to suggest that India's missile test program is some kind of imminent threat to global (US) security. The only people who take these tests as being reflective of India's ability to hit China are the morons in the Indian press - no one inside China takes this nonsense seriously.

As the Bush Administration spokesman said - you cannot compare India's testing program to North Korea's program. The North Koreans use their tests as a means of communication. When they claim a certain range on their missiles - they are saying that they have the ability to literally "put their nuke on a bullock cart" and take it xxx miles away to hit yyy city in Japan/Guam/US. We in India don't do this nuke on a bullock cart nonsense - our bullock carts are strictly used for delivering farm produce only.

Unfortunately in the eyes of the non-proliferation community - everything India does is linked to what Pakistan and its friends (ex. North Korea, Iran, Syria, etc...) do.

Indians are held guilty by association and even if US policy is responsible for the provocation that leads to a North Korean test or a Pakistani exercise in futility - Indians are blamed for it. This allows the NPAs to go on pretending that they have an understanding of the proliferation picture.

There is a lot of talk about ISRO and DRDO working together on analysing the failure. Some people are keen on saying that the wall between ISRO and DRDO is breaking down in public. This is nonsense. It is absurd to expect a complete divorce between these organizations.

The ISRO launch failure has cost us a lot of money and if someone from DRDO has inputs on how to improve things at ISRO - that is a good thing. DRDO should be allowed to apply the knowledge they have learnt in the pursuit of defense projects to improve our civilian technology. The same way that Lockheed Martin people consult for NASA. We Indians need all the help we can get from our fellow Indians.

At 7:23 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi scrapsstuffs,

Allow me a moment to disagree.

I think you are right about SSBNs and their lack of effectiveness in a scenario where the US intervenes. However as long as we don't use the SSBN to target Pakistan - the US will have less of an interest in dedicating its SSN force to hunt down our SSBNs. They already have to dedicate their SSN units to deterring the Russians, supporting half a dozen miniwars in the world and keeping an eye on the Chinese. They will not want to take resources away from these things unless its pretty important - i.e. at the imminent breakdown of deterrence level. That is possibly the only scenario where they might intervene.

If we only use our SSBNs to target Chinese cities - the US will not interfere in the functioning of our boats. We have no hostility towards anyone else - so that covers everything.

The US has a number of SOSUS type systems set up around the IOR so they will be able to detect the motion of our subs with ease. As long as the missiles on our subs are incapable of hitting the US mainland without the subs leaving the IOR - they have little cause for concern.

If the Americans track our subs, it is reasonable to expect them to supply that information to the Pakistanis and from there the information will reach the Chinese. So the key to our SSBNs survival will rely on evading US detection mechanisms and keeping an eye on the Chinese subs that might seek to follow up on any intelligence inputs from the US-Pakistan-China chain.

Using SSBNs to target Pakistan posing a number of escalation related problems. I read an article about Samar Mubarakmand and his people gloating over the failure of the Agni III and the reporter added stuff about the low quality of short range "Prithavi" missile what this Pakistani fellow doesn't get is that all the agricultural land and houses that the Punjabi speaking pakistani elite live in - is all within easy range of the low tech "Prithavi" - actually a well placed artillery barrage from our side could wipe out Sialkot in the blink of an eye. Our missiles don't need to have long ranges to kick Pakistan in the nuts.

The Agni system is a technology demonstrator - that is all.

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Paul Devis said...

""Well.. I don't know abotu the GSLV and the AIII but we all know who is responsible for the Navy War Room leak. ""

Who ?

At 10:15 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Arre Paul,

Yeh bhi samjhana padega kya?

nice blog I will add you to my list.

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Paul Devis said...

Yes please, I'm that dumb :)
But seriously, is it the people who initiated military contact with the US on a larger scale, responsible (partially) for the Navy war room leak ?

At 4:58 PM, Blogger BangaloreGuy said...

Pranab Mukherjee apparently quoted Bismarck.
And you know, you cant really fault people for linking the two up - they happened in a narrow period of time, both failed, and occured right after Kim said "Fire!" half a dozen times.

I wondered if there was a link too until I read about the booster failure on the rocket and second (boost?) stage on the missile.

The media probably did their bit too. (eg: I found 400 results on G-News on a 3 storey building collapsing in NY)

At 11:17 PM, Blogger s c r a p s s t u f f s said...

Yep, its possibly true that China has no hope in hell of tracking Indian SSBNs without Pakistan's help (if the Pakis get tracking data from the US that is).

I'm more concerned about the US actively intervening in an India-China conflict on the side of China. Consider a scenario where China nukes large portions of India and we *have* to retaliate. If most of our deterrance lies in SSBNs then China can threaten the US that if the Indian SSBNs aren't taken out and they are nuked, they will nuke the US as well. If the US then takes out Indian SSBNs then we will be in a soup. That's why the IRBMs need to be land based and present in sufficient numbers unless we have lots of money to deploy lots of SSBNs. I simply have trouble in trusting US intentions in *any* conflict involving India and another country.

We probably won't be using the SSBN based deterrent to attack Pakistan as its not needed.

BTW S^2, I hope you escaped the blasts. What's your take on them?

At 11:28 AM, Blogger praveen said...

It was a good try!The GSLV-F02 cost Rs.150 crore to build. ISRO spent another Rs.96 crore to fabricate INSAT-4C.

The best part of the try was that it wasnt insured ! rather the 1st launch vehicle frm India not to be insured.....Is this wht they call Playing with money?


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