Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat recently said that India is “looking at creating a rocket force” as part of efforts to step up on enhancing its military capabilities. Rocket force might become 4th service of the Indian military services alongside the three conventional ones of the Army, Air force, and Navy. Rocket force might be in charge of managing and operating both land-based conventional and nuclear missiles. 

India started inducting ballistic missiles in the early ’80s and since then gradually it had added ballistic missiles that can now hit targets as far as 5000km but most of these missiles remain under the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) that is responsible for the management and administration of the country’s tactical and strategic nuclear weapons stockpile thus in a way ensuring it is limited to their usage for the nuclear deterrence rather for precision conventional strikes in fear of being misjudged as a nuclear attack. 

India is planning to start replacing its old Prithvi ballistic missiles with newer short-range tactical battlefield ballistic missiles like Prahaar (150km) and Pralay (350-500km) that largely will cater to carrying out precision conventional missile strikes rather than being used for nuclear strikes. India is also planning to induct longer-range ballistic missiles like Agni-1P that are easy to manufacture and are highly mobile so that can be deployed on the battlefield if and when required to take out the critical infrastructure of the enemy. 

Rocket force also aims to break the slow production rate of some of the Indian ballistic missiles since they were largely limited to the nuclear deterrence role. Unlike Agni series that are numbered in hundreds, missiles like Prahaar, Pralay or Agni-1P will be numbered in thousands for the first time providing major boosts to the conventional firepower of the country. Rocket force will also be in charge of supersonic and sub-sonic cruise missile inventory that could further bump India’s ability to carry out conventional strikes. Rocket force if it becomes the fourth service of the Indian military then it will also eliminate the need for Army, Air force, and Navy to have its separate ballistic missile arsenal.  

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