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India’s pursuit of a credible nuclear triad – a deterrent force consisting of land, air, and sea-launched nuclear weapons – is gaining momentum, particularly in the realm of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). DRDO’s K-series SLBMs are a key element in this endeavour.

Currently, Indian nuclear submarines rely on the B-05 SLBM, with ranges of 750 and 3,500 kilometres depending on the K-4 variant. The K-4, a more advanced missile with a longer range, equips some submarines, enabling them to launch attacks from farther distances without needing to venture close to adversarial shores.

In 2015 and 2017, DRDO received approval for the K-5 and K-6 SLBM programs, respectively. While details regarding their developmental trials remain unconfirmed, speculation suggests that underwater testing on limited ranges has likely taken place. These missiles, with a projected range of 5,000 kilometres for the K-5 and an ICBM-like range of 6,000 kilometres with MIRV capabilities for the K-6, represent a significant leap forward in India’s SLBM technology.

The K-5 and K-6 missiles were envisioned to be deployed on the S-4 and S-4* ballistic missile submarines, which are essentially extended versions of the Arihant-class submarines. The upcoming S-5 class of SSBNs, planned to be much larger at 13,000 tons, is expected to serve as the launch platform for the K-8 SLBM.

With a projected range exceeding 10,000 kilometres, the K-8 SLBM promises to be a game-changer. While official information regarding the K-8 might remain scarce for another decade, its development signifies India’s commitment to a robust nuclear triad – a combination of land, air, and sea-based nuclear delivery systems.

The K-Series SLBMs bolster India’s second-strike capability, meaning it can retaliate with nuclear force even if it suffers a surprise nuclear attack. This development has the potential to influence regional security dynamics in the Indian subcontinent and beyond.

India’s progress in developing advanced SLBMs like the K-8 showcases its growing technological prowess in the strategic missile domain. The coming years will be crucial in observing how these projects unfold and how they contribute to India’s broader strategic objectives.

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