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  We have only 15min to counter missile attacks  


By: Gaurang Bhatt
March 12, 2006
iews expressed here are authorís own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.


It is very clear that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council wish to retain their uniquely powerful status after their victory in WW2. America, the primum inter pares does not ever wish to have a rival like the Soviet Union exercising a balance of terror through Mutually Assured Destruction, as clearly spelt out in the Bush Security Doctrine of 2002. It wants Israel as the only nuclear power in the Middle East with unchallenged hegemony but its surrogate. The relative tolerance towards India is to build it up as a counter to China emerging as a rival. Thus the nuclear deal is to hamper Indiaís rise to an independent nuclear power by using its energy, infrastructure and technology needs to curb its ascent. This is why it wants to put all its reactors and particularly the Fast Breeder Reactors under the IAEA inspection regime and nix further nuclear weapon testing and limit its stockpile by the fissile material stockpile control.

It would require nearly 25 % of Indiaís defense budget to have a completely operational nuclear triad. Britain is having second thoughts about spending huge resources to replace its Tridents and looking at alternative options. Britain can do that because it is assured a place under the US nuclear umbrella. One doesnít see France considering the same options. Thus despite the cost India needs a second strike capability by SLBMs especially with its no first use doctrine. Thus having four to six nuclear submarines with SLBMs covering Pakistan and China is a priority irrespective of costs. This mandates FBRs capable of producing more Plutonium or U233 than they use to achieve fissile material independence and deterrent.

The ABM technology is unreliable and can be easily overcome by swamping with a large mixture of decoys and nuclear tipped missiles. China is sure to provide those to Pakistan covertly if not overtly as it has done in the past with bomb design and cruise missiles. The other problem is the short 15 minute time window to counter Pakistani or Chinese missiles. America has a much larger time window to counter North Korean or Iranian nuclear missiles. Thus India while acquiring some ABMs to reduce damage would be much better off using its scarce resources on MAD and second strike capability. The same arguments hold against spending scarce resources on tactical and theater mini-nuclear weapons as their use is likely to use of strategic weapons by Pakistan or China.

Finally a 45000 ton carrier with about 20 aircraft and two ASW helicopters will need to utilize all the copters and four of its fighters for its own protection. In addition it will need a hunter killer submarine or two and a frigate, a destroyer and a supply ship flotilla for effective operation. Even then only eight aircraft per shift at the most will be available for attack. Furthermore a lucky cruise missile hit can cause a two billion dollar loss. This is the reason that Britain, France, China and Russia are not building more carriers and America is building larger carriers with 70 to 90 attack aircraft. Thus resources could be better used by having a larger number of hunter killer submarines all equipped with air independent propulsion to provide greater silence and longer operational times to counter enemy surface and submerged vessels.

Since future Indian ambitions are to cover the seas from the Straits of Hormuz to Malacca and the Bay of Bengal, in view of its long coastline and the Laccadive and Andaman islands, it makes sense to have adequate air and naval bases from which surveillance and attack aircraft and surface and submarine flotillas could dominate the seas all the way to the international maritime boundaries of the littoral nations of these two water bodies. Thus two 45000 ton carriers with 20 fixed wing aircraft are more than enough for prestige and power protection and may even be too many in view of limited resources and greater priorities.

Gaurang Bhatt

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