- The continued deployment of the 5,000-kilometer-range Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile
- The latest Agni missiles, such as the Agni-V and Agni-Prime (1,000-2,000 km), are canister-launched to offer the armed services
China is building more than 300 new missile silos, according to satellite pictures, as part of a “significant increase” of its nuclear weapons stockpile, even as Pakistan maintains a modest lead over India in terms of nuclear warheads.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Institute’s (SIPRI) newest assessment released on Monday, China has an estimated 350 nuclear weapons, with new mobile missile launchers and another submarine becoming operational in the last year, while Pakistan has 165 and India has 160.
The SIPRI report comes a day after Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe declared at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that his country has made “impressive progress” in developing and deploying new nuclear weapons, including the Dong Feng-41 (DF-41) intercontinental ballistic missile with a strike range of over 12,000 kilometres. However, he went on to say that China will only use nuclear weapons in “self-defense” and will never use them first.
Beijing’s “accelerating pace” of nuclear expansion will enable it to have up to 700 deliverable nuclear weapons by 2027, with the stockpile reaching 1,000 by 2030, according to a Pentagon analysis on China’s military capabilities.
Of course, the United States and Russia are in a different category, jointly possessing 90 percent of all nuclear weapons in the world. Russia (5,977), the United States (5,428), France (290), the United Kingdom (225), Israel (90), and North Korea (90), according to SIPRI, have a total of 12,705 nuclear weapons (20).
“All nuclear-armed states are expanding or upgrading their arsenals, and the majority are sharpening their nuclear rhetoric and the role nuclear weapons play in their military strategies… “This is a really concerning trend,” said SIPRI’s Wilfred Wan.
Because most countries, including India, keep their nuclear weapons programmes secret, the warhead statistics are estimations. Furthermore, deterrence cannot be reduced to a simple bean counting of warheads.
Officials claim India is steadily modernising its nuclear arsenal with improved delivery technologies, in line with its stated goal of “credible minimum deterrence” and “no first-use.”
Following the modification of some Sukhoi-30MKIs, Mirage-2000s, and Jaguars for delivery of nuclear gravity bombs, the induction of 36 new Rafale fighter jets has reinforced the “air vector” for delivery of nuclear gravity bombs.
The continued deployment of the 5,000-kilometer-range Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile, which encompasses all of Asia and China, as well as sections of Europe and Africa, has boosted the “land vector.”
Prithvi-II (350 km), Agni-I (700 km), Agni-II (2,000 km), Agni-III (3,000 km), and Agni-IV (4,000 km) missile systems are already in the Strategic Forces Command (SFC). The latest Agni missiles, such as the Agni-V and Agni-Prime (1,000-2,000 km), are canister-launched to offer the armed services the operational flexibility they need to store it for long periods of time, transport it quickly by rail or road when needed, and fire it from anyplace.
The “nuclear triad’s” third leg, on the other hand, is still in its infancy. India currently possesses only one nuclear-powered and armed submarine (SSBN), the INS Arihant, which is equipped with K-15 nuclear missiles with a range of 750 kilometres. The United States, Russia, and China all have SSBNs with missile ranges of over 5,000 kilometres.
Three additional SSBNs are being built in India, with the INS Arighat set to be commissioned this year following a delay. The developmental trials of K-4 missiles, which have a strike range of 3,500 kilometres, have also been completed, although the introduction is still a long way off, as TOI previously reported.