Shaurya surfaces as India’s underwater nuclear missile: New “hybrid” technology more advanced than China’s or Pakistan’s - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 16 February 2010

Shaurya surfaces as India’s underwater nuclear missile: New “hybrid” technology more advanced than China’s or Pakistan’s

By Ajai Shukla
Defexpo 2010, New Delhi

The country’s top defence scientist has, for the first time, revealed that India’s new Shaurya missile, which can carry a one-ton nuclear warhead over a distance of 750 kilometers, is specially designed to be fired from Indian submarines, and could form the crucial third leg of India’s nuclear deterrent.

If launched from a submarine off the China coast, it is capable of reaching many of China’s major cities, including Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai.

Air and land-based nuclear weapons are delivered to their targets by fighter aircraft and ballistic missiles respectively. Since these can be knocked out by an enemy first strike, the most reliable nuclear deterrent has traditionally been underwater, missiles hidden in a submarine.

Dr VK Saraswat, the DRDO chief and Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, revealed to Business Standard at the ongoing Defexpo 2010, “We have designed the Shaurya so that it can be launched from under water as easily as from land. The gas-filled canister that houses the missile fits easily into a submarine. The underwater leg of the nuclear triad needs to be totally reliable and needs a state-of-the-art missile.”

India’s undersea deterrent has so far revolved around the K-15 ballistic missile, built with significant help from Russia. The K-15 was to equip the INS Arihant, India’s lone nuclear-powered submarine, which is being constructed in Visakhapatnam. But now, after rigorous underwater testing, the Shaurya could be the mainstay of Arihant’s arsenal.

“The Shaurya was developed from ground up as a submarine-capable missile”, confirms Dr Prahlada, the top DRDO scientist responsible for liaising with the military. “Every piece of technology for fitting it in a submarine is already in place.”

Shortly before the Defexpo 2010, Dr Saraswat had publicly stated that India’s missile technology was ahead of China’s and Pakistan’s.

Now top DRDO scientists have revealed that the Shaurya is not a ballistic missile, as it has been thought to be; it is actually a hypersonic cruise missile, which never leaves the atmosphere. A ballistic missile is like a stone being lobbed towards a target. Rockets toss it upwards and towards the target; after the rocket burns out, gravity pulls the missile warhead down towards the target. Buffeted by wind and re-entry forces, accuracy is a problem; and, since the ballistic missile’s path is predictable, shooting it down is relatively easy.

The Shaurya has none of these issues. Its solid-fuel, two-stage rocket accelerates the missile to six times the speed of sound before it reaches an altitude of 40 kilometers (125,000 feet), after which it levels out and cruises towards the target, powered by its onboard fuel. While ballistic missiles cannot correct their course midway, the Shaurya is an intelligent missile. Onboard navigation computers kick in near the target, guiding the missile to the target and eliminating errors that inevitably creep in during its turbulent journey.

The Shaurya, say DRDO sources, will strike within 20-30 metres of its target after travelling 750 kilometres.

Conventional cruise missiles, like the American Tomahawk and the Indo-Russian Brahmos, offer similar accuracy. But their air-breathing engines carry them along slowly, rendering them vulnerable to enemy aircraft and missiles. The Shaurya’s solid-fuel, air-independent engine propels it along at hypersonic speeds, leaving enemy fighters and missiles far behind.

“I would say the Shaurya a hybrid propulsion missile”, says Dr Saraswat. “Like a ballistic missile, it is powered by solid fuel. And, like a cruise missile, it can guide itself right up to the target.”

Making the Shaurya even more capable is its ability to manoeuvre, following a twisting path to the target that makes it very difficult to shoot it down. In contrast, a ballistic missile is predictable; its trajectory gives away its target and its path to it.


  1. Ajai, it seems that the Shaurya falls under the semi ballistic/ Quasi ballistic missile category. This gives the advantages of a ballistic missile and removes the weakness of it (known flight path). Also the Chinese are said to be experimenting with this kind of tech to take out U.S carriers. Shaurya will be useful in this role when AC's from China will start emerging. The only requirement to strike is the ability to track their fleet.

  2. A better job has to be done about the range. The tomahawk has a range of 2500km and is smaller.

    After this they are talking about nuclear warheads with this short range. Nonsense.

  3. ajay,

    your article on BS got screwed

    "Technically, a foreign entity that wants to start a business that does not come under the automatic approval route must approach the Foreign Investment Approval Board (FIPB) for approval. This includes any foreign entity that wants to provide services in “commodity broking activities”. Other activities that are similar in nature like stock broking and forex broking come under the automatic route.

    DIPP’s argument is that since commodity broking is conceptually similar to stock and forex broking, the participation of foreign entities as broker-members though appropriate legal entities on the commodity exchanges would lead to more maturity in the Indian commodity derivative markets. A few foreign-owned broking houses have been active on the commodity exchanges since 2003-04. All of them have opened subsidiaries in India.

    Experts in the commodity broking business say the real issue will arise while regulating the overseas entities on domestic commodity exchanges, since the regulator — the Forward Markets Commission — is not equipped with the powers and regulations to regulate multinational broking companies." this got inserted into the original Shourya article.Inform BM to correct it,else it will look akwardish.

  4. Excellent report. Nice to know that India has achieved this milestone. However, we should stop being the typical Indian loudmouth. We should publicise our military technology only after it has been operationalised completely.
    Remember the Chinese proverb "Walk quietly but carry a big stick" .

  5. I guess the K-15 project has named "Shaurya" for the land based version and "Sagarika" for the under-water version.....Isn't it ?

    Correct me if I am wrong...

  6. Col. Shukla,

    According to all available open source information, the K-15 and Shaurya are one and the same. The DRDO itself in one of its old tech-focus issues had shown the land based launcher for the Shaurya in an article titled "Launch platforms for the K-15 program" - I am talking about the Sagarika Annexe photograph here.

  7. Ajai, TS Subramanian had revealed as early as December 2008 that the Shourya is a hypersonic, non-ballistic missile (see

  8. Wow! This puts the Shaurya in a completely new perspective! If India has indeed perfected such a missile, it will have in its arsenal a weapon that no other country does.

    However, something still puzzles me. You say that "Its solid-fuel, two-stage rocket accelerates the missile to six times the speed of sound before it reaches an altitude of 40 kilometers... after which it levels out and cruises towards the target, powered by its onboard fuel"

    What kind of propulsion does this missile use in the cruise phase? If I recall correctly, a ramjet cannot work at those speeds. So is it powered by a scramjet? Or does the rocket motor boost the missile to Mach 6, after which it slows down before the ramjet powers up?

    Thanks in advance

  9. BUT WHY DOESNT the one in defexpo have the rounded head AJAI? the one displayed looks nothing like the shourya in the launch pictures like found in wikipedia. can you please answer? i asked in shiv aroor's blog but never got an answer.

    about its use as an underwater missile all i can say is they are saying different things at different times. which is very unprofessional. first it's connection to the K15 programme was officially denied. then they talked about it sitting in silos in the borders. now it has become "underwater nuclear missile". So where is K15?

    DRDO and gang should either not comment at all or say what it is unambiguously.

  10. Ajai sir

    a case in point, you said

    If launched from a submarine off the China coast, it is capable of reaching many of China’s major cities, including Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai.

    Well, in that case the submarine can easily hunted down by chinese long range planes. (they 've several of them) Primarily the subs will have to move through mallacca straits and south china sea near phillipines, where chinese are always present.

    If the sub detours phillipines, then its reach will be severely hampered by fuel and other supplies. Dont tell me that job will be reserbed for nuke subs, we still dont have a nuke sub. And if in a conflict with china in next couple of years we will be handicapped.

    So developing a longer range Shuarya will be a good idea.

    By the way what happened to Sagarika or the K-15 missiles.

    If you remember I had said earlier IN should try to fit in the Agni 3 or Agni 5 in to the subs.

    Whats your take on these things sir.

  11. Great read Ajai. I just had one crib though. The missile is described as having a CEP of 20-30 meters and at the same time it is being compared to the tomahawk in terms of accuracy. If I'm not mistaken, during the Gulf War we were led to believe the tomahawks could slam into individuals windows of a building (that's a lot better than a CEP of 20-30 meters!). So what's the catch here? Has the tomahawk now become less accurate once the Pakis started manufacturing them?!;-)

  12. Now what will be next phase of this ?
    Are they will try to make more speed or more stealth ?

  13. @Ajai... Shaurya is India’s underwater nuclear missile and it's a open secret. From its 1st flight it has been seen-speculated as submarine launched missile.

  14. Hypersonic cruise missile???? All this while I thought that it was a ballistic missile derived from the Prithvi! If you are correct, it is indeed great news. I wonder why this wasn't revealed before by the DRDO?

  15. A cruise missile with ballistic tendencies and hypersonic speeds? It would be the first of its kind, but why do you think none of the other countries have thought of this concept? :-)

  16. Ajaiji, i think shaurya's more pakistan centric than chinese because of its limited range and inexperience of indian navy to operate nuclear subs far away from our shores ,we will have to wait for AGNI(K-X)MISSILES for that to happen.Curiously K-15 weighs 17 tons as compared to 6.5 tons for SHAURYA yet they both carry 1 ton warhead that makes more sense to deploy shaurya on ARIHANT.

  17. Anonymous 11:03:

    While Subramaniam's article is broadly accurate, it is incorrect in its assessment that the Shaurya is the land version of the K-15. The Shaurya is a multi-role missile that can be fired from the air, land or undersea.

    While Subramaniam speculates about the missile being a K-15 derivative, Dr Saraswat, in my article, directly rebuts that idea.

    Next, my article brings out the very important point about terminal guidance in the Shaurya.

    Vipul and Sparsh:

    It's an open secret means what? That some blogs and articles have speculated on that?? Well the DRDO says no quite clearly. And it has no reason to lie.

    What counts for more? Open source literature, or the on-record word of the DRDO chief?

    Anonymous 13:48:

    The rounded head is the cap of the canister... you can see it being blown off after launch in the photos. The missile in the Defexpo is a dummy.

    Anonymous 14:39:

    For each Tomahawk that flew through a window on CNN in the Gulf War, there were two that landed in Pakistan after being fired at Afghanistan after the USS Cole attack!


    I'm not 100% sure, but you are probably right.

    Thanks, all.

  18. But Ajay, this Shaurya (just based on looks/video) doesn't seem to be able to do all that... are you telling me this guy is going to go up 40km, then cruise to hit the target? Also, if the terminal stage is cruise-like, then why is the CEP around 200m? Shouldn't it do better than that? Or is it ballistic up, ballistic down and cruise near target? Not sure I understand.

  19. About the launcher in the photograph,

    What is the laddeer in the launcher meant for?

    And I have seen other photographs of the vehicle on which it is mounted. Home come it doesn't have a blast shield on it?

  20. Three points that I want to add to, Ajai-ji please clarify with the DRDO bosses.
    1. The Shaurya does NOT have Ramjet / Scramjet. Its solid motors power the entire flight. One for each stage - that is two motors.
    In addition it has one rocket motor for the nose cap.
    One motor which is the gas generator for initial launch.
    One motor which is on the side of the body, which gives the missile the rotational movement around its axis when the missile descends from its horizontal flight path. This rotation is necessary since the lower part of the missile nose cone is exposed to maximum air drag, and rotation dissipates some of the heat from the heat shield.

    That makes a total of 5 rocket motors of varying sizes on the Shaurya.

    2. Please ask the DRDO what is the difference between the K-15 and the Shaurya? Is it that the seeker is indeginized to a large extent on the shaurya? Also is the ratio of the rocket motors different? On the K-15, the underwater gas generator powers the missile to a height of 5 Km then the second stage motor takes over. Perhaps the trajectory is purely ballistic with glide at the end.

    3. The CEP of the tomakawk cruise is indeed 1 meter. This is because the guidance is based on Digital Scene Mapping. But it supposedly has everything - waypoints, GPS and then terminal DSM somewhat like TV guidance.

  21. Gagan:

    You are absolutely correct about the non-air-breathing rocket motors. That is why it goes hypersonic without the need for scramjet.

    The article mentions, "The Shaurya has none of these issues. Its solid-fuel, two-stage rocket accelerates the missile to six times the speed of sound before it reaches an altitude of 40 kilometers (125,000 feet), after which it levels out and cruises towards the target, powered by its onboard fuel. "

    The CEP of the Tomahawk is theoretically 1 m because of TERCOM and digital mapping. But, practically, there have been found to be large variations and, occasionally, large inaccuracies.

    The reason this missile is much less accurate, even theoretically, than the Tomahawk is that the Tomahawk is far, far slower than this one.

    Anonymous 03:09

    Where have you got this 200 metres figure from for the Shaurya's CEP? My article mentions a CEP of 20-30 metres.

    And what exactly do you mean by... this doesn't look like a missile that goes up 40 km and then cruises? What do such missiles look like?

  22. Ajai, I meant a CEP of 20 meters... is still large for a missile can steer itself, but you explained it later vis-a-vis the Tomahawk. Of course, a CEP of 20 meters is enough for a nuclear payload. Also, I meant the Shaurya doesn't seem large enough to be able to do all that has been advertised- fly up 40km, cruise with it's own internal fuel and then hit the target at high speed.

  23. The underwater version will be heavier because it has to be torpedoed to the surface using expanding steam, most likely, and it powers out of the water until 10m approximately, where its velocity drops close to zero when the missile motor starts.

    It's like the minuteman launching from submarines, you can see at about 10m the velocity drops close to zero, then the missile motor starts.

    This motor is likely to be a flex nozzle motor, because to have to counterbalance all the water dropping off and maintain the missile orientation before the motor starts accelerating it again.

    The motor is likely to be a on-off hypersonic motor like the mistral which the french will be starting work on with India. The on-off type maintains propellant and speeds it hypersonically when on.

  24. Shaurya s 700-800 km range seems to be quite short ! For a nuke tipped missile it makes sense to have at least a range of 1500km.Is there any source commenting authoritatively on Shourya range other than the official MTCR friendly estimate

  25. Ajai, you reported that "Shaurya is a multi-role missile that can be fired from the air, land or undersea." Can you elaborate on that. Land and sea versions can be understood but what about air launch. Which is the platform that is suitable for this missile. It's bigger than Brahmos and may not be fitted on the Su-30 MKI's. So which is that platform to which this will be fitted? Can P-8 carry this? And what is meant by multi-role? Land attack and Anti-Ship roles?

  26. Ajai, I don't think it is wise either for the reporter or DRDO chief to claim that India's underwater capability can cause harm to China. It's true if we go all the way to South China sea, which I believe is not a good thing to do with limited subs. The best way is to have a Long range SLBM. Try google earth and you will find that the distance from Andaman sea to cover whole of China is about 5500 kilometers. So if a SLBM version of Agni-V is introduced, then only the Chinese will have to worry about India. I was astonished to find that the Chinese require a 4000km SLBM to target India without crossing the Malacca straits.

  27. At the outset a well written article.Subs which will fire this missile do not cruise at firing range, in fact easily double, makes search task very very difficult and will need asset numbers in large quantities.This is Mk1 version and new variants will appear in this decade.Warhead weight will be different in different variants and advanced conventional shape charged warheads will give capabilities designed to meet local conflict requirements along our borders.Our asian adversaries have virtually nil strategic ASW capabilities todate.Drdo needs to be complimented and induction should be rapid.

  28. sounds waaaay toooo good to be true... may be a propoganda to spruce up drdo image who knows??

    scramjet? get real DRDO....

  29. Anon 8:52.
    Sandeep Unnithan's article on the Arihant says that the underwater booster of the K-15 will power it to a 5 Km height then the second stage booster takes over. I used to think that the launch would be similar to the Trident launch video we've all seen. But apparently that is not so. The first stage is a gas generator which fires off underwater and takes the K-15 to 5Km straight.

    Anon 11:05
    The range for shaurya mentions 700 Km for a 1 ton warhead. No no Indian N warhead is one ton. The max as predicted by Arun_S is ~450 Kgs - less than a ton. The range can be expected to be ~ 1200 Kms I guess. (I am no missile expert though). MTCR range limit is 300Kms.

    Anon 11:14
    I don't think the shaurya will be launched off an aerial platform. DRDO's never said this. It is too big for any aerial platform, unless one missile is slung under a wing of a IL-76, but then what's the point. India is not acquring the Tu-160, and even then it won't fit inside the missile compartment there. The shaurya is meant for land based silos kept 30-50 m underground to protect them from a direct N blast, yet be able to launch off from there if the missile silo doors are opened.

    Anon 19:49
    DRDO is testing its scramjet. Which world d'ya live in?

    The scramjet version that is being talked about (is it the one that is small enough to fit on a Mig-29?) is supposed to have a 1000Km range.
    DRDO could aim to have an ICBM Scramjet too. The future is within reach. This is a platform for which no ABM is likely to be designed to handle for the next 2-3 decades.

    Perhaps you can do a peice on DRDO's tech breakthroughs - LCA tejas and the proposed MCA, Arjuns, Brahmos seekers, Hypersonic missiles - shaurya and the scramjet missiles. It would be a good piece for the dhimmis and some info for the jingos alike.

  30. Hi Ajai

    If we have hypersonic cruise missile which can fly at 6 times the speed of sound, Why is MOD still wasting millions and millions of our tax payers money on Russian ramjet engines to Brahmos, Why not come up with a miniature of ver of Shaurya that can be fitted on an LCA and name it as Only-Brah-No-Mos.

  31. Ajai,

    You have a quote from Dr. Saraswat that says that this missile has 'hybrid propulsion' and uses solid propellant. As I understand it, the term 'hybrid propulsion' refers to a motor that has a solid propellant but a separate liquid oxidizer (a standard solid motor has the propellant and oxidizer mixed together in solid state). Could you please confirm that this is what the Shaurya has?

    If indeed it has hybrid propulsion of the type described above, it is a significant technological breakthrough. This is because the separate liquid oxidizer allows for throttling of the missile (by controlling the flow of oxidizer). Thus, the motor could be stopped and restarted, or its thrust controlled. This gives it capabilities similar to a liquid engine, but with the advantages of a solid engine (storability, quick launch). One of the disadvantages of a solid motor that is that it cannot be stopped once it has been ignited (until the fuel runs out) and its thrust cannot be controlled. Hybrid propulsion achieves that.

    From the reference directly by Dr. S to 'hybrid propulsion' and by reading the rest of your description about the missile's capabilities, I am reasonably inclined to believe that the Shaurya has one or both of its stages with a motor that uses solid propellant and separate oxidizer. Could you please confirm that this is the case?

  32. Hello all,

    The missile is capable of being air-launched. That does not mean that a platform is currently being readied to launch it by air. What method of launch will be used is an operational decision that the strategic forces command will take.


    Dr Saraswat was talking about the flight trajectory, not the propellant. There is no separate liquid oxygen oxidiser.


    Get real. Do you think that adding an artillery piece with a range of 40 kilometers to our arsenal means that all the artillery with lesser range becomes redundant? Each weapons platform, including (in fact, especially) the Brahmos, has its own use. The Shaurya does not replace the Brahmos, it just provides another option to planners.


    What does the MTCR limit have to do with anything?

    You're right though about the scramjet being tested. Hypersonics is a big thrust area for the DRDO.

  33. I was only replying to Anon 11:05's query about MTCR.
    I was saying that MTCR doesn't even begin to apply here.

  34. I noticed from Shiv Aroor's blog that the Shaurya is taller than the Prithvi... which affirms it's 750km range, sort of.

  35. Thanks Ajai for the clarification. I got misled by the specific reference to hybrid propulsion in a quote directly from Dr. S.

    BTW, I did not say liquid oxygen oxidizer - rather liquid oxidizer. (Liquid oxygen could be used as an oxidizer in a hybrid propulsion missile, but would be likely impractical. Other oxidizers like nitrous oxide are more suitable for the purpose, due to their easier storability and handling).

  36. Even though Shourya can go from
    700 km to 1900 km at different payloads, it cannot target cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

    ATV based in Andaman can target couple of Chinese cities like Kunming (1800 km)

    Land based Shourya (if launched from Arunachal) can target 10 different chinese cities but it also cannot target Beijing (3500 km) and other important cities.

    Chinese navy is not going to sleep until you get near their waters !! Chinese nuke subs are going to protect their waters.

  37. i have a strong feeling russia is behind the scene. this extreme speed (mach 6) seems similar to brahmos propulsion. not many in the world have this kind of technology. and given india's record in missile building, how could they have come up with something this fast? either it's stolen Brahmos tech or something else along the same lines. any opinions?? but never the less, great going for DRDO.....

  38. 700km what a joke?? are they planning to strike sri lanka or bangladesh from arihant?

  39. i have a strong feeling russia is behind the scene. this extreme speed (mach 6) seems similar to brahmos propulsion. not many in the world have this kind of technology. and given india's record in missile building, how could they have come up with something this fast? either it's stolen Brahmos tech or something else along the same lines. any opinions?? but never the less, great going for DRDO.....

    It is actually similar to Israel's LORA missile, either DRDO used it as basis for it (specs for the missile were leaked on internet) or there was tech sharing between both sides.

  40. Anon 12:27 If you draw an arc at 1900kms from Shanghai as suggested by you on Google earth you will get an idea of the magnitude of the task for Chinese SSN's. They will need a fleet looking for a needle in the west Pacific and Indian oceans.Also look at the range when Polaris SLBM came into service in USN.Food for thought.Shaurya2 is on the cards.DRDO is not sitting on their hands.

  41. l am proud to be an lndian.l hope thay can do more better things.

  42. スタビが今一番アツイのはご存じでしょうか?夏休みで出会いを探している娘とすぐに会えちゃうんです。登録無料でここまで出会える所は他には存在しません。今登録して良いパートナーに巡り合おう

  43. K 15 Sagarika/Shaurya is hypersonic cruise missile and INS ARIHANT is an attack submarine of AKULA 2 CLASS


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