India missile development saw its beginning during the 1980’s when Government of India kickstarted the Integrated Guided Missile Development program (IGMDP). It paved way for a fine set of missiles that serves the nation’s armed forces. From 700km rated Agni-I to 5000km+ Agni-V sends chills down enemy’s spines. The missiles are now capable of acting as a deterrent against any conflict with our neighbors. Even they have raised concerns about India’s growing missile prowess. Recent entry of India into the elite MTCR has also served as a boost to our advancements.
However, amidst all the popular missile systems like Agni, Shaurya, Prithvi and others, one name has been brewing in secrecy for a couple of decades.
Speculations of its possible existence rose when Non-Proliferation Review’s Winter 1995 papers were released, citing possible development of a 10,000 km+ range ICBM under the code name ‘SURYA’.
Even though no official confirmation is given regarding the project, it is cited in the report that DRDO has been working on it since 1994. India government has refused to comment on the project.
Surya, ‘Sun’ in many Indian languages, is believed to have atleast a range of 12000km. The missile could be 3 staged, clueing on a re-entry vehicle characteristic, with 2 solid stages and a liquid propulsion stage.
There have been speculations that a modified PSLV of ISRO could act as a convenient ICBM and Surya might be one of them. However ISRO sees itself as an organization inclined more towards humane applications of space, the claim hold little ground.
When DRDO personnel dropped clues on a possible AGNI-VI enabled with MIRV warheads (Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicle) soon after the successful launch of AGNI-V, many drew lines between SURYA and AGNI-VI and claimed it as same.
Before coming into a conclusion, a quick look through SURYA’s tech specs may have something to offer:
Range: Minimum of 10,000km (possible 12,000km+)
Launch Platform: TEL (Transporter Erector Launcher), Silo launched, Disguised Rail Carriage, Underwater (SSBN enabled)
Propellant: 3 stage ( 2xsolid stage + 1xliquid stage)
Warhead: Releasable front section with 3-10 MIRV
Yield: 15-20kt each, >200ktn combined
R&D status: Unknown
It could be due to sensitive Geo-political situation that force the Indian government to downplay development of ICBMs. The region reeks of trouble every minute and the last thing you want to get thrown into the troubled water is a ghastly ICBM.
When AGNI-V was launched, Chinese defense experts claimed that India is downplaying the range of AGNI-V to just 5000km whereas in fact it’s range could be anywhere between 6000-8000km.
Some think-tanks believe that India doesn’t need a SURYA now, as most of its immediate threats are under the shadow of existing missile systems. However, seeing China’s advancement in ICBM technology, it should pretty clear that India must not fall behind. With western nations wary of China’s leap, India would be their key stone in the area to negate its advance, for which, a missile system like ‘SURYA’ could get your job done.