Thursday, September 03, 2009

The issue is not "belief" but validation

The thermonuclear test controversy has the government declaring its "belief" that the "scientists" are right. But scientists can lie, and in this case they have. The issue is scientific validation. Because of the sensitivity of the subject, it can be done through a review in which top scientists like P.K. Iyengar, Homi Sethna and others are involved.

The Prime Minister has declared, “we believe our scientists”, to counter the revelation by former DRDO nuclear weapons programme director K. Santhanam that our thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb test of May 11 1998 was a fizzle.

This sounds like an invocation to deity. But scientists are not gods, or infallible prophets. Like other human beings they can and do lie, or shade the truth, for an assortment of reasons, not the least, to protect their own reputations and further their careers.
And what a trajectory some of those careers have taken. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the rocket engineer who was Santhanam’s boss at the DRDO already had a Bharat Ratna, and so his reward has been the presidency of the republic. R. Chidambaram, the chairman of the department of atomic energy at the time, got every Tambrahm bureaucrat’s dream — a life-time sinecure in the government. Since his retirement in 2000, he has been Principal Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister.

Kalam has been one of the best presidents India has had, and it is a pity he was not re-nominated to the office. He is a decent and empathetic human being and has been an inspirational manager who brings out the maximum from his team. By the time the nuclear tests took place he was already an iconic figure.
But he was not a nuclear physicist. His knowledge of the subject would be that of a good B.Sc student. He was, of course, the head of department of the DRDO when the nuclear test took place. But his point man on the bomb programme was Santhanam.
Public record shows that the DRDO collected the nuclear devices from BARC in Mumbai, took it to Pokhran, and took it down the various shafts that had been readied. They laid the cables and instruments to record the outcome of the tests, and then carried out the tests. Santhanam has been clever in attributing the seismic information questioning the efficacy of the thermonuclear test to western sources so as not to fall afoul of the Official Secrets Act. But we can deduce that the DRDO readings, too, indicated a sub-optimal performance of the device.

K. Santhanam (r) handing over the firing keys to the range safety officer Col Vasudev (l) on May 11, 1998 at Pokhran. Looking on is current Department of Atomic Energy chief Anil Kakodkar
There was reportedly another type of a test called the CORRTEX, but no details of its outcome are available. (Note: Since the article appeared in print, I found out that a CORRTEX did indeed take place and its findings, too, confirmed the fact that the test was a "fizzle".) But this, too, would have been under DRDO’s auspices. Santhanam reportedly sent a detailed note on the May 11 and 13th nuclear tests to the government. The DAE subsequently drilled holes into the cavities formed by the tests and conducted radio-chemical analyses. Some of its officials subsequently wrote papers backing the official yield for the tests.


But the problem is not scientific, but political. Having had the guts to test, the NDA soon developed cold feet. Actors like Jaswant Singh quickly wanted to reassure the US and declared that India would commit itself to a no first use posture. Later, Prime Minister Vajpayee declared that India would maintain a unilateral moratorium on testing. So, it was necessary for the government to accept that the tests had, indeed, been a resounding success. A meeting to discuss the contradictory DRDO and DAE findings decided that the former’s equipment “malfunctioned”, and that the DAE findings were accurate, since they were also validated by a seismic array station run by them at Gauribidanur.
Kalam’s own career as a bureaucrat is a cautionary tale about our sarkari scientists. Whatever may have been his successes as SLV-3 project manager, his tenure as DRDO chief has been something of a disaster. The public is familiar with the fact that three of the four missiles that were part of the Integrated Missile Development Programme that he headed in the 1983-1993 period, failed to reach the development stage.
But they do not know that the fourth, the Prithvi, too, is of little value. A bulky and cumbersome missile is vulnerable to anti-missile defences and since it requires the services of as many as three large vehicles — the TEL carrying the missile, a power supply and a command post truck — it is a sitting duck in today’s networked battlefield.


But, Kalam’s bigger failure was with Agni. On his insistence, the first Agni, now conveniently called a “technology demonstrator”, was a peculiar hybrid of the SLV I and the Prithvi. Only reluctantly was he persuaded to make a missile with a solid-solid configuration. This has meant that both the stages of the missile were actually built by the Indian Space Research Organisation. Today this is called Agni-II, though it has been declared successful after only two tests.
Kalam’s departure also led to a discreet parking of the Prithvi as a battlefield support missile with the Army’s artillery battalions. For Pakistan-specific nuclear delivery, the DRDO came up with a 700-km solid propelled Agni which is now called Agni I only in 2002 because, till he was in service, Kalam insisted that the Prithvi could do the job. Because of these diversions, India’s long-range missile deterrent has been delayed by about a decade and even today it depends on aircraft dropped weapons, not missile borne, for its credible minimum deterrent.
The list of Kalam’s failures is long, but some stand out. In the late 1980s, when the Aeronautical Development Establishment which was developing the Pilotless Target Aircraft, wanted to launch a cruise missile programme, Kalam, a ballistic missile man, put his foot down. In the 1980s, India could have accessed any Soviet technology it wanted, but Kalam’s ballistic missile obsession obscured his vision.
The result is that today India has no cruise missile of its own while Pakistan is on the verge of deploying its 800-km range Babur and another Air Launched Cruise Missile called Ra’ad. India has had to develop the Brahmos with Russia, but its range is limited because of Moscow’s Missile Technology Control Regime commitments.
Another significant failure was in the acquisition of the weapons locating radar. In the early 1990s, the US offered us their AN/TPPQ 37 as a gesture of friendship (conditioned by the fact they had already supplied it to Islamabad and that this was a clearly “defensive” system). Kalam declared that the DRDO would make its own. By early 1998, it became clear that the DRDO project was not working. Kalam told the government to buy one system for the DRDO to reverse engineer. By that time it was too late; in the wake of the Pokhran test, the US embargoed India and the offer stood withdrawn. So, Indian artillery operated blind in the Kargil war of 1999.


Kalam’s very prestige became his, and his country’s, worst enemy. He had attained oracular status by 1998, and the result was that the governments of the day blindly accepted what he had to say. He was not willfully dishonest, but his fixations and whims led to diversions and delays for which the country has paid a huge price. Perhaps his greatest, and in a sense forgivable, weakness was his obsession on “indigenous”
But the argument that India’s missiles are “indigenous” and Pakistan’s are based on Chinese, American, North Korean or someone else’s technology is a meaningless one. Military acquisitions are not about the “purity” of solutions, but time-urgent answers to a problem. And who will deny that Pakistan has got more than enough “solutions” in the nuclear weapon delivery area, to any threat India can offer?
So the issue thrown up by K. Santhanam is not about undermining Manmohan Singh’s foreign policy or questioning the “achievements” of our infallible scientists. It is not about “belief”, but the “validation” of a scientific/technical event on which the country’s nuclear deterrent is based. If there are doubts about the event, they cannot be addressed by shooting the messenger, but by a scientific process, maybe by a commission of unimpeachable scientists.
Of course, there is always the option of saying that we don’t really need a thermonuclear weapon; after all, even Pakistan doesn’t claim to have one.
This was published first in Mail Today September 2, 2009


Anonymous said...

Mr.Joshi, indigenous capability is a requirement with missile technology. No one in the world will provide India with such tech. And during a war it saves us from the pulls and pressure from the ones who side with our enemies. You totally neglect this point. Also indigenous capability not only saves India from foreign intervention but also helps India to gain influence. Sadly this capability is not used properly by the GOI.

Regarding the cruise missiles, yes India has lost precious time in deciding to develop the long range cruise missile. Until the Nirbhay arrives, India cannot use such a capability. Regarding Brahmos you forget that it's not meant to be a long range cm but a mere 300 km CM. The capabilities of Brahmos is built into the missile as required by the Indian armed forces. Brahmos being a supersonic missile is another capability liked by armed forces.

Anonymous said...

Most of the allegations on prithvi, Agni and US WLR is untrue.

1) Prithvi is not cumbersome. You should check the comparative liquid fueled missiles around the world.

2) Agni was technology demonstrator because of US pressure. Agni-2 expertise led to faster development of Agni-1 and Agni-3. it was the base missile.

3) Cruise missile was not built because of dis interest by Armed Forces. Even Prithvi and Agni were built like that. Cruise missiles because currency only after the 1st gulf war. Till then India was catching up with the BM technology.

4) Lakshya was never meant to be a cruise missile. it was a target drone. There are fundamental differences between target drone and cruise missile.

5) the US WLR was subsequently purchased and is now lying in cold storage. DRDO WLR is being used.

Actually, the entire article has to be reworked.

Anonymous said...

6) Brahmos was Kalams initiative.

Anonymous said...

7) The Agni Td designation was a brilliant move when US pressure came. If has same connotations as Peaceful Nuclear explosion.

Anonymous said...

Love the analysis by some of the armchair NRI tech specialists. Get out on the field and experience them first hand - I say


Anonymous said...

In the interest of accuracy I would like to point out the various estimates of yield that have been made for the 1998 tests. I have all the original references

1) New scientist (link posted earlier - "Making Waves", New Scientist, June 13 1998 pp 18-19) quoting Roger Clark - seismologist said 60 kilotons
2) R Chidambaram and Sikka claimed 43 kilotons in their final claims
3) Jack Evernden (Physics Today) calculated 46 kilotons
4) P K Iyengar calculated LiD burn ratio an claimed 40 kilotons (20 fission + 20 fusion)
5) Wallace and other seismologists via CTBT monitoring stations are saying 5-25 kilotons

Anonymous said...

In the interest of accuracy I would like to point out the various estimates of yield that have been made for the 1998 tests. I have all the original references

1) New scientist (link posted earlier - "Making Waves", New Scientist, June 13 1998 pp 18-19) quoting Roger Clark - seismologist said 60 kilotons
2) R Chidambaram and Sikka claimed 43 kilotons in their final claims
3) Jack Evernden (Physics Today) calculated 46 kilotons
4) P K Iyengar calculated LiD burn ratio an claimed 40 kilotons (20 fission + 20 fusion)
5) Wallace and other seismologists via CTBT monitoring stations are saying 5-25 kilotons

manoj joshi said...

Who said no one in the world will supply India with the tech? Who supplied Pakistan

Who is supplying India with long-range cruise missile technology via Brahmos ?

In the 1980s, everything in Russia's conventional arsenal was on offer. Even countries like South Yemen got SS-21 missiles. India did not, because it did not ask

Prithvi is cumbersome, tell me of another 1m diameter missile which needs three large trucks to go into battle and can be picked off at will

The Agni TD is DRDO's retrospective invention. Till the mid-1990s, it was claimed to be India's deterrent

Who told you DRDO's WLR is being used ?

No one said Lakshya was a cruise missile. But the knowledge gained in the project could have led to a domestic project.

Brahmos was not Kalam's initiative, tho junior Kalam aka Shivthanu Pillai ran the programme.

As for yields, I will come out with some more info on the tests in the coming week or so

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, how exactly does the author know all this - either (1) he is an Indian missile designer, or (2) he spoke with someone who claimed to be a missile designer.
If it is (1) then the author has committed treason and should be prosecuted to the fullest possible extent.
If it is (2) then one wonders who it is that has been feeding him information.

Sensitive strategic weapons development does not occur in the public domain, and information is allocated on a need-to-know basis.
This author does not need to know.
End of story.

So, why is he writing all this ? Is he also "bought-and-paid-for" like several other media hacks?

maverick said...

Dear Manoj,

The CORRTEX can only measure total yeild. It cannot give you the fusion-fission break up.

A CORRTEX can't "confirm" the fusion part "fizzled" unless you know the fusion-fission break up either from independent measurements or from knowledge of the design itself.

US CORRTEX measurements agree with other methods to within 30% and independent CORRTEX measurements were found to agree within a few percent. The discrepancy between CORRTEX estimates mitigated against its use in an international verification system.

There are also nontrivial site specific calibration issues - which incidentally also apply to accelerometry measurements. No blanket statements can be made about the accuracy of such techniques at Pokhran.

It is unclear if the close-in acceleration measurements failed due to "malfunction" or device miscalibration.

Yeild estimation (even of the atmospheric test variety) is a challenging physical problem because the accuracy and precision of the various estimation methods is not known a priori.

The best one can do in such cases - i.e. where one is swimming in a pool of complex physics and uncertain measurements with advanced instrumentation, is compare the relative precision of various methods and draw up an intersecting zone of estimates. Based on such an intersection zone - you can draw some rudimentary conclusions about the underlying physics and conduct simulations provided you have computational power.

You are a highly respected and experienced senior journalist but it is very difficult for non-technical people to appreciate the complexities in this field.

Anonymous said...

Manoj said:

who said DRDO's WLR is being used

Well guess, what the Army Brigadier in charge of the trials, this year at Delhi. Who said 28 WLRs have been ordered from the BHARAT ELECTRONICS based on the DRDO's Rajendra Radar, and the radar has been modified further for mountain use.

Your problem Manoj is you are ignorant, biased and quite frankly, lazy.

For all your contacts, you know nothing of the BEL/LRDE WLR and what the Army now wants of it compared to AN/TPQ-37 design which is decade old tech.

Your attack on Kalam is also stupid. Kalam could not ask for anything because he did not have the permission nor did he have the political backing. Of all comparable programs in the world, see MilTech analysis@1999, Prithvi was the cheapest giving India good interim battlefield support capability and nuke delivery platform. Today it will be replaced with next tech which DRDO/Indian industry have achieved with solid propulsion like Shourya MISSILE.

With all your contact, and sources, you write such junk.

manoj joshi said...

I am sure you are right on that. According to my source, it is the CORRTEX yield that indicated the fizzle. Of course, the big issue is what was the expected yield, but my sources are silent on that. But when Santhanam, the man on the spot says it was a fizzle, it means it was below the expected yield.
There is another source of information that I am now researching and will reveal soon.

Anon, I would appeal to you to observe the decencies of the debate. Hurling charges of treason doesn't help your case.
The reason I have some information is that I have covered the subject for the last 25 years, have unimpeachable sources, and have a bit of intelligence to learn a bit about the subject.
I have also been a member of the National Security Council Advisory Board, surely not a place where a treasonous character will be.

Anonymous said...

Manoj Joshi - I wil eagerly look forward to your "more information on yields". I have collected almost all the publicly available information on the subject- having followed it for 11 years. and I predict that you will be able to come up with nothing new other than un attributable or unprovable comments.

The establishment is not so dumb as to reveal information in public even if it is an utter failure as you allege.

Let me state something - there is a lot more complexity in the subject than you realise. You may well end up putting your foot in your mouth. That is easy to do in the subject of nuclear bombs and the way the yields are measured and who is interested in such things. I wish you luck and look forward to your new information

manoj joshi said...

Re wlr. Read the wikipedia entry on it. Clearly between Kargil and now, the only WLR in service are the 12 American systems we have imported. The 28 you speak of are now going to enter service since the order was placed last year.
Any claim that they, systems with a proven track record, are in cold storage, and an untried system is being fielded, itself points to the nature of the information.
I wish we had our own WLR, but the facts of the matter is that the DRDO let us down when we needed it. No point crowing about their "achievement" today.

Anonymous said...

With respect Manoj Joshi it appears to me that you are a complete novice when it comes to understanding the sorts of games that are played by supplier nations when it comes to defence equipment.

There is a lot of learning to be done sir. I am glad you are dabbling in this area. Any mistakes you make will be rapidly corrected by an increasingly knowledgeable and sophisticated bunch of defence enthusiasts on the net.

Note that one Indian defence forum actually has a long running thread to catch and point out errors made by self styled Indian defence journalists. Your name does not feature on it yet. But believe me you don't want your name there.

Avinash R said...

>>Anon, I would appeal to you to observe the decencies of the debate. Hurling charges of treason doesn't help your case.

I'm not the original Anon to whom your post refers to but let me make some things clear.

Manoj joshi the tone of your blog post is very inciteful.

You accuse scientists of lying, a serious charge.

You dont even have the basic decency to contact them and clarify things if you have misunderstood them.

You pile up accussations based on your ignorance of nuclear physics and the geo-politics.

You make sectarian comments like "R. Chidambaram got every Tambrahm bureaucrat’s dream — a life-time sinecure in the government." Again uncalled for and which only can be interpreted as an personal attack.

All this leads to the conclusions that you are NOT serious about the issues concerning the yield of the thermo-nuclear tests.

Your primary aim seems to be character assassination of leading scientists who are more educated than you.

>>Manoj Joshi : But they do not know that the fourth, the Prithvi, too, is of little value.

Spoken like a true idiot who does not know anything about missiles. Based on Prithvi, Dhanush was developed as a naval platform. Do you think the navy would be foolish to induct such a weapon system on it's ships if it was failure as you claim. Next time you make such claim, i suggest you think hard and make a good choice of words instead one's like failure.

And finally remember one thing. You reporters, editors or whatever you call yourself have this huge superiority complex.
You people dont research about the topic you write and when others point out your mistakes you are not man enough to accept them and learn from them.
We are NOT idiots to blindly fall for such lies passed on as "serious reporting on defence matters".

Avinash R said...

manoj joshi said...
Re wlr. Read the wikipedia entry on it.

So wikipedia is your source of information.

Silly me i thought you were in contact with some defence professional who was passing you some info.

Seriously dude you need to start doing your own research.

Wikipedia can be edited by anyone. I can make an edit on your wiki page which states "Manoj Joshi commutes to his office daily on his tricycle". :D Will you believe that too.

maverick said...

Dear Manoj,

Perhaps I was not very clear in my previous post. Please allow me to clarify this aspect of things.

The design yeild , the actual yeild and the measured yeild are three distinct quantities that may or may not have anything to do with each other. This applies regardless of what kind of test (underground, underwater or atmospheric) is conducted.

No one can say anything about the absolute accuracy of any method. No one can tell you how close the measured yeild (from CORRTEX, close in accelerometry, seismic body wave/surface wave, radiochemical etc...) is to the actual yeild. Only people directly involved in the design can tell you anything at all about the design yeild.

In any case regardless of the specific data - each measurement has an error associated with it, which if correctly propagated through the calculation - can provide an estimate of the error on the measured yeild .

Similarly you can simulate a design, and draw up an estimates of the design yeild.

After that you can compare the design yeild with error bars and compare it to the measured yeild with the understanding that the the measured yeild may **NOT** be the actual yeild.

Once you have the errors on the measurements - there are subtle philosophical differences that dictate the interpretation of the results.

In physics - a "one-sigma" error bar is reported. As long as systematic errors are accounted for - this "one-sigma" error is sufficient to provoke a relatively meaningful discussion of the underlying physical phenomena. A "one-sigma" error bar corresponds to a ~67% confidence in the measurement. This works well because neither the precision nor the accuracy of the tools is well established.

In engineering - particularly - high volume/mass production type work - people want a very low failure rate and they look for "3-sigma" errors i.e. >99% confidence in the measurement. This works well because the measurement tools are carefully calibrated and the precision of the tools is known/benchmarked to some industry standards.

What we are seeing in India - is this philosophical difference turn into a political debate on primacy over the public discourse on nuclear issues.

contd in my next post.

maverick said...


Presently, the only two nuclear *weapons* (not devices) that were successfully released on to a real target (fat man and little boy) did not conform to high confidence levels in terms of the yeild. Per public records, at least one of these weapons malfunctioned and detonated at the wrong height significantly increasing the damage it caused. Quite frankly when these weapons were released - a number of the quality control standards now used by engineers didn't exist at all. So the claims about their yeild are as good as anything we see in India so far.

In substance - only a physicist with decades of experience in interpretation of such results can comment with any authority on the convergence between measured yeild and design yeild. Similarly only a person with decades of experience manufacturing nuclear weapons can talk with authority about the implications of the error bars on the measured yeild on production of such devices or warheads. Any utterances in this regard will be highly context sensitive - eg. the implications for serial production will be distinct from the implications of larger volume production etc... You have to be very careful who you talk to about this stuff - it is difficult to separate speculation from known facts or deliberate disinformation.

The general practice in most nations is that all matters pertaining to the design yeild or details of the measured yeild are covered by the highest secrecy classifications possible. This is necessary to ensure that the knowledge required to build nuclear explosives does not fall into the wrong hands. Additionally - no one with a deep background in nuclear weapons manufacture is allowed to speak publicly at all.

Anyone with actual knowledge on this that is willing to discuss such things with you would be violating laws and inviting the harshest punishment imaginable in their country. You have written a great deal about counter intelligence aspects in your work and I am sure you know the extents to which Govt. of India will go to protect things should it desire to do so.

The only people who talk about this openly are the Non-Proliferation community which is predominantly interested in conducting some sort of psy-war campaign. It is impossible to separate their statements from their political objectives. As you have seen in the case of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the NP community's statements can vary significantly from reality.

As a veteran journalist you are also aware of the sorrow that awaits people who work with single source information. I welcome your efforts to seek alternative testimony - however I feel it may be worth your while to look up someone who can tell you something about measurements and their interpretation.

One name that pops to mind is my former roommate - Siddharth Joshi. I hear he has left Physics and now works in neuroscience, but he was a very good physicist when I knew him years ago and he may be able to help you get at the relatively simple high school level physics aspect that many commentators ignore.

Best Regards

manoj joshi said...

Wikipedia article on WLR has references, that is what I was referring to.
There are a handful of weapons designers in India, two of them, PK Iyengar and AN Prasad have spoken. So has Santhanam who was the field director for the test, who did the instrumentation etc. He had to have the relevant information.He too has spoken, though somewhat carefully so as not to run afoul of the law. I am not a physicist, but it is clear that you need several tests to get your weapon to perform as it does. This is the experience of the five nuclear haves, especially when it comes to the thermonuclear weapon. That is the essence of the present controversy-- there are some who believe we need more tests. I personally think it doesn't matter, we have a proven nuclear weapon design. Deterrence is more complex than the megatonnage of a weapon.

maverick said...

Dear Manoj,

I cannot comment on the role of Dr. Iyengar, Sri Santhanam and Dr. Prasad in the design of the Indian nuclear explosive devices.

Media reports from GoI sources suggest that neither was actually involved in the design and so they do not have knowledge of the design yeild . As director the site preparation, Sri. Santhanam may have some knowledge of the measured yeild but even he cannot make definitive statements about the accuracy of any of the methods used. No one can.

As I indicated in my earlier post - when you do not know the accuracy of the measurement methods - the only logical approach left in such a situation is to do what DAE has done. Overlay estimates from various measurements and see what zone of covergence develops given the precision of each method and compare that to the design yeild.

This should generate enough information for a physics discussion. A physicist will look at the error bars and say - we know the physics with atleast 67% confidence.

That is basically what the DAE people have said - they are comfortable with the level of agreement (i.e. convergence in confidence limits) between the measured and the design yeild and the information gathered is sufficient for them to do what they desire. All this is getting lost in the clutter caused by the sound bite culture.

This much information is not very comforting for an engineer who will say - 67% success only?! that means we have a 33% change of failure!

A weapon is much more than a nuclear explosive device.
Even if the physics of the device is well understood, the weapon can fail simply because of unrelated parasitic issues like vibration, chemical aging etc... Such issues have been reported to have significantly impacted the viability of the US nuclear deterrent.

In the lay press - people use the words "device" and "weapon" interchangeably. This is a bad idea where we are concerned.

It would be correct to say that India needs more tests to validate its *weapons* because we have never tested a *weapon* (weaponisable configurations perhaps - but no weapons). However whenever I have said that in front of the people in India, I have been met by a very stony silence.

I suspect the reason for that is that we have a recessed deterrent scheme and any talk of mating pits (explosive devices) with warheads from people in positions of apparent authority is extremely escalatory.

I am a physicist and I can understand how complicated even a "simple experiment" can be and I am a rational person - so I can understand the responsibility that the nuclear business carries. I don't know how to make nuclear explosives and franky I would prefer to keep it that way.

I am worried with the way this discussion initiated by Sri. Santhanam is proceeding. Too many nutcases are jumping on his statements and politicising them. There is too much loose talk in the public debate.

I am sure you know that in India any talk of a shift from the recessed deterrent will only come from the PM himself and no one else. But people are talking about things as if the shift has already happened. And everyone claims to have a deep "source".

In my limited understanding of the specifics of deterrence issues between India and Pakistan, the ensuing discussion is wandering into issues that are a little too close to the line.

If this keeps up I fear it will not go well and I worry that at least some people will find themselves digging a shallow ditch on the banks of the Jamuna.

Unknown said...

Hi Manoj ji

I have no issues with folks questioning and seeking clarification on the S-1 yield for after all Sri Sanathanam ,PK Iyengar et al must have their own reasons to air their views in open but from whatever info has been released by the GOI on this matter since POK-II tests its clearly evident that whatever needed to be de-classified has been published in open it makes little sense to nudge/poke the GOI or the test team to divulge more information on this subject.

And now that people have cast a doubt in the minds of the common man and media too has given this issue a lot of hype no amount of clarification is gonna satisfy the folks who have raised this issue infact most of the concerned people want more TESTS, which in my humble opinion are simply not an option specially in the wake of recently concluded Indo-US nuclear deal and the NSG clearance.

It would perhaps make more sense to debate and discuss about India's stance on the CTBT and expediting the building of reactors under the recently concluded deal between the suppliers and India.I am more concerned about India's take on the ratification of the CTBT something which shall acquire center stage inthe near future a far as Indo-US talks are concerned.

And yes I did not like the way you like other defense journos shot off a tangent and actually tried to club Sri Sanathanam's remarks along with the DRDO's programmes which are completely unrelated.

Infact I would say this is a classic case of a personal attack in absence of facts and info on the 'ostensible' topic under discussion i.e. "YIELD of S-1 ".
I fail to understand what does IGMDP and APJ Kalam has to do with this ruckus ?

-- Naveen Negi

Unknown said...

Now that IGMDP issue has been brought up following is my take:

It is very easy for some one to actually google up check up latest specs of M-51 or MX series of ICBMs or any other missile for that matter and then draw comparisons with Prithvi and make a comment "yew liquid fuel > not portable > cumbersome > non reliable etc etc.

However if you look at the same missile from a different pov.

1. Liquid fueled > more complex > competency in high pressure pumps > high ISP > low CEP (throttle controlled) > choice of wide array of propellants

Last and most importantly mastery of the liquid propulsion system achieves a "Double Kill with a single stone" ; i.e. a proof of concept for both Space as well as Military applications.

Having taken the first step in the fields of rocketry the next logical step was to go for solid propulsion systems and Agni and Shourya are culmination of the same and all this under a strict control of dual use items by the developed world.

-- Naveen Negi

Anonymous said...

Most people do not know (or forget) that the US and USSR started with atmospheric tests of fission bombs in the 1950s and both nations "graduated" to high megaton atmospheric tests of so called "hydrogen bombs" with more destructive power. This is where China entered the bus.

Because these tests were so polluting an unsuccessful effort was made to make "clean" hydrogen bombs - but they became too big for practical use. That is when underground testing was started. Once underground testing was started the fallout pollution factor became irrelevant and nations went back to testing dirty compact warheads that were small and could be mounted on small missiles that are difficult to detect and are mobile. Modern warheads in the West are small and the old multi-megaton warheads are out of favor. And even the existing warheads get most of their yield (perhaps 70-80%) from fission and only a small proportion of the yield is from fusion ("hydrogen bomb").

This is open source, fully public information but it requires hours of reading. Anyone who wants to comment on this issue needs to put in those hours of reading or he will end up suffering from foot-in-mouth disease. Whipping up emotions and character assassination is one thing, but if you play dirty others will play dirty with you.

manoj joshi said...

Naveen, Kalam came into the picture because he certified the nuclear test as a success even as his man on the spot, the expert in the field, questioned it.
Re liquid. If you have nothing, I agree that that is the way to go as N Korea has done and Pak did with Ghauri.
But in the 1980s, any variety of missiles were available off the shelf from the former USSR for reverse engineering as in the case of the Brahmos now.
Further we had the proven SLV-3, I have personally had a conversation with Kalam when he insisted it could not be converted into a missile. Yet later on that was the path that was followed.
The cumbersome is important because the need of two
large trucks that must accompany a Prithvi launcher into battle. These make the missile
relatively easily loctable.

Cybersug, you are right. But there is one consideration. INdia has promised No First Use. So our arsenal must sustain first strike and then retaliate. We have a small arsenal, and we must assume that the adversary knocks out a substantial portion of it in his first strike. So the retaliatory strikes have to be big city-busters.
This is the logic as I see it for the need to have a reliable hydrogen bomb with 200-500kT power.

Unknown said...

Manoj ji

Kalam came into the picture because he certified the nuclear test as a success even as his man on the spot, the expert in the field, questioned it.

Who is this man on the spot ? When did he publicly question the *SUCCESS* ?

I believe Sri Sanathanam has questioned the *MEASURED YIELD* , and yes I am not even talking about the designed/actual YIELD.

For an arguments sake 'SUCCESS' is an abstract word in this context it is for the 'TEST TEAM' to quantify ,verify and qualify.

Now Dr. Kalam was the Chief Scientific Advisor during 92-99 and it is imperative that in his capacity he knew only what he was supposed to i.e. the 'END RESULT' which was to be quantified and communicated to him by the 'DESIGN TEAM' and Dr. Kalam was not in the 'DESIGN TEAM'.

He did not 'CERTIFY' he merely made a declaration based on inputs from the actual people who designed,set up and carried out these TESTS.

Regarding the IGMDP , you did not clarify as to how is the success of IGMDP related to the topic at hand ? i.e. Success of S-1 \.

Anyways coming to SLV-3 and its *conversion* to a missile well it is a no brainier that it is more about keeping our Civilian Space R&D separate from the Military programme which NPAs and other arms control freaks have been loosing sleep over.

Prithvi and its utility should be
discussed keeping in mind during the time period and circumstances under which it was developed .Unlike an ICBM meant to carry a nuke payload which can do with a CEP of couple of couple of km or several hundred meters PRITHVI was a short range tactical ballistic missile meant for carrying conventional warhead this meant a very low CEP had to be achieved and a liquid propulsion was a logical way forward for a country designing its first ballistic missile.

Regarding our arms acquisition programme ofcourse it is nothing to write home about , but why blame DRDO or Kalam ? This is something peace loving Nehruvian Governments until 90's should take blame for.

- Naveen Negi

maverick said...

Hello Manoj,

I think the words "No First Use" have a context sensitive definition.

They mean something completely different in a recessed deterrent context and in the context of a ready arsenal.

In the context of an openly displayed ready arsenal, the NFU pledge takes on a clear credible meaning. This is because the power making the pledge has a clearly demonstrated capability to guarentee second strike.

In a recessed deterrent, as the power does not have a clearly demonstrated arsenal, its pledge of "No First Use" can only be interpreted as a rhetorical device.

As the power cannot guarentee that any of its explosives will work when mated to a warhead or delivery system, the words "No First Use" are simply used to signal intentions to *not* use carry out a strike right *now*. Any suggestion that the power is abandoning its "No First Use" stance is an extremely escalatory step.

Neither India nor Pakistan have a ready arsenal. India has never tested a full up weapon. Pakistan claims to have weaponised explosive devices from international sources - however no Pakistani can guarentee that the imported or indigenous devices will actually work when mated with a delivery system.

In this situation Pakistan's pledge of "first use if red lines are crossed" and India's pledge of "No First Use" are equally credible/incredible. In an escalation both sides have equal incentive to launch a strike because that is the only way to guarentee that they come out on top in a nuclear conflict.

Underground tests cannot validate a 100kT thermonuclear *weapon*. A warhead of similar yeild or a n explosive device of such yeild may be tested underground at a fraction of the total yeild, but no claims can be made of the viability of such a warhead once it is mated with a delivery system.

Only an overground full up military effects test will shed light on the viability of a weapon of this nature.

Without such a test any attempt to stretch the "No First Use" phrase from its meaning in a recessed deterrent to the meaning in the context of a ready arsenal will fall flat on its face.

In order to carry out such a test - India will have leave the LTBT in accordance with the withdrawl clause and bear the attendant costs. If India signs the CTBT, it can withdraw from the same with no additional costs.

This notion that the CTBT will limit India from validating its thermonuclear *weapons* does not hold water.

manoj joshi said...

I think we have had an interesting debate. I would like to close comments at this stage. When the article I have promised comes out, we could resume. Thanks for all the comments I have learnt a great deal.

Anonymous said...

Manoj wrote: "So the retaliatory strikes have to be big ity-busters.This is the logic as I see it for the need to have a reliable hydrogen bomb with 200-500kT power."

It is important not to be taken in by the romance of the big city buster for a simple reason.

Explosions always spread their energy across the volume of a sphere (i.e. up, down and to the sides), while cities occupy two dimensional flat areas.

What this means is that a 1 megaton bomb which has 50 times the destructive potential of a 20 kiloton bomb will affect an area that is only 16 times as big as that affected by a 20 kt burst and not 50 times as big. The larger your bomb - the bigger the waste of explosive power into the atmosphere.

There is a more mundane and cruel reason for advocating three or four 20 or 50 kiloton hits on a city rather than one 500 kt hit. Nuclear retaliation is all about causing suffering and misery.

What is needed is the ability to inflict massive suffering. Injuring large numbers of people and making them run for help which they will not get - and letting them die slowly over days or weeks is far more effective in extracting revenge than mercifully killing off everyone. This is because live people will demand action from their leadership to save them. Live but injured people without hope will exert a far greater effect on the morale of enemy fighting forces. If people are dead and the leadership survives - the leadership has less of a burden. It is dealing with 25 million people with horrific burns and radiation sickness along with 5 million rotting dead bodies that is true suffering rather than the uniform death of total decimation. For this, you do not need such big bombs, but you need larger numbers of smaller, dirtier bombs and delivery vehicles.

Ideally we must test all these weapons, but in the absence of testing due to geopolitical reasons we are better off aiming 5 warheads at every city with the assumption that at least 3 will explode as planned. Assuming retaliation on 25 cities, and 30% destruction of our own missiles we will need about 200 warheads of medium yield (50 to 80 kt)

Just my thoughts

soldier said...

How truly you have taken on this 'Holy Cow' called DRDO. In fact they are largely responsible for all the soldiers who have laid down their lives for want of better weapons and equipment. Dr Kalam & his Co had been stonewalling all the latest defence acquisitions.Few years back Indian Express had published series on inefficiency of DRDO. These people rather than making something worthwhile have been enjoying on unaudited money of exchequer amounting to thousands of crores. Wish more people come up to expose such figures.