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India has 80 to 100 nuclear warheads: US experts

Last updated on: July 24, 2012 12:59 IST

Image: The launch of Agni V
Photographs: PIB Photo Lalit K Jha in Washington

India is not converting all its weapons-grade plutonium into war heads, two top American nuclear scientists have claimed, estimating that it currently has 80 to 100 nuclear warheads for its emerging triad of air, land, and sea-based nuclear-capable delivery vehicles.

India is estimated to have produced approximately 520 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium, sufficient for 100 to 130 atomic warheads; however, not all of the material has been converted into warheads, Director of the Nuclear Information Project Hans Kristensen and senior fellow for Nuclear Policy Robert S Norris wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Based on available information, Kristensen and Norris estimate that India currently has 80 to 100 nuclear warheads for its emerging Triad of air, land, and sea-based nuclear-capable delivery vehicles.

"It will need more warheads to arm the new missiles it is currently developing," they claimed.

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India has 80 to 100 nuclear warheads: US experts

Image: A modified Prithvi missile, simulating the enemy target, is launched
Photographs: Reuters

"In addition to the Dhruva plutonium production reactor near Mumbai, India plans to construct a second reactor near Visakhapatnam, on the east coast.

India is building an unsafeguarded prototype fast-breeder reactor at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research near Kalpakkam, which will significantly increase India's plutonium production capacity once it becomes operational," they wrote.

They said India's drive to develop a nuclear triad proceeds apace, with New Delhi developing or deploying several weapon systems to realize its goal of achieving offensive nuclear forces on land, at sea, and in the air.

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India has 80 to 100 nuclear warheads: US experts

Image: Pakistan's Hatf-IV-Shaheen-1A missile
Photographs: Courtesy: ISPR

"India took a significant step forward with the successful test-launch of the Agni V ballistic missile on April 19, 2012. With a range reportedly greater than 5,000 kilometers, the Agni V can reach any target in China; however, the missile needs more testing and is still several years away from operational deployment," they said.

Nevertheless, the Agni V introduces a new dynamic to the already complex triangular security relationship among India, Pakistan, and China; a week after India's April test- launch, Pakistan (somewhat predictably) responded by test-firing its nuclear capable Shaheen-1A medium-range ballistic missile.

Tags: India , China , Pakistan , US

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