India Gains Ability to Shoot Down Incoming Missiles

India successfully tested an interceptor missile on March 1. The Defense Research and Development Organization launched the interceptor missile from Chandipur, a town in the east coast state of Odisha. The target missile flew across the Bay of Bengal. The interceptor missile succeeded in destroying the target missile over the ocean. Prithvi_Missile

The success of this test brings India closer to its goal of having a fully operational ballistic missile defense system. This test was the second in a series of two launches, conducted by the Defense Research and Development Organization. The test on March 1 examined the system’s capability to respond to an endo-atmospheric threat, while the test conducted on February 11 tested exo-atmospheric capabilities. The exo-atmospheric test was also a success.

The combination of these two successful tests demonstrates India’s ability to respond to incoming missile attacks with a wide range of altitudes. The Defense Research and Development Organization hopes to to be able to fully deploy a ballistic missile defense system shield in India by 2022. Efforts to create a two-part interceptor missile system began in the late 1990s.

South Asia is a region where the threat of nuclear weapons continues to be an imminent concern for political and military leaders. Pakistan and India, states which have gone to war with one another numerous times, have comparable nuclear arsenals. Politicians from both sides have used nuclear weapons as a threat against each other, for instance when the Pakistani defense minister threatened to annihilate India if Pakistan’s safety was threatened.

If India were to deploy a functioning ballistic missile defense system, it would render Pakistani nuclear weapons significantly less useful foreign policy tools. This would alter the balance of power on the subcontinent dramatically in India’s favor, and such a change in the status quo could hold the potential to spark renewed hostilities.