With the unique demonstration by test-firing Brahmos from Su30MKI aircraft, India has started its unique baby steps towards indicating what I called Conventional Prompt Regional Strike (CPRS) Capability. Can IAF consider these and perhaps other options for creating a system for conventional prompt regional strike (CPRS)? Even to contemplate this shift, IAF and DRDO will have to work together – can they work to build a new type of force? These were the questions in my 2015 article IAF in the age of Unmanned, Hyper-sonic, Intelligent, Stealthy, and CPGS world.
Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) – The US Conceptualization
I noted in my article, “The CPGS is an unprecedented capability. As envisaged and being developed through integration of “extreme” limits of technologies – a vision that will give the sole superpower capability beyond anything any adversary can deploy in near future.” Since early 2000, USA has been developing the Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) capability. Note the conventional and prompt adjectives along with global in the acronym CGPS. Further, Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) augmenting the nuclear armed Ballistic missiles is in-fact a “usable” option as compared to “just threat” but “non-usable” option of nukes. The problem of course was when these missiles or manifested capabilities are in flight – how to let the adversary know that the missile that it is about to be hit by and visible on its satellite signals receiving stations, is carrying a conventional warhead and not a nuke? By increasing the speeds to hypersonic levels, the reaction time for adversary can be made close to zero. Thus, hypersonic weapons are already seeing an unprecedented arms race – the Mach 5 Arms Race.
In nutshell, CPGS is a capability for US Armed forces to hit targets across the world within an hour. This will allow US to attack key targets at the start of or during a conflict. For example, key decision makers before they can take shelter and prolong an impending war.
Conventional Prompt Regional Strike (CPRS) – initiated by Brahmos on Su30
India should work towards a Conventional Prompt Regional Strike (CPRS) capability. US has many options for CPGS such as land based ballistic missiles, submarine launched ballistic missiles, submarine launched intermediate range Ballistic missiles, Long range bombers, Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, Hypersonic cruise missiles, Scramjet technologies, and Forward based Global strike forces.
Brahmos test-firing from Su30 with supersonic speed of the missile gives us an unprecedented capability to hit quickly at specific large-enough and even hardened targets at a distance with sufficient accuracy and lethality to destroy the target using only conventional warhead. Brahmos II with a potential range extension and also a potential hypersonic future version should enhance this capability.
India should strategically take-up to evaluate alternative structures for Indian Armed forces in general to achieve a Conventional Precision Strike capability at least in the regional scenario of say 5000 Km from the borders of India. The evaluation should focus on defining and developing means and mechanisms to deliver conventional strike in a prompt manner.
Why India should develop CPRS capability?
There are specific reasons for India to develop this capability with high priority
• US CPGS capability development has already seen a march towards conventionally armed hypersonic missiles/weapons – with China and Russia also aggressively developing hypersonic and counter hypersonic capabilities – for example, S-500, the Russian air defence system under development will have anti-hypersonic capability
• Conventional Hypersonic Weapons due to their prompt first strike capability with precision, in fact, will lead to major crisis instability in nuclear deterrence stability scenarios.
• There are already talks about Hypersonic Weapons Control regime emerging between the “hypersonic” haves – US, China, Russia and perhaps other powers.
• Given the past – missiles and nukes proliferation, it is just a matter of time when these capabilities reach our western neighbor. It will be more prudent for India to have this ability for overall stability of the region
• The deterrence value of Bramhmos on Su30 – for conducting “quick surgical strikes” within few hours of any cross-border terror attack on India is a much stronger deterrence in the Hybrid war unleashed on India.
The CPRS system should be the strategic goal for India. Whether it should be based solely on Brahmos need to be evaluated in details. In the light of the rapid technological changes taking place and changing nature of arms capabilities, India not only need to develop conventional capabilities but also need to develop unique capabilities – as demonstrated in the Brahmos firing Su30 aircraft. However, we need to poll the future deeper to construct capabilities that will secure us from increasingly complex threats in the form of emerging military technological systems and operational capabilities.