Rafales, India’s secret nuclear weapons city(?)

There’s little left to say which’s not already been said. So we await the signing at the MOD tomorrow (Aug 23) in the presence of the Indian and French defence ministers Manohar Parrikar and Jean Yves le Drian respectively of the 7.9 billion Euro deal for the French Rafale fighter aircraft along with the full ordnance loads of unproved (in real live battle conditions against, not Libya for God’s sake, but a proficient foe) “smart” missiles and stuff, such as the Meteor AAM.

Much is made by the Modi government about saving 750 million Euros. Considering the deal for 36 Rafales will cost upward of US$ 30 billion eventually, when the final bill is totted up, this “saving” is small change, and one the French, having finally succeeded in baiting and reeling in India, can well afford. This manifestly bad deal will only reinforce India’s reputation as a country with government displaying little strategic sense but with a spendthrift’s way with the hard-earned Indian people’s monies where military hardware is concerned — an attitude arms peddlers and supplier states rejoice in.

So, let’s take our mind off this vexatious topic and on to another equally important one relating to the partly underground “vertically integrated” secret nuclear weapons “city” — such as the Russian Arazmas 16 complex, revolving around new, more numerous, centrifuge cascades to enrich uranium to bomb grade for weapons and as fuel for the Indian SSBNs, being built in hinterland Karnataka. Al-Jazeera is hardly a disinterested TV company, being Arab-owned. But it is the first to air a programme on this subject, albeit with the familiar tilts. This programme on ‘India’s Top Secret Nuclear City’ was broadcast August 31, 2016, and is accessible on youtube.com at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTF0tuGEup4.

Whether this N-weapons complex will be used for genuine strategic impact in terms of designing advanced thermonuclear weapons with various yield-to-weight ratios, including very high yield weapons, and experimenting with developing miniaturized fifth-generation clean fusion armaments will, however, remain a matter of hope, prayer, and speculation. But what chances of this last with the generic “government’ in New Delhi institutionally unwilling to risk resumption of nuclear explosive testing because devoid of strategic sensibility?

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, Defence Industry, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Air Force, Indian ecobomic situation, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, nonproliferation, nuclear industry, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, South Asia, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Weapons, Western militaries. Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Rafales, India’s secret nuclear weapons city(?)

  1. One will write a bahi khata of what PM Modi’s personal diplomacy and chemistry has gained/cost India. MEA/IFS needs to study from history and train it’s officers on how to brief political leaders on risks and gains of such a ‘diplomacy’. I am surprised few questions are being asked on price escalation in recent purchases of M777 and now Rafale.

    I think it was Stephen Cohen who had a view that Indian diplomacy is about and centers around arms purchases.

  2. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    What would our PM say to USA if he actually ends up with a miniaturized fifth-generation clean fusion armament. Last time they pointed finger at China and then went on to sell out the 4th Gen Nuclear capability.

    I will be happy if BARC et al does well in merely the 3rd Gen. FBF and mate the FBF to the Arihant. An FBF in small sizes with reasonable yield is possible about 1 Kt per 2 Kg for upto 100 Kt. Which should be enough for Pakis once their Plutonium systems come online. My guess is that Pakis will rely on large number of SRBM, IRBM and GLCM instead of going in for a full fledged SSBN.

    • Shaurya says:

      Why do you think Pakis have not embarked on an FBF design? They have had an advance Pu program right from the start. The designs that AQ Khan was peddling were Chinese Pu designs. Since 2004, they have been processing non-safeguarded Pu reprocessing plants, courtesy of PRC.

      Also, putting 2+2 together, I think the yields from a deliverable FBF on our ballistic missiles can scale to about 200 KT.

      Also, on another point of note. Even we have not really tested an FBF “weapon”.

  3. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    @Shaurya – Re. “Why do you think Pakis have not embarked on an FBF design?”

    I don’t doubt that Pakis have FBF designs weaponized already. That is why they need those smaller cruise missiles. In fact I would counter &^%$#@! when he says “hypothetical scale-up’s of NW yields are meaningless”. The scaling up is not possible with TN weapons because they work differently. But with FBF, the most important parts are pretty much the same as FatMan. So anybody who has access to FatMan level of technology would be a fool not to scale it upto high yield FBF. And the FatMan level of technology is basically available to everybody in the world – which is why NPT was needed for everybody. The computing powers available at that time were several orders of magnitude smaller than even the personal computer we are using. Which is why I also believe that the least that BARC should be able to do, is mate an FBF to an Arihant. A capability level that that Admiral Arun Prakash, kind of people are very satisfied with.

    Also I mentioned 100 Kt because it is nearer to the point where distinction between TN and FBF yields in militarily usable forms do not seem as debilitating. Off course this will hold good for Pakis too. I fully expect both Pakis and Indian strategic forces to be similarly armed. Something that our own establishment needs, in order to affirm their subsidiary status with Americans.

  4. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Oh I think you reached that conclusion perhaps because I wrote – Which should be enough for Pakis once their Plutonium systems come online.

    As I see it, Pu designs do not give any special benefits in the business end of nuclear armament. This yearning for Pu designs harks back to a period when people thought why not use Pu to become smaller. That particular need is not so great today. But people still would like to have it because Pu designs open up the possibility of understanding Physics of the more difficult kind which will ultimately allow you to use dirty stuff in your bombs and ‘beat forever’ the NPT denials. There are belief systems within belief systems within belief systems. As for Paki Pu capability I don’t think they really need that to put these stupid Sanghis and Bhajapayee in place. Uranium bombs appropriately made, which is within Paki capability even without Chinese help, are actually better from all usability perspectives.

  5. raja says:

    russia should arm pakistan with SU35. Even a debilitating defeat with china or pakistan india will not change its ways because india is a funny country. The sums involved are massive.we are losing russia, war equipment should be cheap to produce and at high rate. LCAs are not coming fast. pakistan always maintains armed forces at high readiness. our RM being an engineer and a straight talking person should have rejected the deal or should have resigned in protest. because war is the ultimate manifestation of politics. there should not be any blunders in decision making concering military equipments. our exports are tanking, we rely on selling debt to get dollars drumming up the india growth story. we will be surely punished for our blunders.

  6. Rahul(Kol) says:

    Finally it is signed!!!… I can understand that smoke is coming out from many quarters, the so called “war experts” because after so much negative publicity with unknown, deliberate untrue facts has yielded a BIG ZERO at the end. Well, as per all media reports today, a Rafale in flyaway condition has a price of only 100 million, because the “vanila” price of 36 comes as 3.82 billion. The rest of the money is used in making it India specific as demanded by IAF, like integrating Israeli HMD’s, maintenance for the whole lifecycle and spare parts supply for first 7 years so that operational availaibiliy never drops below 75% etc etc. A 100 million for such an advanced fighter which can gobble up a FGFA like a mosquito on a December night is not much money to pay. Stating the untrue that it is so costly does not cut any ice anymore. Comparing this cost of Rafale with flyaway cost of Su 30 MKI smacks of vested interests.

    The only comfort which these naysayers can take from is they will think that they have been able to reduce the buy from 200 to 54 planes…Dudes, this is just the beginning, “agey agey dekho hota hai kya”…Reserve some smoke for future also…”Charo taraf se dhuan nikal raha hain”…

  7. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    WT#$#, now we will never have LCA in numbers and AMCA will again face the same troubles that LCA faced.

    When Parrikar offered 12 billion USD for LCA line, to private sector, without making any changes in the IAF line up of management, the private sector dropped it. Private sector investors would have paid top dollars for consultancy and they knew it was only a sham to hoodwink the country.

    Now Modi will sell the Fake in India to make F-16s and F-18s. Nearly 55 year old designs. Rafale itself is 20 years old.

    I guess we can get may be 40-60 LCAs now at the most (May be, just may be, 120 if the more optimists among you insist). Even Marut had a larger number of 147 despite the Indian armed forces having a smaller number of aircrafts than today. I won’t be surprised at all if SOP-18, which some had hoped would give LCA Mk-1A, itself is only a farce to con the country into F-18s etc.

    Just the cost of replacing French parts with Israeli parts to satisfy the IAF management is going to cost us more than 77 LCAs considered @45 million USD a piece.

    The contract is signed in Pitru Paksha or Shraadh period when people do not even shave. The people who signed the deal that has killed Indian R&D will have to answer to these Pitrus – Ok just an attempt at dark humour……….or……… was it……..ok ok it was :D.

    • Just the cost of replacing French parts with Israeli parts to satisfy the IAF management is going to cost us more than 77 LCAs considered @45 million USD a piece.

      The contract is signed in Pitru Paksha or Shraadh period when people do not even shave. The people who signed the deal that has killed Indian R&D will have to answer to these Pitrus – Ok just an attempt at dark humour……….or……… was it……..ok ok it was😀.

      सही कहा।

  8. andy says:

    Robert Kelley, who served as the director of the Iraq Action Team at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told after analyzing the available satellite imagery, as well as studying open source material on both sites that India is pursuing a larger thermonuclear arsenal. Its development, he warned, “will inevitably usher in a new nuclear arms race” in a volatile region. He concluded that at the second site, the government could install up to 1,050 of these new hyper-efficient machines, which, together with about 700 older centrifuges, could complete 42,000 SWUs a year — enough, he said, to make roughly 403 pounds of weapons-grade uranium. A new hydrogen bomb, with an explosive force exceeding 100,000 tons of TNT, requires only between roughly 9 and 15 pounds of enriched uranium.”

    Does this mean that India is going to resume nuclear testing?

  9. &^%$#@! says:

    This is a brief Youtube clip on Modi’s bizarre and servile behavior during the recently concluded G-20 summit:

    First, one may note that throughout the clip, he is visibly ill at ease. Next, and most shameful is that he lingers on like a peon till most of the gathering departs, with the sole purpose of being seen having a few words with Obama (who comes across as being quite disinterested). Finally, is his unspeakable conduct of disrupting Obama’s interaction with other leaders. This does not come across as what one would usually classify as normal behavior.

    • That’s PM Modi’s personal diplomacy at play. Hand shake is not enough bear hug is needed. He wants to strike a conversation with his friend Obama and is waiting. I don’t think he disrupted Obama greeting others though. He waited patiently. He was stuck between multiple handshakes but did not disrupt.

      Does Obama sees Modi in same light? Not sure. We confuse western shishtachar with some deeper empathy. Perhaps their shishachar exists to be removed when they want to signal displeasure not because they are going to give up self-interest.

      Our leaders should keep in mind they have nothing to give since nothing belongs to them and keep all personal ego at bay. PM Modi talks of seva and service in his speaches so I am not inclined to say he does not have seva in mind. Does he believe personal chemistry and personal shishtachar will achieve India’s interests? He does want India to tilt towards USA and wanted to build personal rapport with Obama. Our MEA should have alerted him that Obama was already on his way out for a long time; now he is gone in 2 months. Some opinion pieces in media were arguing to make the best of this Obama administration since inclination of next is uncertain. Or is it that the present Obama administration wants to get the most done while PM Modi is more likely to rely on his personal chemistry.

      Is he taking gift baskets and relying on chemistry too much? What view do Indian professional diplomats hold? Will a shock or two be on cards?

      • &^%$#@! says:

        Whether you call his hyper-eagerness to have a word with Obama towards the end of the clip disruption, is a matter of opinion. What does Modi have to show for all his “personal diplomacy & chemistry”? ZILCH! India cannot even directly and thoroughly interrogate Headley, and thats only for starters

    • MS says:

      I saw this twice. Humans speak a lot from their body language. I had looked for a Putin and Modi handshake at G20 which I did not see.

      I am not expecting a knee jerk response from Russia, with clear our growing tilt towards America becoming clear to all, because it does not harm Russia from selling tactical weapons to India which everybody including is doing.

  10. This appeared on The Sunday Guardian today.

    Finally someone openly drawing this link in print media. From 1990 explosion in China to 2016 in North Korea. Pakistan using external testing to avoid embarrassing western allies who I am sure fully are aware of this possibility.

    It appears there is some sympathy for Pakistan amongst its allies that it needs to nuclearize to keep Indian Military ineffectual hence this is justified.

    ‘most governments are chary of publicly naming and presumably shaming the military establishment in Pakistan for its drive to weaponise the country’s nuclear deterrent’

    Clearly there is unlikely to be any substantial response to Uri attack by India and the lives of its civilians and soldiers will continue to be treated cheaply as ‘balidaan’ in its definition of ‘human sacrifice’ by its leadership.

  11. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:


    It is ok if some leaders are ill at ease with the American president. Leaders are also expected to beg for their people when they have to. Problem arises when they begin to love that begging and begging is the only geo-strategic input by a leader.

    Indira too had to beg, her’s and India’s enemies, for food but at least she hated it. That speaks much about what the priorities should be for a leader. Eventually she continued on the path that took away food as a basis of blackmailing India. PVNR ensured that Nuke blackmail too would ot work against India. Today only economic blackmail remains and may be a few other types.

    No wonder Indira chased these Sanghis into the Jails in 1977. In 1975 Mujib was killed on Indian Independence Day by the same coterie who ensured the genocide of Hindus. And these idiots – Sanghis and Morarjee and Jagjivan were raising the cry for ‘democracy’ during that time culminating in 1977. Jagjivan died hoping to outlive Morarjee. Morarjee died in the country he wanted to. Morarjee’s grandson is some chota mota neta in Bhajappa today. Modi never fails to mention his fellow gujju. The man who sold Indian economy to the Americans during 1960s itself, by his 2 consecutive Gold Control Acts of 1962 and 1968. This ensured that the economy that accounted for 5% of world GDP, even at the time of the Britishers leaving these lands was reduced to just 2% in 1970s and eventually just 0.5%. Comparatively the Islamist kings took >800 years to reduce the economy to half its size. Britishers took >150 years to reduce it to a third of its size. But Morarjee who presented 10 budgets took just about 25 years to reduce it from 5% of world GDP to just 2% ultimately falling to just 0.5% under the effect of western sanctions right upto late 1980s. Today again this same cabal is after Indian Gold despite the fact that Indians have traditionally saved in gold whenever the rulers in Delhi subverted economic policies to benefit their masters overseas.

    The less said about Modi and his bunch of baboos the better.

    • andy says:

      Yea and the bogey being used is that gold is a dead investment ,doesn’t bring any returns.Value of gold in 2016 is approximately 5 times more than its value in 1990,so what’s dead about this?Such an appreciation is pretty decent,all things considered.With around 26000 tonnes of gold held by individuals and Temples valued around $1.5 trillion(GOI holds around 558 tonnes)it’s no wonder GOI is eying this privately held gold.

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        @Andy actually even I don’t agree that gold is an investment instrument, you have yourself and your countrymen for that purpose. I don’t treat gold even as an inflation hedge, something it has done a lot during normal times. Not that I deny these usages to others. They may be living in different circumstances.

        Gold is essentially a crisis hedge and everybody is going to face a crisis in his family if not in this generation then in the next. Only a matter of time and certain as time itself. In countries like India where the economic policies have been kept against local enterprise, the people of this country have replied with their monies about the true worth of these economic policies.

        We also have a lot of inventory in gold trade. Perhaps our trade inventory would be the biggest in the world but that is because we are the biggest consumer, donors, traders and workers of gold. Its traditional and its business.

        Notice how Temple Gold is sought to be stigmatized and household gold is sought to be taxed but RBI under these american trained governors is saying they will stock more gold and the Chinese have started increasing their gold reserves in a strategic manner and Russians are converting all their excess Oil earnings immediately into gold. These plants in Indian economic system have stated their needs. It is for the people of this country to state upfront their own, otherwise these people will rob them in broad daylight.

        Gold, whether people agree to or not, stands in the books of every reserve bank. While RBI has 558 tonnes, the US fed reserve is like 8000 tonnes (a claim but never seen). US peak stocks went upto 21 tonnes in 50s and thereafter their stocks have only fallen. And today it is only a claim that they stock 8000 tonnes. And despite this selling the gold historically reacted strangely.

        And the world has realized that merely printing a hyper advertized stupid face on a piece of paper and writing thereon that the bearer has right to that much worth of value is only an accounting instrument not an investment/inflation hedge/crisis hedge instrument.

        See the uptick in the world gold reserves. The fake confidence is already dying and will at some undeniable by indeterminate future die.

        Countries have realized not holding gold is crazy. Today countries like US plan to hold even German gold for as long as may be. Only in India do governments try to sell temple and household gold to pump prim the dying parts of the economy. The problem starts when Hinduon Ka Massiha is going to ask for gold and not deliver on any of his big talk.

      • andy says:

        Gold may be a crisis hedge,but do you have any problem If it appreciates in value over time making it even more well ,valuable.The vast majority of Indians use gold as a status symbol as well as a tool for showing off opulence.Even the poorest of poor have some gold know as stree dhan in common parlance.Gold is mostly brought because the ignorant people do not have the means or exposure to various other instruments like bank deposits, mutual funds etc,but even so it’s not a losing proposition to buy gold ,given the volatility of market instruments,not that one is heavily invested in gold.Over the ages it’s proven to be safe bet,whatever be the situation.One thing is certain, it’s never going to be junk as some currencies might turn out to be and it also has worldwide acceptance Gold is gold irrespective of whether you are in India,USA or even Timbuktu for that matter.It’s part of India’s ancient heritage to have gold, as it is the symbolism for laxmi(goddess of wealth)Hasn’t been a losing proposition for Indians thus far.

  12. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:


    You are right it would be foolish to believe the north korean route to testing is not open to Pakistan. And the Thermo-nukes should be counted as Paki inventory. Since our own Thermo-nukes are either doubtful (being untested) or non-existent and given that we have signed into vassal status of LEMOA, it would be wise to at least find some point where we can begin to count our inventory.

    FBF is what we have without doubt and LEMOA our new vassal status thanks to NDA and UPA since 1998. Unless these are counted as facts to live with, there can be no movement forward even for us.

    • &^%$#@! says:

      There is hard evidence that the NoKo tests have been and will be NoKo-Pak tests. India’s FBF capability is at best tenuous. A supposedly successful low yield primary in an overall failed TN test does not give any encouragement in terms of scale-up. Also, India lacks a dual axis radiographic hydrodynamic test facility. BTW, Pakistan is allegedly putting the finishing touches to its facility in the vicinity of Chaklala.

  13. andy says:

    A refreshingly different narrative by surprise, surprise an American expert on South Asia C.Christine Fair ,this lady sure knows the ground realities of Pakistan’s perfidy and how their false narrative of UNSC resolutions and terror proxies being ‘freedom fighters’ works!India needs more such experts to step up and state the truth about Pakistan!

    See more:

  14. MS says:

    Now that the deals are done and tested, what can one comment. The best comment will be what you wrote in question form: “But what chances of this last with the generic “government’ in New Delhi institutionally unwilling to risk resumption of nuclear explosive testing because devoid of strategic sensibility?”

    You have turned and thought fresh and given a brilliant suggestion to offer the technology embedded in the fighter to the budding enginners than to scrap dealers. It will work if some smart mover in the power circle reads this and takes it up.

    I have always said that we should be great partners with America in the general business and economy, and make great products to serve their economy and ours. A country with a billion people needs to churn our great products and services, and even that will not be enough. We will have to export people also, for there is little fresh water left.

    Working abroad was a privilege but now sending people to the west and where-ever is a need.

  15. devraj says:

    Sir i read in a defence blog that india have 550kt fbf nukes since last decade.is it true

Leave a Reply to ~!@#$%^&*()_+ Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.