India Gets New Nuclear Submarine Missiles, Joining Only Russia, China, U.S. and France

India has equipped its latest nuclear-powered submarine with a new nuclear-capable missile that can hit targets up to 435 miles away, a capability enjoyed by only four other countries on Earth.

Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the military's feat during the annual Defence Research Development Organisation award ceremony Monday in New Delhi, where she recognized scientists A. Joseph and M. Ugender Reddy for their role in developing the K-15 Sagarika, also known as B-05. Sitharaman revealed that the advanced missile was officially put into service with the INS Arihant nuclear submarine.

"It is an indigenous missile with several innovative designs and a unique mechanism. Numerous critical technologies were proved in the successful trials, which paved the way for developing other long-range strategic missiles and has the potential to be launched from submarine, ship, and land," the award citation read, according to India's Zee News.

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (2-L) inspects an honor guard as India's Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman (2-R) looks on in New Delhi, India September 26, 2017. India has joined the U.S. along with Russia, China and France in an exclusive group of countries that command submarine-launched nuclear missiles capable of hitting targets 435 miles away. Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Only four other countries in the world have submarine-launched-nuclear missiles with such a range: the U.S., Russia, China and France, which—unlike India—does not have an air, land and sea nuclear triad. India is also one of only nine nations believed to possess nuclear weapons, with an arsenal estimated to be smaller than that of Russia, the U.S., France, China, the U.K. and Pakistan, but larger than that of Israel and North Korea. Like Pakistan, Israel and North Korea, India is not a member of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The K-15 Sagarika was first tested off the waters of the Indian city of Visakhapatnam in January 2013 and the Arihant entered service in 2016. The submarine is the lead ship of an entire fleet of nuclear-powered submarines being developed for the Indian navy.

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A comprehensive Asia Power Index released last week by the Lowy Institute ranked India as fourth in a list of 25 regional actors, falling behind only the U.S, China and Japan. The accompanying report described India as "a giant of the future" due to its massive resources and quickly growing economy. India ranked fourth in defense spending with $48.4 billion and secured first place for the size, readiness and organization of its armed forces.

India's military buildup is largely inspired by nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and China, who themselves have pursued closer ties in recent years. In 2007, India became the fourth country—after the U.S., Russia and Israel—to develop a ballistic missile defense system and, that same year, announced plans to pursue a nuclear missile shield that has been likened to former President Ronald Reagan's Cold War-era "Star Wars" plan. In December, India tested its multi-layered, anti-missile system.