India says it has successfully tested a missile armed with a torpedo that could in theory strike enemy submarines more than 400 miles (643 kilometers) away.
Dubbed the SMART (Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo) system, the weapon was launched from Wheeler Island off the coast of India’s Odisha state on Monday, the country’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
“This launch and demonstration is significant in establishing anti-submarine warfare capabilities.” the statement said Monday. “All the mission objectives including missile flight up to the range and altitude, separation of the nose cone, release of Torpedo and deployment of Velocity Reduction Mechanism (VRM) have been met perfectly.”
The use of the supersonic missile extends the range of the torpedo far beyond its normal parameters, the ministry said.
“This will be a major technology breakthrough for stand-off capability in anti-submarine warfare,” Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said in a tweet.
The missile carries a battery-powered torpedo with a 110 pound (50 kilogram) warhead and a range of about 12.5 miles (20 kilometers), according to Indian defense industry reports. Using the missile to take it close to its target extends its range to more than 400 miles (643 kilometers) at three times the speed of sound, the reports say.
Other nations, including Russia, the United States and Japan, have missiles or rockets that can carry a lightweight torpedo, but none come close to the reported range of the Indian weapon.
India has been boosting its anti-submarine warfare capabilities in recent years, acquiring state-of-the-art aircraft such as US-made Boeing P-8 reconnaissance planes and MH-60R Seahawk helicopters. Those aircraft could be detecting enemy submarines operating far from the India warships armed with the SMART system and transmitting targeting information back to them, significantly expanding the range for each Indian vessel.
That ability could be significant, especially as China expands its presence in the Indian Ocean. Beijing has built a significant, modern fleet of 60 submarines and has been sending them farther from its shores, according to the US Defense Department.
China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has also been gaining port access around the Indian Ocean, including establishing its first overseas base in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa.
New attention has begin given to the decades-old rivalry between India and China in recent months after a deadly skirmish involving hand-to-hand combat between their forces along their border in the Himalayas earlier this year.