Dhanush is a single stage, liquid propelled, 500 kg warhead missile with a range of 350 km. The missile is a Naval derivative of the Prithvi missile deployed by the Indian Army and Air Force. It has a high degree of accuracy that can be used to neutralize land or sea targets.
The role of the Dhanush missile in the Indian Navy is not clear. Since it is a liquid fueled missile that takes a considerable time to fuel up and launch, its role can only be strategic. Its limited range of 350 km makes it Pakistan centric.
Considering that the Prithvi was built by reverse engineering the 1950s vintage SAM-2 missile acquired by India from the erstwhile Soviet Union, it is hard to understand what the missile is doing in the Indian strategic arsenal.
It is likely Indian Navy funded development of the missile to acquire an early stake in India's strategic defense.
Dhanush being test fired from OPV INS Shubhadra on December 13, 2009, off the Balasore coast.
Photo Credit: DRDO
The Navy will eventually acquire a major stake once India's nuclear powered boomer sub INS Arihant is commissioned armed with Saagrika missiles.
The Dhanush has so far been tested using make shift platforms on Indian Navy ships such as the Rajput and INS Shubhadra.
In the past, the Dhanush has also been used for testing the BMD system under development by DRDO.
Though the missile has been launched from at least two naval ships of vastly different sizes - INS Rajput, a destroyer, and INS Shubhadra, an Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV), there is nothing to suggest that the Dhanush has been operationally deployed on any of the Indian Navy ships.
The missile is most probably a technology demonstrator aimed at developing and honing the technology to launch a missile from a fast moving ship and guide it to its target with pinpoint accuracy.
The Dhanush was first tested on April 11, 2000 from the Chandipur range. The development test failed.
The first successful test was conducted on September 2001.
The second successful test of the Dhanush took place on November 7, 2004 when the missile was successfully fired from a naval ship off the Orissa coas.
It was again successfully tested from INS Subhadra off Orissa coast on March 30, 2007
On March 6, 2008 a PAD missile successfully intercepted a modified Dhanush surface-to-surface missile fired from INS Rajput anchored inside the Bay of Bengal. On that occasion, the Dhanush simulated a target “enemy” missile with a range of 1,500 km.
The Dhanush was tested on December 13, 2009, at 11.31 am. It was launched from the Offshore Patrol Vehicle (OPV) INS Subhadra, anchored about 35 nautical miles offshore from the test range of Chandipur in Balasore district, 230 km from Bhubaneswar.
The test "met all the mission objectives" according to a DRDO official.
The missile flew for 520 seconds before hitting the target with a 10m CEP.
All the operations for the launch were carried out by Naval personnel.
“All the events occurred as expected and were monitored by the range sensors. It was a text book launch and a fantastic mission accomplished,” an official said.
"Dhanush, being developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was put to trial jointly by a team of scientists and officers from the Navy," said another official.
"Today's test launch has been tracked from its take-off to impact point through an integrated network of sophisticated radars and electro-optic instruments for post-mission data analyses," the sources said.
V.K. Saraswat, scientific advisor to the defense minister, and director general and secretary, Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was on-board the ship during the mission.
A Dhanush was successfully test fired from Offshore Patrol Vehicle (OPV) INS Subhadra on Saturday, March 27, 2010 in the Bay of Bengal near Puri at around 0544 hours by the Navy personnel as part of user training exercise
An indigenously-developed advanced navigation and guidance system was tested on the Dhanush, as also a Prithvi-2 missile, whose test was coordinated.
The new navigation and guidance system provides a very high degree of accuracy, according to Defence Research and Development Organisation officials.
Dhanush takes off from INS Suvarna on March 11, 2011.
On March 11, 2011, the missile was test fired from the Indian Naval Ship INS SUVARNA off the coast of Orissa at 10.03 A.M.
It was tracked and monitored by radars and electro optical systems located along the coast. Ships located near the impact point witnessed the impact of the missile on target. The missile reached the target point with an accuracy of less than few meters.
In its press release, DRDO claimed that very few missiles in the world have the accuracy demonstrated by Dhanush.
The missile was launched by the Strategic Force Command as part of the regular user training exercise. The missile was taken from a depot and launched within one hour duration.
This was the first launch from INS Suvarna and indicates that the Indian Navy is equipping a select number of OPV for use as missile platforms, either by use by the Strategic Command or by the Indian Navy itself. Previous tests of the missile have taken place from INS Subhadra.
The high accuracy of the missile allows it to be used against both land and sea targets. As sea targets are unlikely to be stationary, the missile is likely to have a terminal seeker and maneuvering warhead.
The missile's ballistic will make it almost impossible for targeted ships to defend themselves.