The Strategic Forces Command

For the first time since it was set up in 2003 to ‘‘manage and administer” India's nuclear arsenal, the crucial tri-Service Strategic Forces Command (SFC) will be getting an Army officer as its chief,Lt-General Balraj Singh Nagal. It was after the 10-month troop mobilisation along the Indo-Pak border under Operation Parakram in 2002 that the government had announced the creation of the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) headed by the PM as well as SFC in January 2003. Since then, SFC has made considerable progress, considering that for quite some time it did not have weapon delivery systems, adequate manpower or even a headquarterBut while a major gain has been a much higher degree of military confidence as far as nuclear command and control structures and related tasks are concerned, SFC still has some way to go before it becomes a fullfledged operational command, ready to respond at short notice. SFC, incidentally, only has the nuclear-capable Prithvi (150 to 350-km range), Agni-I (700-km) and Agni-II (2,500-km) ballistic missiles under its operational control at present. IAF, which sees itself as the primary custodian of the country's nuclear assets and delivery systems, has so far not handed over dedicated fighters to the SFC. ‘‘IAF says it does not have enough assets at present. Instead, it itself maintains some ‘dual tasked’ fighters, jury-rigged to deliver nuclear weapons. The SFC should ideally have at least half a squadron of dedicated bombers,” said a source. Similarly, the Navy has only two ‘‘dual-tasked” warships -- INS Subhadra and INS Suvarna --armed with the Dhanush (variant of Prithvi with a 330-km range) missiles.

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