The US may have gained information regarding India’s nuclear-capable Sagarika and Dhanush missiles and the facility where they were being developed as early as in 2005, according to a document from American whistleblower Edward Snowden’s trove. The January 2005 document published by The Intercept, an American news website, suggests that America’s National Security Agency (NSA) also obtained “significant intelligence” about other bombs India possessed at the time.
The document is part of 294 articles published by The Intercept on September 14. These articles are purportedly from the internal news website, SIDtoday, of the NSA’s core Signal Intelligence Directorate, The Intercept reported.
They are part of the trove of documents provided by Snowden, who was a contractor with the NSA till 2013, when he flew from the US to Hong Kong and handed over the data to a group of journalists, leading to one of the largest leaks of sensitive American intelligence data.
Titled “New collection access yields ‘spectacular’ intel”, the document states that in October 2004, an NSA site in Australia, named RAINFALL, “had successfully geolocated signals of a suspected Indian nuclear weapons storage facility.” After this, a “Foreign Satellite collection facility” named LEMONWOOD — based in Thailand according to The Intercept — and the Unidentified Signal and Protocol Analysis Branch at NSA “collaborated in isolating these signals” to confirm whether it was related to Indian nuclear weapons.
This led to addition of equipment being deployed at LEMONWOOD to “expand the modest collection”, the report claims. RAINFALL also collaborated with another NSA site in Thailand named INDRA, according to The Intercept.
“Immediately after fielding this equipment, collection of this new network began to provide what is being called ‘spectacular’ activity.” The “exploitation” of this collection, the article claims, revealed information about Sagarika, Dhanush and a pilotless target aircraft projects. Some of the information about this intelligence is redacted in the document published by The Intercept to mask identities. Sagarika, a Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM), and Dhanush, a sea-launched Short-Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM), are part of India’s nuclear triad, making it capable of striking nuclear weapons from the sea.
Sagarika, which has a range of more than 700 km, had been under development since the 1990s and successfully test-fired in 2008, three years after the US NSA had sensitive information about it. It can be launched underwater and fired from the ground, and can carry a payload of 500 kg.
Dhanush was successfully test-fired last year, more than 11 years after the Americans had intelligence about it, and has a range of 350 km and can carry a payload of 500 kg. The purported SIDtoday article also claims that the collection from the new access “has also provided significant intelligence on India’s possession of two different types of airdropped bombs”. One of these bombs, according to the report, was believed to be a “very large Fuel Air Explosive” bomb of an unidentified type. American intelligence agencies believed the other bomb may have been a “new generation of aidropped nuclear weapons”.
After the NSA gained this information, the report says, more resources were deployed to expand the collection “against this high-priority network”.
Another document from March 2005 suggests that Pakistan was a partner of NSA at that point and was a “key in our success in the global war on terrorism”. There is no document that suggests that the intelligence gained on Indian nuclear programme was shared with Pakistan by NSA.