Thursday, September 3, 2009


Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Pokharan-II refers to test explosions of five nuclear devices, three on 11 May and two on 13 May 1998, conducted by India at the Pokhran test range. These nuclear tests resulted in a variety of sanctions against India by a number of major states. On 18 May 1974 India exploded its first nuclear device code named Smiling Buddha. After about a quarter century, on Buddha Jayanti, 11 May 1998, Operation Shakti was carried out. Shakti (शक्ति in Sanskrit meaning 'Strength'), is also the name of the Hindu Goddess of strength. Shakti was the codename for Pokhran-II.

Test team

The main technical personnel involved in the operation were:

Project Chief Coordinators

  • Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (later, President of India), Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and Head of the DRDO.
  • Dr. R. Chidambaram, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Atomic energy.

Development and test teams

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC)

  • Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Director of BARC.
  • Dr. Satinder Kumar Sikka, Director; Thermonuclear Weapon Development.
  • Dr. M.S. Ramkumar, Director of Nuclear Fuel and Automation Manufacturing Group; Director, Nuclear Component Manufacture.
  • Dr. D.D. Sood, Director of Radiochemistry and Isotope Group; Director, Nuclear Materials Acquisition.
  • Dr. S.K. Gupta, Solid State Physics and Spectroscopy Group; Director, Device Design & Assessment.
  • Dr. G. Govindraj, Associate Director of Electronic and Instrumentation Group; Director, Field Instrumentation.

Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO)

  • Dr. K. Santhanam; Director, Test Site Preparations.
  • Dr. M.Vasudev; Range Safety Officer.


A total of five nuclear weapons were detonated at Pokhran during Operation Shakti. They are:

Shakti I

A two stage thermonuclear device with a boosted fission primary, its yield was downgraded from 200 KT(theoretical) to 45 KT for test purposes. The thermonuclear device tested at Pokhran was not an actual warhead. It was a device that was designed mainly to produce data to analyze the performance of India's Hydrogen bomb technology for future computer simulations and actual weaponisation. Dr. K. Santhanam, has disputed the claimed yield of this test, by stating that the Hydrogen Bomb was a fizzle. This has lead to an uproar in Indian nuclear and defense circles with arguments and counterarguments in favor of a re-test series.

Shakti II

A pure fission device using the Plutonium implosion design with a yield of 15 KT. The device tested was an actual nuclear warhead that can be delivered by bombers or fighters and also mounted on a missile. The warhead was an improved, lightweight and miniaturized version of the device tested in 1974. Scientists at BARC had been working to improve the 1974 design for many years. Data from the 1974 test was used to carry out computer simulations using the indigenous Param supercomputer to improve the design. The 1998 test was intended to prove the validity of the improved designs.

Shakti III

An experimental boosted fission device that used reactor grade Plutonium for its primary with a yield of 0.3 KT. This test device was used to test only the primary stage. It did not contain any tritium required to boost the fission. This test was designed to study the possibility of using reactor grade plutonium in warheads and also to prove India's expertise in controlling and damping a nuclear explosion in order to achieve a low (sub-kiloton) yield.

Shakti IV

A 0.5 KT experimental device. The test's only purpose was to collect data about the explosion process and to study the performance of various bomb components.

Shakti V

A 0.2 KT experimental device that used U-233, an isotope of uranium not found in nature and produced in India's fast breeder reactors that consume Thorium. This device too was used to collect data.

The Shakti I thermonuclear device being lowered into the test shaft

Production and Preparation of Devices

Three laboratories of the DRDO were involved in designing, testing and producing components like advanced detonators, the implosion systems, high-voltage trigger systems. They were also responsible for weaponization, systems engineering, aerodynamics, safety interlocks and flight trials. The nuclear devices were moved from their vaults at the BARC complex in the early hours of 1 May, around 3 a.m., by four Indian Army trucks under the command of Col. Umang Kapur. They were transported to Mumbai airport and flown at dawn in an Indian Air Force AN-32 transport plane to the Jaisalmer military base. An Army convoy of four trucks transported the explosive devices to Pokhran. Three trips were required to complete the delivery of the devices and associated equipment. The devices were delivered directly to the device preparation building in the range which was designated as the 'Prayer Hall'.

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