National Technology Day: Know how 24 years ago India rose as a global nuclear superpower


“Today at 15:45 hours, India conducted three underground nuclear tests in the Pokhran range. These tests conducted today, there is a fission device, a low yield device, and a thermonuclear device”, these were the words of former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee when India successfully carried out the Pokhran nuclear tests – a series of five explosions under ‘Operation Shakti’ at the Indian Army’s Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan on 11th May 1998.

Following the successful conduct of nuclear tests, spearheaded by the former President and aerospace engineer Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, India became the sixth country to join the elite group of ‘the nuclear club’.

To commemorate the achievements of the Indian scientists, engineers and innovators involved in the significant milestone, today, i.e 11th May, the entire nation is observing ‘National Technology Day’ to honour the architects of such technological innovations.

Prime Minister Modi hails the efforts on this occasion


On the occasion of Nation Technology Day, Prime Minister Modi took to Twitter to express his gratitude towards scientists and their efforts that led to the successful Pokhran tests in 1998. On this day, PM also remembers former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his exemplary leadership during the test.

Operation Shakti: The epitome of technological innovation

Under Operation Shakti, a series of five nuclear tests were carried out by the Indian Army along with the scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMDER) and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

In terms of technology, the nuclear tests were conducted in Pokhran but the plutonium used in it was brought from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai. About 10 days before the tests, the Indian Air Force (IAF) swung into action with its AN-32 aircraft that took off from Mumbai’s Santacruz airport with the six wooden crates. Inside the crates, there was a metal shield and inside it, were explosive plutonium shells.

These shells were manufactured by the scientific community of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai and each sphere weighed around 5kgs to 10kgs. IAF’s AN-32 reached Jodhpur, Rajasthan within 2 hours and from there, those crates were taken to the Pokhran at night. As soon as the plutonium shells reached, scientists began assembling them with triggers and explosive detonators.

On May 11 1998, all the nuclear tests were tested at 3:45 pm. After that, the test data was analysed by a group of scientists who confirmed the tests’ success.

“Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) have affectively and effectively coordinated and integrated their respective technological strength in the national mission to confer the country with the capability to vacant the nuclear threat,” said the then President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam at a press conference after the nuclear tests.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared May 11 as the National Technology day and said,” This is the most historical day in the history of modern India, as history was made and India proved its technological prowess under the leadership of President Dr Kalam.”

The first flight of Hansa-1 and DRDO’s Trishul missile

Besides honouring India’s scientific and technological prowess, May 11 also marks a significant achievement for several other innovations. These include India’s first-ever indigenous aircraft, Hansa-1’s maiden test flight, in which the light two-seater aircraft flew over Bengaluru in Karnataka for the first time. The plane was designed by National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) for pilot training, surveillance, and reconnaissance purposes.

Country defence research arm, DRDO also tested a short-range missile with a quick reaction time – the surface-to-air – Trishul missile. They later got inducted into the Indian Army and Air Force as part of India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.

National Technology Day: Know how 24 years ago India rose as a global nuclear superpower