India test-fires Agni-V; joins elite missile club
Delivery system capable of striking China and parts of Africa
India on Thursday made history when its maiden indigenous inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) Agni-V successfully completed its flight, making India the fifth member of a select club of four nations with this capability.
The nuclear-capable Agni-V was successfully test-fired from Defence Research and Development Organisation’s Interim Test Range at the Wheelers Island off Odisha coast. The missile with 5,000-km range can reach destinations all over China and most parts of Asia, East Europe, East Africa and Australia coast.
The missile, 17.5 metres long and weighing 50 tonnes, was fired from a canisterised launcher parked in launch pad number four at the premier missile testing centre in the morning.
The missile’s flawless auto launch began at 08:04 hours and it took off from the launch pad at 08:07 hours. In a textbook launch it followed the entire trajectory with three stages of propulsion dropping and falling at appropriate times into Bay of Bengal.
“The missile took off from the launch pad smoothly and started rising exactly the way it was designed for. All the radars and electro-optical systems along the path monitored its movements. Finally, it made a successful landing where it was supposed to land, meeting all mission parameters. Three warships of the Indian Navy in the mid-range as well as vessels at the target point also tracked the vehicle and witnessed the final event”, official sources said.
“The successful Agni-V test launch represents another milestone in our quest to add to the credibility of our security and preparedness and to continuously explore the frontiers of science,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, congratulating the DRDO team.
With the three-stage Agni-V, India expands its missile footprint much beyond Pakistan and matches Chinese capability.
While Pakistan’s most advanced missile Shaheen-II is a two-stage rocket that has a range of 1,200-km, China has a three-stage missile that can has a strike radius of 10,000 km, with the whole of India in its range.
“India is now part of very few countries with ICBM capability, which is needed as we are surrounded by Pakistan and China with whom India has uneasy relations. It’s a part of India’s nuclear deterrence profile,” Air Chief Marshal S K Tyagi, former chief of the Indian Air Force, told Deccan Herald.
The three propulsion stages, developed completely by DRDO, performed in a copybook manner. The indigenous composite rocket motors made India completely self-reliant, said a DRDO spokesperson. Other new indigenous technologies were also successfully tested in the Agni-V mission.
“The very high accuracy ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system and the most modern and accurate micro navigation system ensured that the missile reach the target point with utmost accuracy. The high speed on-board computer and fault tolerant software also guided the missile,” said the DRDO spokesperson.
Nearly 800 DRDO scientists and technicians worked on the missile for the last three years in 20 different laboratories across the country. Of them, nearly 400 headed by DRDO chief V K Saraswat were present at Wheelers Island when the test was conducted.
Saraswat said the new missile would be test at least twice more in the next one year, before it is handed over to armed forces.
Agni-V missile was to be tested from the Odisha facility on Wednesday. However, it was put off in the last minutes because of bad weather conditions.