India sharpens nuke might with Agni V test

Missile can strike targets in China
Last Updated 15 September 2013, 20:03 IST

India on Sunday successfully test-fired its 5,000-km range ballistic missile Agni V, which is capable of delivering nuclear warheads up to one tonne and hit targets even in China’s northernmost corners.

The second test of India’s first intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) in two years marks the beginning of the production and induction phase of the missile. The missile is expected to be test-fired three or four more times before it is inducted into the Army by 2016.

For this particular test, sources said, the flight range was kept a little less than the ideal range of 5,000 km and the missile flew the entire path. “According to preliminary reports, the launch was a success and the missile hit its pre-determined target inside the Bay of Bengal, achieving all mission objectives. However, a detailed study and analysis of all the data are on,” said a source at the Interim Test Range.

Powered by three-stage solid rocket motors, the missile had a “flawless and spectacular” launch in auto mode and followed its entire trajectory in textbook manner, dropping three motors at predefined stages, said a spokesperson of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The ships located in mid-range and at the target point tracked the missile and witnessed the final event, when it reached its destination with expected precision.

The 17.5 metre-long missile’s maiden launch took place in April 2012, when it took off from the same island, catapulting India into a select group of four nations with ICBM  capability.

While Pakistan’s most advanced missile Shaheen-2 is a two-stage rocket capable of travelling 1,200 km, China's three-stage missile can go up to a distance of 10,000 km bringing entire India to China’s reach.

China is suspected to have two long-range missiles—Dong Feng-31 and DF-31A, both three stage rockets—with a reported range of 10,000 km and 7,000 km respectively. The DF 31A is suspected to have been carrying a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) that releases multiple weapons.

The DRDO is also developing its own MIRV.

Agni V’s second successful test paves the way for initiation of productionisation and eventually, canisterisation. The missile, in its operational form, is designed to be stored and launched from the canister, enhancing its storage, operational readiness, transportability, response time and shelf life.

The strategic missile adds to India’s nuclear deterrence, which is currently being achieved by other functional Agni and Prithvi missiles and Su-50 and Mirage-2000 fighter aircraft.

When the indigenous nuclear-powered submarine Arihant will be inducted, it will complete India's nuclear triad.“The success of Agni V reinforces the capability of Indian defence scientists in designing complex missile systems,” Defence Minister A K Antony said.

A team from the Strategic Force Command, headed by its commander in chief Vice Admiral SPS Cheema, was present during all the operations to get acquainted with the system which will come under it after induction.

The missile’s navigation systems comprising very high accuracy ring laser gyro based inertial navigation system and modern and accurate micro navigation system ensured that the missile reached its target. The high-speed on-board computer and fault tolerant software along with robust and reliable bus guided the missile flawlessly.

The country has reportedly spent more than Rs 2,500 crore on developing the missile.

(Published 15 September 2013, 19:54 IST)

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