On Wednesday, India tested Agni-V missile which is equipped with a range of 5,000 km amidst the continuing 17-month military confrontation in eastern Ladakh.
According to the Defence Ministry, Agni-V covers even the northernmost part of China within its strike range and is in line with India’s stated policy to have “credible minimum deterrence that underpins the commitment to no-first-use (NFU)”.
The Missile Test
As per an official, the missile has a very high degree of accuracy and makes use of a three-stage solid-fuelled engine while it was tested for its entire range of 5,000 km.
The test was significant on two counts. One, after the induction of the missile into the armed forces, it was the first user-launch of India’s first ICBM by the tri-Services Strategic Forces Command (SFC). Secondly, the missile has already undergone seven tests but this was the first time it was launched during night hours.
An official said that around 7:50 pm on Wednesday, the missile was launched from the APJ Abdul Kalam Island, off the Odisha coast carrying a 1.5-tonne warhead. Missile’s trajectory and flight parameters were constantly monitored by electro-optical tracking systems, radars, ships and telemetry stations while it travelled at 24 times the speed of sound and splashed down in the Bay of Bengal.
Upcoming Developments of DRDO
It was earlier reported that the ‘multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) are being worked upon by the DRDO but that shall take at least two more years for testing. MIRV payload is a single missile-carrying four to six nuclear warheads, each programmed to strike a different target.
To deliver nuclear gravity bombs, some Sukhoi-30MKI, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar fighters are long modified by India while the Rafale fighters inducted by the IAF are also capable of doing it.
The Indian Navy though is yet far away from being robust, represented as it is by the solitary nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) INS Arihant which is armed with only 750-km range K-15 missiles as of now.
Recently, with intentions for launching nuclear-tipped ICBMs, China has gone in for a huge expansion in new missile silo fields while the existing single-warhead Agni-V in itself adds teeth to the deterrence posture against China, which is equipped with missiles that can hit any Indian city.
China now has around 350 nuclear warheads while Pakistan has 165 and India 156, as per an assessment done by the Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI).
Since Agni-V is a canister-launch missile ensuring lesser maintenance along with better transportation and firing, it becomes operationally better than the early Agni variants.
Earlier this year in June, a new-generation two-stage missile called Agni-Prime which has a strike range of 1,500-km was tested. This is also a canister-launch missile that might eventually replace the Agni-I missile stocked in the arsenal of SFC which also has the Prithvi-II (350-km), Agni-II (2,000-km) and Agni-III (3,000-km) missile units.
Other nations including China, Russia and the United States have SSBNs with well over 5,000-km range submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). India on the other hand has three more SSBNs under development. It is also said that the K-4 missiles which shall have a strike range of 3,500-km will take at least one more year to be ready for induction.