By Anil Bhat
The long range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Agni-5, was successfully flight tested for its full range on January 18, 2018 from Dr Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha. This was the fifth test of the missile and the third consecutive one from a canister on a road mobile launcher. All the five missions have been successful.
The flight performance of the missile was tracked and monitored by radars, range stations and tracking systems throughout the mission. All objectives of the mission have been successfully met. This test reaffirms India’s indigenous missile capabilities and further strengthens its deterrence capability.
The launch operation was headed by Project Director, Agni-5, G Ramaguru and Programme Director, Agni, M R M Babu. Also present were Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister and Director General, Missiles and Strategic Systems Dr. G Satheesh Reddy, Directors of Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) Laboratories and senior officials from the Armed Forces. Congratulating the Agni-5 team Chairman DRDO & Secretary DDR&D Dr S Christopher said that the fifth consecutive successful flight test of Agni-5 is a major boost to country’s defence capabilities.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman congratulated DRDO on this successful feat and also lauded the industries who contributed to the manufacture of indigenous technologies that went into the making of the missile.
Described by India as a “weapon of peace”, Agni 5 , the latest in India's ‘Agni’ (fire) family of medium to intercontinental range missiles, is nuclear capable and has the longest range so far, of 5,500 km. Capable of carrying an approximately 1000 kg warhead, with new technology for navigation and guidance, it provides India the strategic depth needed to contain Pakistan and China. It is also a fire-and-forget system that cannot be easily detected as it follows a ballistic trajectory.
The first missile of the Agni series, Agni-I was developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program and tested in 1989. The ranges of missiles in the series are Agni1- up to1250 km, Agni 2- 2,000 kms, Agni 3- 3500 km and Agni 4- 4,000 km.
The launch of Agni 4 in November 2011, placed India on the trail of new generation missiles. Comparatively light in weight, Agni 4 with two stages of solid propulsion and a payload with re-entry heat shield, was the first to be used with composite rocket motor technology, which greatly enhanced its performance.
On the declared range of Agni 5 as 5,500 km, foreign researchers are reported to have claimed that India has downplayed its capabilities to avoid causing concern to other countries and that the missile's actual range is up to 8,000 km.
(The author, a retired Army officer and strategic analyst, can be contacted at email@example.com)