Agni-V is an intercontinental ballistic missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India. Agni V is part of the Agni series of missiles, one of the missile systems under the original Integrated Guided Missile Development Program. The DRDO chief V.K. Saraswat initially declined to disclose the exact range of Agni-V. Later, however, he described Agni V as a missile with a range of 5,500–5,800 km. Du Wenlong, a researcher at China’s PLA Academy of Military Sciences, told the Global Times that the missile has a range of around 8,000 kilometres (5,000 mi).
Agni-V during its first test flight
|Type||Intercontinental ballistic missile|
|Place of origin||India|
|In service||not yet deployed|
|Used by||Strategic Forces Command|
|Designer||Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)|
|Manufacturer||Bharat Dynamics Limited|
|Unit cost||₹50 crore (US$7 million)|
|Diameter||2 metres (6 ft 7 in)|
|Warhead||Strategic nuclear weapon|
|Warhead weight||1,500 kilograms (3,300 lb)|
|Engine||Three-stage solid-fuel rocket.|
|Over 5,000 kilometres (3,100 mi), up to 8,000 kilometres (5,000 mi), range can vary depending on payload mass|
|Speed||Mach 24 (terminal phase)|
|Ring laser gyroscope and inertial navigation system, optionally augmented by GPS/IRNSS|
|Accuracy||10-80 m CEP with terminal guidance|
|8 × 8 Tatra TEL and rail mobile launcher (canisterised missile package) |
|Transport||Road or rail mobile|
Agni V is primarily for enhancing India’s nuclear deterrence against China. Until recently, the longest range missile India had was Agni-III with a range of 3000–3500 km. This range was not sufficient to reach targets on the extreme eastern and north- eastern region of China. Most of the important economic centres of China lay on its eastern sea board.
Senior defence scientist M. Natrajan disclosed in 2007 that DRDO was working on an upgraded version of the Agni III, known as the Agni-V, and that it would be ready in 4 years. The missile was to have a range of more than 5,000 kilometres (3,100 mi).
It was estimated that the missile will be operational by 2014 to 2015 after four to five repeatable tests. Indian authorities believed that the solid-fuelled Agni-V is more than adequate to meet current threat perceptions and security concerns. Even with a range of only 5,000 km, the Agni-V could hit any target in China, including Beijing. The missile will allow India to strike targets across Asia and into Europe. The missile's range will allow the Indian military to target all of China from Agni-5 bases in central and southern India, further away from China. The missile was designed to be easy to transport by road through the utilisation of a canister-launch missile system which is distinct from those of the earlier Agni missiles. Agni-V would also carry MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) payloads being concurrently developed. A single MIRV equipped missile can deliver multiple warheads at different targets.
With a launch mass of around 50 tonnes (49 long tons; 55 short tons) and a development cost of over ₹2,500 crore (US$348 million), Agni-V incorporated advanced technologies involving ring laser gyroscope and accelerometer for navigation and guidance. It took its first stage from Agni-III, with a modified second stage and a miniaturised third stage enabling it to fly distance of 5,000 kilometres (3,100 mi). With a canister-launch system to impart higher road mobility, the missile will give the armed forces much greater operational flexibility than the earlier-generation of Agni missiles. According to a source, the accuracy levels of Agni-V and the 3,800-kilometre (2,400 mi) Agni-IV (first tested in November 2011), with their better guidance and navigation systems, are far higher than Agni-I (700 km [430 mi]), Agni-II (2,000 km [1,200 mi]) and Agni-III (3,000 km [1,900 mi]). According to the Project Director of Agni V, Tessy Thomas, the missile achieved single-digit accuracy in its second test.
Preparation for testingEdit
The Former Indian defence minister A. K. Antony, addressing the annual DRDO awards ceremony, asked defence scientists to demonstrate the 5,000-kilometre (3,100 mi) missile's capability at the earliest opportunity. DRDO chief V. K. Saraswat told Times of India in mid-2011 that DRDO had tested the three solid-propellant composite rocket motor stages of Agni-V independently and all ground tests had been completed. In September 2011, Saraswat confirmed that the first test flight would be conducted in 2012 from Wheeler Island off the Orissa coast.
In February 2012, a source revealed that DRDO was almost ready for the test, but there were scheduling and logistical issues since the missile was to traverse halfway across the Indian Ocean. Countries like Indonesia and Australia as well as international air and maritime traffic in the test zone had to be alerted 7– 10 days before the test. Moreover, Indian Navy warships, with DRDO scientists and tracking and monitoring systems, were to be positioned midway and near the impact point in the southern Indian Ocean.
First test launchEdit
On 19 April 2012 at 08.05 am, the Agni V was successfully test-fired by DRDO from Wheeler Island off the coast of Orissa. The test launch was made from the Launch Complex 4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Wheeler Island using a rail mobile launcher. The flight time lasted 20 minutes and the third stage fired the re-entry vehicle into the atmosphere at an altitude of 100 kilometres (62 mi). The missile re-entry vehicle subsequently impacted the pre-designated target point more than 5,000 kilometres (3,100 mi) away in the Indian Ocean. The director of the test range, S.P. Das, informed BBC that all test parameters were met. According to news reports the Agni-V was able to hit the target nearly at pin-point accuracy, within a few metres of the designated target point.
Chinese experts say that the missile has the potential to reach targets 8000 km away and that the Indian government had deliberately downplayed the missile's capability in order to avoid causing concern to other countries. The exact range of the Agni-V missile is classified.
Second test launchEdit
On September 15, 2013 India conducted a second test flight of Agni-V from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast. The missile was test-fired from a mobile launcher from Launch Complex 4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at about 8:50 am. The flight duration was little over 20 minutes and hit the pre-designed target in the Indian Ocean with an accuracy of a few metres.
Third test launchEdit
On 31 January 2015, India conducted a third successful test flight of the Agni-V from the Wheeler Island facility. The test used a canisterised version of the missile, mounted over a Tatra truck . The Integrated Test Range Director, M. V. K. V. Prasad, said: "The missile, witnessed a flawless 'auto launch' and detailed results will be known after all data is retrieved from different radars and network systems."
Fourth test launchEdit
On 26 December 2016, a fourth test of the missile was successfully conducted from complex 4 of Wheeler Island, Odisha at 11.05 IST. This was the second canisterised test of the missile and will now pave way for user trials of the missile by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC).
Fifth test launchEdit
On 18 January 2018, a fifth test of the missile was successfully conducted from the Wheeler Island facility, Odisha at 09.53 IST. This was the third consecutive canisterised test of the missile on a road mobile launcher and the first in its final operational configuration. The missile covered a distance of 4,900 km in 19 minutes.
Sixth test launchEdit
On 3 June 2018, a sixth test launch of Agni-V was successfully conducted from Abdul Kalam Island at 09.45 IST. It was the sixth missile test since 2012 and was a “precision launch”. The Indian Ministry of Defence stated that the radars, electro-tracking stations, and telemetry stations tracked the vehicle throughout the course.
Seventh test launchEdit
On 10 December 2018, a seventh test launch of Agni-V was successfully conducted from the Launching Complex-IV of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Abdul Kalam Island at about 1.30 pm. This was for the first time that the missile was test fired in a lofted trajectory. The missile blasted off from a hermitically sealed canister and covered nearly 2,041 km. This lofted trajectory flight was used to determine whether it followed the perfect flight path with close to zero error. This trial completed the Agni-V pre-induction trials.
The Agni-V is a three-stage solid fuelled missile with composite motor casing in the second and third stage. In many aspects, the Agni-5 carries forward the Agni-3 pedigree. With composites used extensively to reduce weight, and a third stage added on (the Agni-3 was a two-stage missile), the Agni-5 can fly significantly more to inter-continental range.
Total flight duration for the first flight test of Agni-V on 20 April 2012 was for 1130 seconds. The first stage ignited for 90 seconds.
"The Agni-5 is specially tailored for road-mobility," explained Avinash Chander, Director, ASL. "With the canister having been successfully developed, all India's future land-based strategic missiles will be canisterised as well." The missile will utilise a canister and will be launched from it. Made of maraging steel, a canister must provide a hermetically sealed atmosphere that preserves the missile for years. During firing, the canister must absorb enormous stresses when a thrust of 300 to 400 tonnes (300 to 390 long tons; 330 to 440 short tons) is generated to eject the 50 tonnes (49 long tons; 55 short tons) missile.
If the missile is ejected using a gas generator from the canister, then the missile could be launched from any pre-surveyed launch location without the need for any pre-built launch site.
The launcher, which is known as the Transport-cum-Tilting vehicle-5, is a 140-ton, 30-meter, 7-axle trailer pulled by a 3-axle Volvo truck (DRDO Newsletter2014). The canis-ter design“will reduce the reaction time drastically...just a few minutes from‘stop-to-launch, ’
V.K. Saraswat said that an ASAT version is technically possible: ASAT weapon would require reaching about 800km altitude. Agni V offers the boosting capability and the ‘kill vehicle’, with advanced seekers, will be able to home into the target satellite.
In future, Agni-V is expected to feature Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRVs) with each missile being capable of carrying 2–10 separate nuclear warheads. Each warhead can be assigned to a different target, separated by hundreds of kilometres; alternatively, two or more warheads can be assigned to one target. MIRVs ensure a credible second strike capability even with few missiles. According to DRDO sources, a MIRV payload would be significantly heavier, since it would consist of several nuclear warheads, each of them weighting about 400 kilogrammes. A 5-warhead MIRV, therefore, would weigh two tonnes.
Reactions to testingEdit
In India, the success of the launch was received with much acclaim and widespread media coverage. Then Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, congratulated the DRDO by issuing a statement: "I congratulate all the scientific and technical personnel of the DRDO and other organisations who have worked tirelessly in our endeavor to strengthen the defence and security of our country. Today's 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. The nation stands together in honouring the scientific community who have done the country proud." Missile program director Avinash Chander commented that the launch signified "giant strides taken by India in its integrated missile development programme." The then Defence Minister A.K. Antony also congratulated the then DRDO chief Dr. V.K. Saraswat and DRDO team including its Programme director Dr. Avinash Chander and said that "The immaculate success of the Agni-5 is a major milestone in the country's missile research and development programme." Kanwal Sibal, former foreign secretary of India wrote, "In reality, while self-restraint and attachment to peace do mark our policies, we choose soft options also because we are conscious of our weakness and lack of military preparedness. [..] China, in any case, possesses missiles with even longer range. Earlier it was India that was vulnerable to Chinese missiles and now the reverse will be true, creating a better balance in deterrence."
- People's Republic of China – A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said, "China and India are large developing nations. We are not competitors but partners. We believe that both sides should cherish the hard-won good state of affairs at present, and work hard to uphold friendly strategic co-operation to promote joint development and make positive contributions towards maintaining peace and stability in the region." The state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) reported that the test was "a historic moment for India, and it shows that India has joined the club of the countries that own ballistic missiles." However, CCTV listed some of the missile's shortcomings and reported that "it does not pose a threat in reality." More negative commentary can be found in Global Times, a state-run tabloid, which reported that India "still lags behind in infrastructure construction, but its society is highly supportive of developing nuclear power and the West chooses to overlook India's disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties" and warned India not to "over-estimate its strength". Subsequently, they also claimed that although India may have missiles that can reach all parts of China, India stands "no chance in an overall arms race" with the country. Chinese experts say that the missile actually has the potential to reach targets 8,000 kilometres (5,000 mi) away and that the Indian government had "deliberately downplayed the missile's capability in order to avoid causing concern to other countries".
- Pakistan – Pakistani websites and news agencies prominently displayed news of the launch. An article by the Associated Press reported that Pakistani officials showed no concern, with the foreign office spokesman saying only that India had informed it of the test ahead of time in line with an agreement they have."
- United Kingdom – The BBC reported that the launch marked the moment India joined an "elite nuclear club" that also included China, Russia, France, the US, the UK and possibly Israel.
- United States – The United States stated that India boasted of an excellent non-proliferation record and that it had engaged with the international community on such issues. A US State Department spokesman said, "We urge all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding nuclear capabilities. That said, India has a solid nonproliferation record." Moreover, responding to comparisons with North Korea's attempted launch of a long-range rocket that same week, Jay Carney said that, "India's record stands in stark contrast to that of North Korea, which has been subject to numerous sanctions, as you know, by the United Nations Security Council."
- A Washington-based think tank has claimed that the US is supportive of India's efforts to close missile gap with China and is comfortable with the progress being made by New Delhi in this regard. Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow for South Asia, and Baker Spring, research fellow in National Security Policy, at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank said in a commentary, “The lack of US condemnation of India's latest missile test demonstrates that the US is comfortable with Indian progress in the nuclear and missile fields and appreciates India's need to meet the emerging strategic challenge posed by rising China.” “It is telling that no country has criticised India's missile test,” the US experts wrote. “The US change in position with regard to Indian missile capabilities demonstrates how far the US-India relationship has evolved over the last decade,” Curtis and Spring said.
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