India is a about to enter the super exclusive club of countries which have intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with a range of over 5,000 km with the successful “first pre-induction trial” of Agni-V that. With this new missile, India has all of Asia and China within its nuclear strike capability.
The range of the new missile is also reachable to Europe and parts of Africa but the major concern India has is it with the neighbours which are closer to us. The sources say Agni will undergo one more pre-induction trial “within this year” before it is inducted into the Agni-V regiment already raised by the Tri-Service Strategic Forces Command (SFC) with the requisite command and control structures.
Once that happens, India will be in the club of countries the US, UK, Russia, China and France. While North Korea over the last six-seven months has directed their tests against US, their two new ICBMs – Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 – expert opinion is divided whether they are fully-operational and deployed as of now.
The first pre-induction trial conducted by the SFC on Thursday, the 17-metre Agni-V was launched from a canister atop the road-mobile launcher from the Dr Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast at 9.53 am. The three-stage missile went to a height of over 600-km in its and then splashed down around 4,900-km away towards Australia in the Indian Ocean barely 19 minutes later.
The missile’s canister-launch version makes it deadlier because it gives the armed forces the requisite operational flexibility to swiftly transport and fire the missile from anywhere they want. “Since the missile is already mated with its nuclear warhead before being sealed in the canister, it drastically cuts down the response or reaction time for a retaliatory strike…only the authorised electronic codes have to be fed to unlock and prime it for launch,” said a source as quoted by TNN.
India, should have a credible missile against an aggressive China which has a large arsenal of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. India already has Prithvi-II (350-km), Agni-I (700-km), Agni-II (2,000-km) & Agni-III (3,000-km) missiles, which are mainly meant to stop Pakistan from any nuisance. The Agni-IV (4,000-km) and Agni-V (over 5,000-km), in turn, have been developed with China in mind.
Agni-V has been tested four times in “developmental or experimental trials” earlier and is designed to carry a 1.5-tonne nuclear warhead.
The missile was tested in an “open configuration” in April 2012 and September 2013, while it was test-fired from hermetically sealed canisters mounted on transport-cum-tilting launcher trucks in January 2015 and December 2016.
It should be noted here making a missile with a range of 10,000 km will be an easy job for DRDO and that can match the Chinese DF-31A (11,200km) and DF-41 (14,500km) missiles, but Indian armed forces feel that Agni V is enough for any threats that might come their way. As quoted by TNN, “There is, however, interest in ongoing DRDO work on developing “manoeuvring warheads or intelligent reentry vehicles” to defeat enemy ballistic missile defence systems, as well as MIRVs (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) for the Agni missiles. An MIRV payload means one missile can carry several warheads, each for different targets.”