By Girish Linganna
By the 1960s, China had established itself as a major nuclear power, with the aid of Russia, which bilateral relations, however, soured over time. India then needed to instill confidence in its people regarding its safety. India had to also send a strong message to international leaders about its nuclear preparedness. India in the early 1970s tested its first nuclear bomb at Pokhran, much to the chagrin and ire of the international community.
Thereafter, India built and tested its Agni -1 missile with a range of 1000 km in 1989. The country has clearly come a long way since then. India is now engaged in developing Agni – 6 in the series, with a massive range of 10,000 km. Agni, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in 1989, was an instant success. The then Government used it to strengthen the world perception of the country’s defence capability.
Lessons from Gulf War
Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait during the Gulf War of 1991, India realised the immense functionality of Iraqi missiles and the engineering prowess of the scientists who had developed them. The battle, which hardly lasted a month, witnessed the bellicose Iraqis thrust Scuds and frog missiles — World War 2 weapons — into neighbouring nations of Saudi Arabia and Israel, which were countered by ‘Sat’ guided patriot missiles. The war turned into a lesson regarding the importance of further developing Agni to match international standards.
What is Agni?
Agni is a surface-to-surface missile launched from the ground to strike targets on land or sea. It can be fired from handheld weapons or ground installations, and can be mounted on to vehicles or ships. Since the launching platform is typically stationary or moving slowly, it is powered by a rocket engine or an explosive charge. Agni missiles have fins or wings for lift and stability, although hypervelocity or short-range missiles may use body lift or fly a ballistic trajectory.
India’s Agni Trajectory
India, a new entry to the list of countries that tested long-range missiles, has taken a giant leap by impressively developing the Agni series. The recently inducted Agni 5 has a range of 5000 kms. Classified as a ballistic missile, it can target Beijing and almost all major cities of China. Going by the development of the series and its effectiveness.
Agni 1- covers a range of up to 1000 kms, Agni 2- 2000 kms, Agni 3- 2500 kms, Agni 4 more than 3500 kms and can be fired from a mobile launcher. Agni 5, with a range of 5000-8000 kms, is marked as an inter-continental ballistic missile while Agni 6: ICBM with a range of 8000 kms to 10,000 kms is classified MIRVed Warhead.
When the missile was first tested, it could carry 1000 kgs of payload/nuclear warhead. Agni 1 and 2 used Solid fuel as propellant. Agni 2 was 20 meters long with a one-meter diameter and weighed about 18 tonnes.
Agni 3’s circular error probable CEP lies in the range of 40 meters- making it the most accurate strategic ballistic missile globally, enhancing its kill efficiency. This missile can hit strategic targets beyond 3500 kms carrying over 1.5 tonnes of warheads.
Agni 4 is embedded with an indigenously developed ring laser gyro and composite rocket motor. It is 20 meters in length, propelled by solid propellant, weighing 17 tonnes.
Agni 5 is India’s first ICBM and can reach a target beyond 5000 kms and weighs up to 49 tonnes. Its canister launch missile system reduces the launch time, improves its storage capacity and eases management. Besides, it is built using high quality composite material to make it a lightweight system.
Agni 6 is yet to undergo tests and trials. The latest among the Agni series, it can hit targets beyond 10,000 kms and can be launched from a submarine.
The latest Agni series is Agni-P tested in December 2021- an advanced variant with improved parameters, manoeuvrability and accuracy. It comes with a canister, ranges up to 1000-2000 km, weighs half the weight of Agni 3 and has new propulsions with guided systems. It is also imbibed with technologies from Agni 4 and Agni 5.
(Author is Aerospace & Defence Analyst & Director, ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).