How India achieved an important defence milestone with Agni 5 intercontinental ballistic missile – a weapon of peace!

Updated: January 28, 2017 12:31:35 PM

Agni 5 is a Long Range Ballistic Missile indigenously developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization - DRDO, capable of delivering devastating nuclear weapons at targets as far away as 5000 km and beyond.

Agni 5, Agni 5 missile, Agni 5 test launch, Agni V, Agni V missile, Agni V missile testAdvanced technological features packed in Agni 5 make it a state of the art weapon system comparable to best in the world.

The dawn on 19th April 2012 created history when the Agni 5 zoomed in the sky. It had precisely followed the predefined ballistic trajectory through space and in a matter of minutes made the payload splash into ‘Hind Maha Sagar’ at a distance in excess of 5000 kilometres away from the launch pad, with amazing accuracy. The flight was closely monitored throughout its path by land and ship-based sensors, besides possibly by the global powers peeping down through their air and space-based assets.

“MD announces the successful completion of mission A5-01” Dr Avinash Chander, then the Chief Controller R&D- (Missiles & Strategic Systems) and Mission Director-A5-01 mission, had declared with a visible sense of pride and satisfaction. An elated Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat (then DRDO Chief and presently – member NITI Aayog) had congratulated the team and announced, “We have made a history by successfully launching A5-01 – Heartiest Congratulations…”. India had achieved the distinction of being among top few nations of the world possessing multi-level strategic deterrence enough to take care of its threat perception.

However, a matter of even greater pride has been the fact that the required technologies had been developed indigenously by our own scientists, that too against innumerable roadblocks laid by the powers that were determined to block India’s progress and re-emergence as a strong nation.


Since then, the world has witnessed India carry out three more test launches on 15th September 2013, 31st January 2015 and 26th December 2016 respectively, the last two being from canisters mounted on road-mobile launch vehicles.

So what is Agni 5 and what makes Agni 5 so special and important?

Agni 5 is a Long Range Ballistic Missile indigenously developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization – DRDO, capable of delivering devastating nuclear weapons at targets as far away as 5000 km and beyond. Advanced technological features packed in Agni 5 make it a state of the art weapon system comparable to best in the world. Some of these features are:

> Efficient rocket motors driven by composite solid rocket propellants.

> Second and third stage motors made of advanced, high performance, lightweight fibre reinforced composite materials resulting in very significant weight savings, thus extending the range of the missile.

> Innovatively designed and aerodynamically shaped third stage ‘Conical Rocket Motor’.

Watch: India Successfully Test Fires Agni-5 Ballistic Missile

> Superior re-entry heat shield made of multidimensional carbon-carbon composites ensuring the protection of the payload. When the friction with atmospheric air during reentry into earth’s atmosphere heats up the surfaces to around 5000K, temperatures at that no material is able to withstand, the ablative heat shield ensures that the inside temperatures remain within acceptable limits (about 320K).

> “On Board Computer” powered by indigenous SoC (System on Chip) along with fault tolerant software. Together these act as the brain of the entire mega ‘system of systems’ – the “Fire and Forget” Agni 5.

> A robust and reliable Inertial Navigation System (RINS) incorporating very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro and the most modern Micro Navigation System (MINS) to ensure that payload reach the target point with accuracy within two digits.

Also read: Agni 5 test launch successful! How India’s grand missile strategy to counter China is falling in place

> Innovative systems to ensure clean and reliable separation of different stages ensuring the safety of missile.

> Road mobile – The ability to launch anytime and from anywhere is force-multiplier. Mobility provides additional security for the asset from enemies.

> Canister-Launched – Involving yet another set of highly complex technologies, give a mega advantage over open launch. The missile is stored in a hermetically sealed canister providing much longer operational life and better camouflage. The canister is carried horizontally on a specially designed multi-axle road mobile launcher. When needed, the vehicle is appropriately parked and automated launch sequence initiated. The canister takes a vertical position, the system carries out self-checks and high-pressure gases pop the missile up in the air to a height at which the plume can no longer cause damage to the vehicle and surroundings. The rockets motor gets fired taking the missile out of earth’s atmosphere into space (A conventional open launch requires additional preparations and checks. The plume spreading to a much larger area necessitates a lot more safety measures).

Watch: Old video of how the Agni 5 missile works

> The three stages during the power phase propel the missile into a parabolic trajectory and keep separating at a predetermined sequence, even as earth’s gravity keep pulling it towards earth. The combination of two forces results in a parabolic trajectory making the payload re-enter earth’s atmosphere and zoom towards the annihilation of its target with terrific and constantly increasing velocity, braving temperatures around 5000K.

What is Strategic Deterrence

To understand strategic deterrence, let’s ask ourselves: Had India possessed its own Weapons of Peace during the 1971 war, would it still have to face unethical arm twisting by the threat of 7th fleet? If Japan during WWII had nuclear weapons and capability to drop them across pacific, would the US still have dared to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki annihilating two thickly populated cities of Japan and forcing an otherwise determined Japan to surrender unconditionally? “Strategic Deterrence” is “eye for an eye”, the “fear of unacceptable retaliation” that prevents any hostile country from considering a misadventure.

Why Agni 5

India, a land of peace-loving people and once a land of unparalleled skills & strength, rich culture & traditions, plentiful opportunities and prosperity became a victim of loot plunder and over a millennium of slavery when it lost attention to its security needs. It is indeed essential to be strong to enjoy the luxury of peace. Agni 5 is India’s bold statement of Strength for Ensuring Peace, a major landmark in India’s journey of creating the level of strategic deterrence required commensurate with contemporary threat perception – a deterrence level sufficient to force any adversary to think a million times before unleashing a Hiroshima style nuclear attack on any part of our nation.

Watch: File video of Agni 5 canister-based launch

Door to More Capabilities – Beyond just Deterrence

The success of Agni 5, unlike its predecessors, makes Agni 5 much more than being a bigger and scarier weapon meant to deter any nuclear misadventure against peace-loving people. Power to scale far greater heights with heavier payload opens doors to many more crucial capabilities such as:

Launch on Demand: Satellites being valuable assets playing vital roles in many ways in modern Network Centric Warfare including “Real-time Situational Awareness” are ‘sitting ducks’ highly vulnerable to enemy attack (their coordinates at any given time known and their manoeuvrability being very limited). Capabilities of a platform like Agni 5 having response time far more prompt than conventional launch vehicles can help restore the space-based assets rapidly.

Anti-Satellite Role: Whereas India has remained committed to peaceful use of space for benefit of humankind, the fact that Agni 5 has potential to be modified for Anti-Satellite role with existing technologies (developed by DRDO as part of it’s indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence program), will provide enough fear of retaliation, acting as potent deterrent against an adversary planning to play funny with our space-based assets.

(This article is authored by Ravi Gupta, a former DRDO scientist)

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