As India successfully test-fired the indigenously developed nuclear-capable Long Range Ballistic Missile Agni-5, it moved a step closer towards joining the exclusive club of countries with ICBMs (missiles with a range of over 5,000-5,500km), alongside the US, Russia, China, France and the UK. Coming on the back of China deploying missiles in Tibet Autonomous Region bordering India, the move is sure to rattle a few nerves in Beijing, which has previously criticised New Delhi over the Agni 5.
Sixth success for Agni-5
The surface-to-surface missile was launched with the help of a mobile launcher from launch pad-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Dr Abdul Kalam Island in the Bay of Bengal at 9.48 am. This was the sixth trial of the Agni-5, which has the farthest reach among all Indian missiles. At present, India has in its armoury the Agni series — Agni-1 with 700 km range, Agni-2 with 2,000 km range, Agni-3 and Agni-4 with 2,500 km to more than 3,500 km range.
The first test of Agni-5 was conducted on April 19, 2012, the second on September 15, 2013, the third on January 31, 2015, and fourth on December 26, 2016. The last test was held on January 18, 2018. All the five earlier trials were successful.
Agni-V is capable of striking even the northernmost parts of China. Geographically, the missile’s cover space ranges from all of China in the East to all of Europe in the West. The missile is able to travel faster than a bullet and can carry with it at least a 1,000 kg of nuclear weapon.
The three-stage missile is about 17 metres long and weighs 50 tonnes. The first rocket engine equipped with the missile lifts it to a height of about 40 km. The second stage pushes it to about 150 km. The third stage takes Agni-5 to about 300 km above the Earth and the missile finally reaches a height of about 800 km.
Most advanced of India’s missiles
Agni-5 is also the most advanced among Indian missiles with new technologies in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine. Navigation systems, very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS) and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System (MINS) ensure that the missile reaches the target point within few meters of accuracy.
The missile has been programmed in such a way that after reaching the peak of its trajectory, it will turn towards the earth and continue its journey towards the intended target with an increased speed due to gravitational pull. The path has been precisely directed by the advanced onboard computer and inertial navigation system.
As the missile enters the earth’s atmosphere, the atmospheric air rubbing the skin of the missile during the re-entry phase raises the temperature beyond 4,000 degrees Celsius. However, the indigenously designed and developed carbon-carbon composite heat shield continues to burn sacrificially, protecting the payload and maintaining the inside temperature below 50 degrees Celsius.
How does India compare to China and Pakistan in missile tech
However, the capabilities of the Agni-5 pale in comparison to China’s ICBM – the CSS-10 Mod 2, which has a range in excess of 11,200 km and can reach most locations within continental United States. Moreover, China is also developing the DF-41 ICBM, which will be able to carry up to 10 maneuverable nuclear warheads, each weighing 100 to 200 kilo tonnes to a megaton size. The missile range is expected to be between 12,000-15,000km, and thus, will be capable of reaching every corner of the Earth.
Coming to its north-western neighbour, Pakistan’s ICBM strength is limited to the Shaheen III and Ghauri missiles that have a range of 1,700 km and 2300-2700 km respectively. However, the state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences reported in March that in an unprecedented deal, China had sold Pakistan a powerful tracking system that could speed up the development of multi-warhead missiles.
(With PTI inputs)