India’s ICBM Makes First Flight

 - May 4, 2012, 1:55 PM
The first launch of the Agni V missile took place on April 19.

India launched its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time on April 19. The Agni V weighs 50 metric tons, is 17 meters long and has a range of 5,000 km. Development has cost $480 million. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) says it will conduct two more validation tests before starting production. The missile is expected to be introduced by 2016, said a defense official.

The first Agni V had a one-metric-ton dummy payload. Compared with the previous four missiles in the Agni series, which had two-stage solid-fuel propulsion, the Agni V has three-stage propulsion to give it more reach, better accuracy and greater speed. “The indigenously developed composite rocket motors performed well in the second stage before the missile re-entered the atmosphere with temperatures exceeding 5,000 degrees Celsius. The missile climbed 600 kilometers before re-entering the atmosphere,” said a spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of Defence.

According to the DRDO, new technologies developed indigenously were tested, including very high-accuracy ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system and micro navigation system to ensure the missile reached the target point with accuracy within a few meters. A high-speed onboard computer and fault-tolerant software guided the missile.

China and Pakistan took note of the Agni launch. Global Times, China’s semi-official English-language mouthpiece, cautioned: “India should not overestimate its strength…for the foreseeable future, India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China.” Pakistan test-fired a nuclear-capable Shaheen-1A medium-range ballistic missile six days later.

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If a missile is launched successfully, it is merely a demonstration of our technical capability. A series of user trials of that version of the missiles would be followed, evaluating the precision accuracy, navigation and strength etc,after that only the missile goes into the inventory and strategic deployment. At present India has reached up to Agni-V, and it will take some more years for the augmented versions beyond Agni-V. China has developed an articulated long term vision in its strategic capabilities in conformity with their global ambitions. India has to be very sensitive in view of the changing global political and strategic scenario. No doubt India should have ICBMs having a range of over 12,000 kms.

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