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.