India’s successful test launch of Agni V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has catapulted it into an elite club of nations that have the capability to field such missiles.
According to defence sources quoted in the Times of India, Agni V soared from the Odisha coast and hit its designated target in the Indian Ocean.
“This launch has given a message to the entire world that India has the capability to design, develop, build and manufacture missiles of this class, and we are today, a missile power,” VK Saraswat, director general, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was quoted as saying in the same report.
“The nation stands tall today. We have joined the elite club of nations (to possess the ICBM capability),” defence minister AK Antony told Saraswat on phone after the test flight of the missile was declared successful on Thursday.
The 5,000-km range Agni V was launched from a test range at Wheeler Island off the coast of Odisha at 0807 hours and took 15 minutes to reach its target in Southern Indian Ocean according to PTI.
The missile achieved all the mission parameters and has turned out to be a huge success, defence ministry officials said in a PTI report. The launch was cancelled last night due to bad weather and heavy lightning in the test range.
Agni V is a product of the integrated guided missile development programme. In 2007-2008, the government gave the go-ahead to DRDO to develop and test a 5000-kilometre range missile that could hit any part of China, including Harbin (China’s largest naval base), as part of a credible nuclear deterrence triad.
Agni I is an medium range ballistic missile with a range of 700-1200km. Agni II has a range of 2000-2500 km while Agni III has a range of 3000-5000 kilometres. Agni IV with a range of 2500-3700 km bridges the gap between Agni II and Agni III.
Agni V with its 5000-6000 kilometre range will cover the whole of Asia, including the northernmost parts of China, 70% of Europe and other regions under its strike envelope. All earlier in the Agni series of missiles were aimed at Pakistan.
“The sleek missile, within a few seconds of its blast-off from the island launch pad roared majestically into the sky leaving behind a trail of thin orange and white smoke before disappearing,” said an eyewitness quoted in the PTI report.
The surface-to-surface Agni V is capable of striking a target more than 5,000 km away. It is about 17-meter long and two-metre wide with launch weight of around 50 tonnes. The sophisticated missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne, according to the PTI report.
Besides, the Agni can carry multiple independent re-entry vehicles warhead which means the missile will be able to strike more than one target as each warhead can be designated to hit a separate target after re-entry.
Realising that having missile silos was going to be fatal as the country followed a ‘no first strike’ policy, the people involved designed Agni V to be housed in a canister (to provide a hermetically sealed atmosphere for the life of the missile) that was road or rail mounted.
Agni V is touted to have advanced technologies including a ring laser gyroscope and accelerometer for navigation and guidance. It borrows its first stage heavily from Agni III, with a specially modified second stage and a miniaturised third stage which ensures it flight to distances of around 5,000 km. A canister-launch system will impart higher road mobility, giving the armed forces much greater operational flexibility than the earlier-generation of Agni missiles.
The test has caused consternation in China which responded cautiously calling the test a “missile delusion” and claimed India was still far behind China in terms of missile technology. China’s state run Global Times even criticised India saying the country “is still poor and lags behind in infrastructure construction, but its society is highly supportive of developing nuclear power and the West chooses to overlook India’s disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties”.
The US on the other hand commended India and stressed on its non-proliferation record. “Naturally, I just would say that we urge all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding nuclear capabilities,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Wednesday ahead of the test, according to an article in FirstPost.
“That said, India has a solid non-proliferation record,” he added when asked to comment on India’s plans to test its indigenous intercontinental ballistic missile Agni V.
“They’re engaged with the international community on non-proliferation issues. And Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh), I believe, has attended both of the nuclear security summits, the one in Washington and then Seoul,” Toner noted.
Even NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has openly stated that they did not think India was a missile threat, nor a threat to NATO and its allies.
Pakistan’s media too gave great coverage to the test and wrote positively about the outcome.
Analysts say this test might give Pakistan a window and they may try and test one of their missiles using the Indian test as an excuse despite the recent friction it has with the US and its allies. China looks like it will adopt a ‘wait and watch’ policy but then nobody really knows what the Chinese are up to or capable of.
The US, after recent growth of warmth between the two countries, will not clamp sanctions against India. The test has proven India’s Integrated Guided Missile Programme is on the right track. The biggest winner today is India