On Sunday, India conducted a successful trial of its nuclear capable Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-V. This was the sixth successful launch of the country’s first ICBM that has a range of over 5,000 km and marked another significant milestone in the Indian missile development programme.
The programme, that goes by the name of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), was launched by the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad, headed by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam in 1983.
The programme developed missiles under five categories.
- Agni surface-to-surface missiles (I-V)
- Prithvi surface-to-surface Missiles (I-III)
- Aakash surface-to-air missile.
- Trishul surface-to-air missile.
- Nag anti-tank missile.
The Agni Series
The Agni series is an integral part of the Indian missile development programme.
The Agni-V, that can carry a nuclear warhead of about 1.5 tons, is India’s first long-range ICBM; it can reach Pakistan and most parts of China. It has a reach of over 5,000 km though some reports have suggested in the past that its range could actually be closer to 8,000 km.
The first test of Agni-V was carried out in April 2012; this was followed by another one the next year. Both were conducted in open configuration.
The next three tests have been conducted in a canisterised configurationusing a mobile launcher that enables a fast launch with a shorter preparation time. The last test of the Agni-V was carried out on 18 January 2018.
With Agni-V, India has joined an elite club of nations like the United States, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom, that have ICBMs.
All the six tests conducted so far under the Indian missile development programme have been successful, raising hopes of an early induction into the Strategic Forces Command of the Indian Army.
The first missile in the series, Agni-I first tested in 1983,is a short-range ballistic missile (700 km) while Agni-II is classified as medium-range (2,000 km). Agni-III and Agni-IV, on the other hand, are intermediate-range ballistic missiles (2,500km-3,500 km).
The Prithvi Series
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) describes the Prithvi missile as a surface-to-surface battlefield missile. The Prithvi I, II, and III are short-range missiles with a reach between 150km and 350 km; the last variant has been developed for use by the Indian Navy and is also known as Dhanush.
The DRDO says that Prithvi missiles have“higher lethal effect compared to any equivalent class of missiles in the world”.
The Akash Missile
Part of India’s missile development programme, this is a medium-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) with a multi-target engagement capability. There are two versions of this missile, one for the Indian Army and the other for the Indian Air Force.
These missiles are believed to have the capability to engage aerial targets at a distance of up to 30 km. Akash can destroy fighter jets, cruise missiles, air-to-surface missiles, as well as ballistic missiles at extremely short notice. It can be launched from static as well as mobile platforms.
The Trishul Missile
The Trishul is a short-range surface-to-air missile with a range of about 8-9km. It can be fired from ships as an anti-sea skimmer to target low-flying enemy attacks. It is also equipped with electronic counter-measures against all known aircraft jammers.
According to the DRDO, Trishul “with its quickest reaction time, high frequency operation, high manoeuverability, high lethal capability and multi-roles for three services, is state-of-the-art system providing considerable advantage to the Armed forces”.
Nag Anti-Tank Missiles
The Nag is a third-generation “hit-to-kill” anti-tank guided missile that was first tested in 1990. In September 2017, the Ministry of Defence announced that the missile had been successfully flight tested twice in Rajasthan. It said that it had now established the complete functionality of the missile along with its launcher system.
This “fire-and-forget” missile is believed to have a range of over 4 km and will play a crucial role for the mechanised infantry and air-borne forces of the Indian Army.
In addition to the above missiles, India also has the Brahmos, a supersonic cruise missile developed jointly with Russia. It is named after the river Brahmaputra in India and Moskva in Russia.
A significant recent achievement in the Indian missile development programme is the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) system that has placed India in an elite club. In a successful trial conducted in December 2017, it shot down an “enemy” missile mid-air, demonstrating the capability of a multi-layer ballistic missile defence system.
In recent years, the country has also developed the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) system, or Pradyumna, that can intercept missiles over 300 km away.