India is all set for the final test of Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from Odisha’s Wheeler islands. The third and the final test of Agni-V will be carried out in its complete operational configuration by the end of this month or by January 2017. Agni-V is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) which has a range of 5000-5500 kilometre, capable of hitting even the northernmost part of China. With the successful test of Agni-V in its final complete operational configuration, India will join the super elite club of countries having ICBMs namely the US, Russia, China, France and the UK.

The Agni-V is an extremely powerful ICBM having a range of 5000 kilometre and upwards (there are claims of the missile going as far as 7500 kilometre) which covers entire China and Europe. The missile is perfectly capable of delivering nuclear warhead over its entire range. Developed indigenously by Defence Research and Development Organisation, the missile has been manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited. The missile has the capability to attain the operational terminal speed of 24 Machs (approximately 26000 km/hr). Along with impeccable precision and deadly technical specifications, what gives Agni-V an edge is its flexibility to be launched from trucks and high mobility due to canister launch system. This means that the missile can be transported easily by roadways, moved from one part of the country to another and launched from the place of choice.

There will be one final test of Agni-V, which will be tested for its full range, before the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) will begin its user trials. The tri-Service SFC, established in 2003 to manage India’s nuclear arsenal, will conduct at least two more tests before the missile is produced in adequate numbers for induction into the system. Currently, India only has short range Agni-I, II and III missiles which are capable of hitting Pakistan and southern part of China but lacks a missile which can hit any part of China. Agni-V will give us that capability. Even though China is way ahead of India in the missiles system, the induction of Agni-V and further program of developing Agni-VI with a 10,000 kilometre range is closing the gap.

DRDO has also done some work on developing “manoeuvring warheads or intelligent re-entry vehicles” to defeat enemy ballistic missile defence systems, as well as MIRVs (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles) for the Agni missiles. An MIRV payload basically means a single missile is capable of carrying several nuclear warheads, each programmed to hit different targets. Earlier this year, India joined the elite Missile Technology Control Regime group.

Kshitij Mohan

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