DRDO has often been linked with inefficiency, but this is not the case when it comes to its missile program. The superweapon that we’re talking about is the Agni VI ICBM, the next in the Agni series.

DRDO’s ICBM program was never acknowledged until May 2011when in a newsletter a recently promoted scientist revealed that he headed a program code named A6, which was an ICBM with a range in between 6,000-10,000 km and that it would be capable of an underwater launch also.The debut launch of the missile is likely to happen sometime in 2017-18.

What is the Agni VI?

The Agni VI is a three-stage, solid fuel ICBM missile. It will officially have a range of 6,000 km but with a lighter payload it can strike at a range of 8,000 km to 10,000 km.

It will be capable of carrying 3-tonne warheads which is thrice of what Agni V can carry. Agni VI will be India’s first missile to have the capability to carry 4 or 6 multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles [MIRV] payloads. This means that the missile can strike different targets at once that too separated by hundreds of kilometres. MIRV capability ensures credible second-strike capability even with few missiles.

Agni VIwill be compact and road mobile. The road mobile Agni VI would also have stringent limits on its length since it must be carried on a standard size trailer that can be moved from one part of the country to another, turn on narrow roads, cross bridges and climb heights.

Last year, India also quietly tested the K-4 missile which is an intermediate-range nuclear-capable submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with a range of 3,500 km. As the next version in the series, DRDO is also working on a K-5 SLBM which will be capable of carrying MIRV payloads up to 6,000 km.

When India does make an official announcement of the Agni VI ICBM, there is bound to be some criticism of the move, but that would largely be restricted to two nations – China and Pakistan.

It would be reasonable to assume that all other major powers of the world – USA, Britain, France, Germany and a few others – will not oppose the move. In fact, they might secretly support it as a stronger India is in their interests to counter China.


Vinayak Jain

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