Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Agnis get MIRVed

The Agni missile family will get new warheads. These warheads were touted by India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) to have five cutting-edge technologies:

· They will be multiple warheads (Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles, or MIRVs), with each missile delivering several warheads at the same, or even different, targets.
· Decoy warheads, which will be fired alongside the genuine warheads, so that enemy’s missiles are wasted in attacking decoys, rather than the real warheads.
· Maneuvering warheads, which will weave through the atmosphere, dodging enemy missiles that are fired at it.
· Stealth technologies to make the warheads invisible to enemy radars.
· Changing warheads’ thermal signatures, to confuse the enemy’s infrared seekers.

The head of DRDO, Dr V K Saraswat, said that the Agni-III and all future missiles will be equipped with these new warhead technologies. By 2015-2020, according to current planning, India’s missile force will consist mainly of Agni-III and Agni-IV missiles, all of them equipped with new-generation warheads. Avinash Chander, who is the director of Advanced System Laboratory (ASL), a unit of DRDO, said last year that the 5,000km variant Agni-III+ will have the capacity to carry four to 12 warheads. A generation of MIRVed missiles, hooray! Let’s see how long it will take before we can hear a similar statement from India’s western neighbor.

Jane’s quotes local press reports, according to which Dr V K Saraswat said that the 3,000 km-range Agni-III would make three more test flights during 2008. This information is contradictory to what his colleague M Natarajan, who is scientific advisor to the ministry of defense and chief controller at DRDO, said earlier. He spoke of two tests: “One, sometime within the first quarter of [2008], and another within nine to 12 months." The Agni-III+ is scheduled for trial in early 2009.

There is a certain degree of confusion about the designation of the Agni missiles: some sources claim that in addition to the 3,000 km Agni-III and the 5,000 km Agni-III+ a separate Agni-IV exists with a range of 6,000 km. Others regard the extended version of the Agni, namely the Agni-III+, to be the same as the Agni-IV. In some cases the Agni-IV is also labeled Surya-I. This is mind-boggling. I will try to find some clarification and share it with you.

Picture: © Advanced System Laboratory

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