Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Aftermath of the Agni-III test

On February 26 India tested its nuclear-capable Sagarika missile. As you might remember, the SLBM had to be fired from a submerged pontoon because currently India does not possess a submarine that is capable of launching these missiles. On Monday, more than two months after the test, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said it had successfully acquired the technology to launch missiles from the ocean depths, becoming the world's fifth country to do so. It is not clear why this announcement was made now. Certainly shyness or humbleness are not the reasons. Directly after test, a Defense Ministry’s spokesperson had already confirmed the success. However, according to DRDO the performance of the missile system was "far higher" than the requirement specified by the navy. "It has already been accepted by the user and is presently under [production] for induction into the services.”

Buoyed by this success New Delhi pursues a very ambitious missile program. V.K. Saraswat, Chief Controller (R&D) of the DRDO was quoted recently confirming that “India will test indigenously built Agni [V] ballistic missile with a strike range of more than 5000 km in 2009.” Other sources refer to Avinash Chander, Project Director of Agni-III, who allegedly said that scientists were awaiting the government nod for carrying out the first test flight of a missile with 5000 km ranges which could be anytime by this year-end. The missile is expected to contain a third stage booster rocket powered by solid fuel propellant.

Once again the nomenclature: it seems India will leapfrog from the Agni-III to the Agni-V, which will be the 5,000+ km version. That means that Agni-III+ and Agni-IV were rather “working titles”. Unless I find any convincing sources that will indicate otherwise, I will from now on use this terminology and change the names accordingly to Agni-V.

Agni-I (SRBM)


single stage

Agni-II (MRBM)


two stages



two stages



three stages


beyond 5,000km

three stages

India is not only working on the Agni family. The Hindu reported last Friday that DRDO is developing a hypersonic missile that could double up as a long-range cruise missile titled HSTDV (hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle). The newspaper quotes Dr. Saraswat:

“The HSTDV project, through which we want to demonstrate the performance of a scram-jet engine at an altitude of 15 km to 20 km, is on. Under this project, we are developing a hypersonic vehicle that will be powered by a scram-jet engine. This is dual-use technology, which when developed, will have multiple civilian applications. It can be used for launching satellites at low cost. It will also be available for long-range cruise missiles of the future.”
Another project also picks up steam: Avinash Chander said that the Astra, India’s first beyond-visual range air-to-air missile, which could engage and destroy maneuvering aerial targets, was now under development.

Picture: Avinash Chander (centre), with his colleagues, displays a model of Agni-V ©The Hindu

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