India on Thursday made history by successfully test firing its maiden indigenously developed nuclear capable Agni-5 inter-continental ballistic missile(ICBM) with a strike range of over 5,000 km from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast.
Developed by Defence Research Development Organisation, the three-stage, solid propellant missile was test-fired at 0807 hrs, DRDO sources said. Auto launch of the missile whose entire three-stage trajectory of propulsion, dropping and falling at appropriate times into Bay of Bengal was monitored by a sophisticated array of equipment, the sources added.
Ships located in mid-range and at the target point tracked the vehicle and witnessed the final event. All the radars and electro-optical systems along the path monitored the parameters of the missile in real time.
The high speed onboard computer and fault tolerant software along with robust and reliable bus guided the missile flawlessly, DRDO said in a statement, adding the indigenously developed composite rocket motors performed well and made India completely self-reliant in the technology.
The test-fire of the first of its kind missile demonstrates giant strides taken by India in its integrated missile development programme.
With this, India has joined the exclusive League of Nations like the United States, Russia, France and China which possess the capability to operate an ICBM at present.
The ships located in mid-range and at the target point tracked the 17 meter long and two metre wide missile with a launch weight of around 50 tonnes and witnessed the final event.
All the radars and electro-optical systems along the path monitored the parameters of the missile in real time.
The sophisticated missile can carry a nuclear warhead of more than one tonne and is equipped with multiple independent targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) which means the missile can target several areas simultaneously with its warhead. DRDO sources said a lot of new technologies developed indigenously were successfully tested in this A-5 mission. The redundant navigation systems, very high accuracy ring laser gyro based inertial navigation system (RINS) and the most modern and accurate micro navigation system (MINS) ensured the missile reach the target point within a few meters of accuracy.
The test-fire of the first of its kind missile, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, had to be postponed at the last moment due to bad weather marked by rains and heavy lightning, the sources said.
In the Agni series of missiles developed by the DRDO scientists, Agni-5 is the most advanced version having several new technologies incorporated in it in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead and engine.
India already has Agni-I with around 700-km strike range, Agni-2 with nearly 2,000 km, Agni-III and IV with about 3,000 plus km-range in its armoury.
The maiden test-fire was witnessed by military officials, scientists and other agencies which participated in its development.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the scientists for the success, saying ”I congratulate all the scientific and technical personnel of the DRDO and other organisations who have worked tirelessly in our endeavour to strenghten the defence and security of our country.
”Today’s successful Agni V test launch represents another milestone in our quest to add to the credibility of our security and preparedness and to continuously explore the frontiers of Science.”
The nation stands together in honouring the scientific community who have done the country proud, he said.
The Prime Minister also called Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister and Director-General of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Dr Vijay Kumar Saraswat to congratulate him.
The missile was test fired from the Wheeler island off Odisha coast in the Bay of Bengal at 0805 hrs.
The maiden launch of the Agni-V will now make India the newest entrant among the hyper-exclusive club that boasts of United States, Russia and China as its members.
“It reminds us of the untiring efforts of numerous unsung scientists of DRDO who have worked relentlessly years together to bring the nation to this threshold,” said Defence Minister AK Antony.
He spoke to DRDO chief Dr VK Saraswat and Project Director Avinash Chander immediately after the event and congratulated the entire team for the immaculate success.
He also spoke to former DRDO chief M Natarajan and fondly remembered his contribution to various projects of the organisation.
Agni-V, the 5000-km range surface-to-surface Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads, has catapulted India into an extremely select club of countries possessing such a deadly weapons platform. Agni-V gives India the much-needed muscle and a strong deterrence against its nuclear-armed adversaries as the missile can not only target every city of China, but is also capable of reaching Australia, Eastern Europe, North Eastern and Eastern Africa.
Coupled with the induction of the first operational nuclear attack submarine the Akula II class Nerpa rechristened INS Chakra into the Indian Navy on April 4, Agni-V gives India the power to deliver the knock out punch to the enemy in the event of hostilities breaking out. Only five other countries - China, Russia, France, the United States and the United Kingdom - have such long distance missiles.
Agni-V and INS Chakra are the biggest and the most deadly symbol of India’s military might and while Army Chief General VK Singh's letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the war preparedness, lack and obsolescence of vital weapons systems and ammunition made a lot of news in the last few weeks, what went unnoticed is that the defence forces have been slowly adding muscle to counter the threat of a two-front war. In the past few months the government and the defence forces have taken several steps to plug in the gaps in India’s defence, particularly in relation with China.
Along with the earlier missiles of the Agni series - Agni-I (range: 700 km), Agni-II (2,000 km), Agni-III and IV (3,000 plus km) range - the ICBM gives India a wide array of potent weapons platform to take on the enemy. The 17 m long, 2 m wide and 50 tonne Agni-V is a generation ahead of the other surface-to-surface missiles in India's inventory and what makes the missile extremely effective and deadly is that it can carry Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MITRV) capable of delivering multiple warheads at different targets at long distances.
Such missiles when fired in large numbers can penetrate a ballistic missile shield and devastate the intended target or targets. After the missile is inducted into the strategic forces by 2014-2015, India will acquire a strong deterrent capacity against China as the entire country would come under its range.
Although Agni-V will need to undergo several more trials before it can be formally inducted into India's arsenal, the test-firing has sent out a strong statement to the world, particularly to the country’s adversaries.
The induction of INS Chakra, the impending sea trials of the indigenous nuclear submarine INS Arihant that will be armed with torpedoes and the 700-km range nuclear K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the shortlisting of the Rafale for Indian Air Force’s (IAF) 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), induction of two squadrons of the front-line Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets in the North East at the Tezpur and the Chabua air bases are just some of the moves the government and defence forces have taken to counter the Chinese threat.
India will have an assured second strike capability once Agni-V and INS Arihant become operational as the country has already a declared policy of no first use of nuclear weapons. INS Arihant will complete the crucial third leg of nuclear triad as a nuclear-powered submarine can stay underwater for a very long duration, remain undetected and file a submarine launched nuclear missile.
The Indian Navy is gearing up to operate five nuclear submarines by the end of this decade, including two leased from Russia and three Arihant Class underwater warships built indigenously.
With six Scorpene submarines being constructed at Mazagon Dockyards in Mumbai in collaboration with French DCNS and six more planned to be built under the Project-75 India, the Navy is also getting ready for the induction of the 44,500-tonne INS Vikramaditya or the refitted Admiral Gorshkov from Russia in early-2013. INS Vikramaditya will have MiG-29Ks, the first-ever naval supersonic fighters, on board giving the carrier battle group a lethal edge. The Navy will operate 45 MiG-29K fighters out of which 16 will be based on INS Vikramaditya.
India is also getting ready to induct the 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC), being constructed at Cochin Shipyard. The carrier is slated to be battle-ready by 2015 and will give a big boost to the Navy's plans of operating three carrier battle groups with one on in the Arabian Sea and the other in the Bay of Bengal and the third in reserve. Both the INS Vikramaditya and the IAC will also carry India's indigenously designed naval version of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft.
According to Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma the second indigenous aircraft carrier called IAC-II will be a much bigger warship than the IAC, displacing 50,000 tons. If the Cochin Shipyard adheres to the schedule then the Navy will operate three operational carrier battle groups by 2020.
The fifth-generation Sukhoi T-50/ PAK FA, which is being developed in collaboration with Russia, will also give India a potent fighter in the sky. The fighter jet is undergoing tests and is expected to enter into service with the IAF by 2017. The IAF is planning to induct 250 Sukhoi T-50/ PAK FA.
Even the Army, in the news for having an arsenal of obsolete weapons, is moving fast to match up to the Chinese threat on the Eastern front. China has been modernising and building the infrastructure and is now capable of outnumbering the Indian forces by almost 3:1 by moving almost 30 divisions with over 15,000 soldiers each to the disputed 4,057km long Line of Actual Control.
The Army is already raising a new mountain strike corps comprising of almost 70,000 soldiers along with two mountain infantry divisions with 1,260 officers and 35,011 soldiers to be based in the North East. Equipped with M-777 ultra-light howitzers, 145 of which are being procured from the US, the mountain strike corps will give the Army the boots on the grounds.
With the new regiment of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile (the Block-III version that can scale mountainous terrain and then dive steeply) already deployed in the North East, the Army has plugged a major hole in India's defence.
Taken together these measures reveal that India is indeed taking the threat from both the Eastern and the Western fronts seriously and taking measures to counter it. All the three wings of the military – the Army, Navy and IAF – are not only adding the latest weapons platforms in their arsenal, but also upgrading their existing arsenal to thwart any misadventure by the nuclear armed adversaries.