In­dige­nous Strate­gic and Tac­ti­cal Mis­siles

The Agni mis­sile pro­gramme is a fam­ily of MRBM to ICBM bal­lis­tic mis­sile sys­tems de­vel­oped by DRDO un­der the In­te­grated Guided Mis­sile De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme. The land ver­sion of the nu­clear triad, the Agni se­ries of bal­lis­tic mis­siles are a part of the “c

SP's LandForces - - Front Page - LT GEN­ERAL (RETD) NARESH CHAND

THE AGNI SE­RIES OF mis­siles were part of the In­te­grated Guided Mis­sile De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (IGMDP), which was an ini­tia­tive of the Min­istry of De­fence to in­dige­nously de­velop strate­gic and tac­ti­cal mis­siles to meet In­dia’s re­quire­ments. The nodal agency for the pro­gramme was the De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) in part­ner­ship with other In­dian Gov­ern­ment labs and re­search cen­tres. Dr Ab­dul Kalam, who later be­came the Pres­i­dent of In­dia, was one of the lead­ing sci­en­tists of the IGMDP and later on over­saw the pro­gramme when he was Ad­vi­sor to the De­fence Min­is­ter. The pro­gramme started in the early 1980s and closed in 2008. How­ever, work on cer­tain mis­sile sys­tems is still on. IGMDP in­cludes the fol­low­ing mis­sile sys­tems: Agni se­ries of mis­siles to in­clude ground based short-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles (SRBM), medium-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles (MRBM) and in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles (ICBM) Prithvi short-range sur­face-to-sur­face mis­sile sys­tem Akash and Tr­ishul sur­face-to-air mis­siles sys­tem Nag mis­sile anti-tank mis­sile sys­tem As­tra mis­sile air-to-air mis­sile sys­tem The IGMDP has many suc­cesses to its credit like the sur­face-to-sur­face mis­sile sys­tem. Akash is be­ing in­ducted into the IAF. Army has also ac­quired it but for static role, Tr­ishul was not suc­cess­ful and was thus fore­closed.

Agni Mis­sile Pro­gramme

The Agni mis­sile pro­gramme is a fam­ily of MRBM to ICBM bal­lis­tic mis­sile sys­tems de­vel­oped by DRDO un­der the IGMDP. They are the land ver­sion of the nu­clear triad. The fam­ily of Agni mis­sile in­cludes: Agni-I: An MRBM with a range of 7001,200 km Agni-II: An ICBM with a range of 2,0002,500 km Agni-III: An ICBM with a range of 3,000 plus km Agni-IV: An ICBM with a range of 3,200-3,700 km Agni-V: An ICBM with a range of 5,000 km range (un­der de­vel­op­ment) Agni-VI: ICBM with a 10,000 km range (un­der de­vel­op­ment)

In the back­drop of nu­clear tests by In­dia and Pak­istan in 1998 and the Kargil War, it was felt by the In­dian strate­gic plan­ners that there is the re­quire­ment for a SRBM to fill the gap be­tween Prithvi-II’s range of 250 km and Agni-II’s range of 2,500 km. Thus Agni-I was born from Agni II with a range of 700-1,200 km, car­ries a con­ven­tional pay­load of 1,000 kg or a nu­clear war­head, is sin­gle stage and is pow­ered by solid pro­pel­lants. It was de­vel­oped in a record time of 15 months and first tested on Jan­uary 25, 2002.

Agni TD was a fore­run­ner of Agni se­ries of mis­siles. It was an IRBM with a planned range of 1,200 km and had its first launch dur­ing May 1992 which failed. Af­ter a few more failed at­tempts, it re­tired in 1994. Al­though Agni TD did not suc­ceed, it be­came a base for sub­se­quent de­vel­op­ment of Agni pro­gramme by pro­vid­ing crit­i­cal tech­nolo­gies and de­sign meant for long-range bal­lis­tic mis­siles. These were than op­ti­mised and fur­ther ruggedised. Other as­pects like solid fuel chem­istry, re-en­try ve­hi­cle (RV) and avion­ics were also mod­ernised. RV is made of a car­bon-car­bon composite ma­te­rial that is light and able to sus­tain high re-en­try ther­mal stresses in a va­ri­ety of sce­nar­ios. Agni TD pro­gramme helped in re­duc­ing the ges­ta­tion pe­riod of Agni-II de­vel­op­ment. Agni-II is a two stage ICBM which uses solid pro­pel­lant, has a range of 2,000-2,500 km and the post boost ve­hi­cle (PBV) is in­te­grated into the mis­sile’s RV. The PBV is a com­plex, exoat­mo­spheric ma­noeu­vrable ve­hi­cle that is used to po­si­tion and de­ploy the RV, anti-bal­lis­tic mis­sile coun­ter­mea­sure pack­ages and other as­so­ci­ated ob­jects. The PBV con­tains guid­ance, con­trol and thruster hard­ware that al­lows it to re­ori­ent and move in 3D while it flies along its bal­lis­tic arc. The Agni-II re­quires a prepa­ra­tion time of only 15 min­utes be­fore launch as it is al­ways in a ready-to-fire mode. The pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of mis­siles re­quired al­most half a day of prepa­ra­tion be­fore they could be launched. The Agni-IIAT is a more ad­vanced ver­sion of Agni-II which pro­vides a bet­ter range and oper­at­ing regime. The Agni fam­ily of mis­siles uses a strap-down in­er­tial nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem (INS) for flight con­trol and nav­i­ga­tion. Nec­es­sary in­er­tial sen­sors were in­dige­nously de­vel­oped for the pur­pose, in­clud­ing laser rate gy­ros. An INS is a nav­i­ga­tion aid that uses a com­puter, mo­tion sen­sors and ro­ta­tion sen­sors to con­tin­u­ously cal­cu­late via dead reck­on­ing the po­si­tion, ori­en­ta­tion, and ve­loc­ity of a mov­ing ob­ject with­out the need for ex­ter­nal ref­er­ences.

Agni III uses solid pro­pel­lant in both stages. Agni-III was tested on July 9, 2006, and af­ter the launch, it was re­ported that the sec­ond stage of the rocket did not sep­a­rate, and the mis­sile had fallen well short of its tar­get. Agni-III was tested suc­cess­fully on April 12, 2007 and May 7, 2008. The suc­cess­ful tests val­i­dated the mis­sile’s op­er­a­tional readi­ness. With a range of 3,500 km, it had a reach across most high-value tar­gets of In­dia’s po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries. It has a war­head of 1.5 tonnes. The cir­cu­lar er­ror prob­a­ble (CEP) has been re­ported as of 40 m, which makes it one of the most ac­cu­rate strate­gic bal­lis­tic mis­siles of its class. A lower CEP makes the bal­lis­tic mis­sile highly ac­cu­rate and in­creases the kill ef­fi­ciency of the weapon. The im­pli­ca­tions are that nu­clear war­head of a smaller yield can be more ef­fec­tive when fired from Agni-III than a nu­clear head of higher yield due to greater ac­cu­racy of Agni-III. Thus In­dia can de­ploy larger nu­clear forces us­ing lesser fis­sile/fu­sion ma­te­rial.

Agni-IV was ear­lier known as Agni II prime and was tested on Novem­ber 15, 2011. It has a range of 2,500-3,500 km and bridges the gap be­tween Agni II and Agni III. Agni IV is equipped with state-ofthe-art tech­nolo­gies in­clud­ing in­dige­nously de­vel­oped ring laser gyro and composite rocket mo­tor. It’s a two-stage mis­sile pow­ered by solid pro­pel­lant, with a war­head of one tonne. It is de­signed to in­crease the kill ef­fi­ciency along with a higher range per­for­mance and can be fired from a road mo­bile launcher. A day af­ter the suc­cess­ful launch of Agni-IV mis­sile, DRDO Chief V.K. Saraswat stated that all the tech­nolo­gies and crit­i­cal sys­tems used in Agni-IV worked per­fectly and hit the tar­get. Sci­en­tists will use the same pack­age for launch­ing Ag­niV. He said Agni-IV has pro­pelled In­dia into the elite League of Nations hav­ing sim­i­lar class of mis­siles in­clud­ing the US, Rus­sia and China. The in­dige­nously de­vel­oped tech­nol­ogy pro­duced by In­dian in­dus­try in­cluded ring laser gy­ros for nav­i­ga­tion and ac­cu­racy, composite rocket mo­tor, high per­for­mance on­board com­puter with dis­trib­uted avion­ics ar­chi­tec­ture and a full dig­i­tal con­trol sys­tem which con­trols and guides the mis­sile dur­ing its flight. High­light­ing the im­por­tance of Agni-IV test, Saraswat said, “This mis­sile is lighter, more com­pact, dif­fi­cult to de­tect by radars and counter-bal­lis­tic mis­sile mea­sures, and is world class. While Agni-II is nearly 47 tonnes, Agni-IV is 20 tonnes, thereby giv­ing us more op­er­a­tional free­dom. We are now man­u­fac­tur­ing car­bon fi­bres, ti­ta­nium, composite ma­te­rial and state-of-the-art nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems and no tech­nol­ogy con­trol regime can stop us now from test­ing ICBMs and sim­i­lar strate­gic weapon sys­tems.”


Agni-V is a solid fu­elled ICBM which has a planned range of 5,000 km and is cur­rently un­der de­vel­op­ment. The tests are likely to start dur­ing the early part of this year. It has been de­signed by adding a third composite stage to the two-stage Agni-III mis­sile and composite ma­te­rial has been used ex­ten­sively to re­duce its weight. Agni-V would be can­is­ter launched for ease of trans­porta­tion and launch­ing. Af­ter the suc­cess­ful launch of Agni- IV, Saraswat had said that “Agni-V mis­sile is cur­rently un­der­go­ing in­te­gra­tion and we may test fire it by the end of Fe­bru­ary next year. It is right on sched­ule and the suc­cess­ful test of Agni-IV will prove to be a build­ing block in the de­vel­op­ment of this mis­sile.”

De­vel­op­ment in Other Coun­tries

Pak­istan has got Ghauri-III (3,0003,500 km), North Korea has Musu­dan (3,200 km), Iran has Sha­hab-5 (4,000+ km), Is­rael has Jeri­cho III (6,000 km) and China has many in­clud­ing DF-3A, DF-4, DF-5 (CSS4), DF-21, DF-31 and the DF-31A with a range of 200 to 5,000 kilo­me­tres.

Cred­i­ble De­ter­rence

The Agni se­ries of bal­lis­tic mis­siles are a part of the “cred­i­ble de­ter­rence” against In­dia’s po­ten­tial ad­ver­saries. In­dia views its nu­clear weapons and long-range power pro­jec­tion pro­grammes as the key to main­tain­ing strate­gic sta­bil­ity in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion. The suc­cess­ful launch of Agni-IV sig­nals to the world that In­dia’s strate­gic mis­sile pro­gramme has ma­tured to a point where it can be de­ployed. In­dige­nous bal­lis­tic mis­sile ca­pa­bil­ity has de­vel­oped to a stage where it is now less vul­ner­a­ble to tech­nol­ogy de­nial regimes. It is quite nat­u­ral for China and Pak­istan to raise their vo­cif­er­ous con­cerns. The Chief of the Naval Staff, Ad­mi­ral Nir­mal Verma placed In­dia’s nu­clear pol­icy aptly when he stated on Jan­uary 16, 2012, that the coun­try will ex­er­cise the op­tion of car­ry­ing out nu­clear strikes if some­body does the “fool­hardy” act of at­tack­ing it with atomic weapons. “Only this (In­dia us­ing nu­clear weapons) could hap­pen, when some­body who pos­sesses nu­clear weapons does some­thing as fool­hardy as to use them. That will be the only oc­ca­sion when our coun­try would be in­volved in (its) util­i­sa­tion,” Navy Chief said re­porters in Delhi. Ad­mi­ral Verma was re­spond­ing to a me­dia query on Army Chief Gen­eral V.K. Singh’s state­ment on Jan­uary 15, 2012 that nu­clear weapons are not for fight­ing war but to have a strate­gic ca­pa­bil­ity. Not­ing that In­dia had a ‘no first use’ pol­icy with re­gard to nu­clear weapons, Verma said, “It means there will be no oc­ca­sion where we will use it (the weapons) first.” He said this pol­icy was a “good one” and met all the re­quire­ments of the coun­try. The com­mand and con­trol in­fra­struc­ture is in place with the es­tab­lish­ment of the Strate­gic Com­mand in 2003 and all strate­gic as­sets are un­der it. How­ever, the Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity is the only body au­tho­rised to or­der a nu­clear strike against an­other of­fend­ing strike with the Prime Min­is­ter’s fin­ger on the fir­ing but­ton.

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