The launch of Agni-II was a big success on Friday, with the missile traversing 2000 km across the sky in nine minutes of flawless mission. The missile rose from a launcher on a railway track at 9.30 a.m. from the Wheeler Island on the Orissa coast, raced to a height of 220 km, cut an arc of 2000 km, re-entered the earth's atmosphere and impacted on the targeted area in the Bay of Bengal with an accuracy of some metres.
The missile, which can carry a one-tonne nuclear warhead, performed a manoeuvre as it plunged into the atmosphere amidst a searing temperature of 3,000 degrees' Celsius. The two-stages of the surface-to-surface missile worked with precision. . The Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the armed forces, which handles nuclear-weapons delivery systems, conducted the launch. The missile weighs 17 tonnes and is 20 metres long
“It was a dream launch,” V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, told The Hindu from the Wheeler Island, off the Orissa coast. “This kind of launch takes place only once in a while,” he said.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) designed and developed Agni-II. It calls the missile “the pride of India's strategic arsenal.”
This was the third successful missile launch in seven days for the DRDO. The Agni-II triumph caps the successful missions of Shourya and Prithvi-II from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, Orissa, on September 24 and 26.
Friday's success has boosted the confidence of the DRDO missile technologists in the Agni system because two earlier flights of Agni-II and another of Agni-II Prime had failed. The failures were attributed to problems in the control system in the missiles' first stage.
All the milestones in the Agni-II mission such as the lift-off, the vehicle gaining velocity, the flight's terminal events, the trajectory profile and the detonation of the warhead [chemical explosives in this case] took place in a copybook fashion, said Dr. Saraswat, who himself is a missile technologist.
The missile's control systems, global positioning system and advanced navigation system, guided by a novel scheme of earth command and control system, performed with precision, guiding the missile to the impact point in the sea. “Our ground systems, the rail-mobile launcher, the Launch Control Centre and the computerised control software worked beautifully,” the DRDO Director-General said.
In Dr. Saraswat's assessment, the three missile triumphs in seven days were “milestones” in the history of the DRDO's missile programme. They demonstrated its capability to develop missiles of various ranges and its possession of technology to meet any threat profile.
“These three outstanding successes” were a sign of India's maturity in missile technology. Prithvi-II had become “a workhorse”, with its being flight-tested about 70 times. Agni-II was also a robust missile, he added.
Avinash Chander, Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems), DRDO, said the control-related problem that led to the earlier failures were overcome by taking a number of steps focussing on quality. A specialist, dedicated agency went into quality at every stage.
“We took a number of steps to streamline the quality process and everything was checked,” he said. Agni-II's re-entry worked perfectly. Mr. Chander called it “a manoeuvring re-entry vehicle.”
V.G. Sekaran, Director, Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) in Hyderabad, who described it as a text-book launch, appreciated the SFC launching the missile on its own. The ASL, a DRDO missile facility, developed Agni-II.
The users of Agni-II were happy that its control-related problem had been solved. It was a small problem. The users need not worry about its reliability and capability. “We always knew that Agni-II was a good missile,” Dr. Sekaran said.
D. Lakshminarayana, Agni-II Project Director, was in charge of the activities on the Wheeler Island, which led to the successful launch.
Those present during the launch included Air Marshal K.J. Mathews and S.P. Dash, ITR Director.