The Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the armed forces successfully test-fired an Agni-I missile from the Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast, on Thursday to test its readiness to launch ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads.
In the backdrop of a clear sky, the Agni-I rose without any hitch at 9.30 a.m. from a specially designed truck (road-mobile launcher), climbed more than 300 km, etched an arc in the sky and plunged into the Bay of Bengal. Its re-entry systems worked well. The missile accurately reached the targeted area. The entire flight lasted 600 seconds. A string of radars and telemetry stations situated on the Odisha coast tracked the missile's flight.
The Agni-I, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is already in the Army's arsenal. The missile, with a range of 700 km, is Pakistan-specific. It covers the western range. It is 15 metres long, weighs 12 tonnes and has a single stage, powered by solid propellants. It can carry a one-tonne nuclear warhead.
The Agni-I, the Agni-II, the Agni-III and the Agni-IV form the quartet of Agni series, all of which can carry nuclear warheads. They are surface-to-surface missiles. These four and the Prithvi variants provide teeth to India's nuclear deterrence posture. The DRDO has developed all these missiles. .
Asked what was the range achieved in the Agni-I flight on Thursday, a DRDO missile technologist said from the Wheeler Island: “Whatever range was targeted as per the requirements of the Army was achieved. The main objective was to train the user-team [SFC] to launch the missile. It was a practice-drill. The user-team picked a missile at random from the production lot and fired it. All the missile's systems worked well.”
The flight caps four other triumphant missile flights from September. The flawless flights of the Shourya, the Prithvi-II and the Agni-II in the last week of September, and the Agni-IV on November 15 have buoyed the DRDO's mood.
The Agni-I flight was witnessed by V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, Avinash Chander, Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems), J. Chttopadhyaya, Project Director, and S.P. Dash, Director, Integrated Test Range that comprises the Wheeler Island.
The first flight of the Agni-I took place on January 25, 2002. It was developed quickly in about 15 months. Soon after the Kargil war broke out in June 1999 and in the wake of nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in May 1998, India felt that it should develop a short-range missile that would fill the gap between Prithvi-II, which has a range of 250 km and the Agni-II, which can take out places 2,500 km away. So the single-stage Agni-I was born out of the two-stage Agni-II.
“Our priority is now the Agni-V,” said a top DRDO official. “We are getting set for its maiden launch in February 2012.” The three stages of the Agni-V have already been tested at a DRDO facility at Jagdalpur in Chattisgarh. The motors, which passed the qualification tests, are undergoing “repeat tests now” at Jagdalpur, the official added. The Agni-V has a range of 5,000 km.
Keywords: Agni-I missile