Today, we have made history. We're a major missile power: V.K. Saraswat

India on Thursday propelled itself into an elite club of nations with Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) technology by successfully test-firing nuclear-capable Agni-V, which covered a range of more than 5,000 km.

The significance of the success lies in the fact that Agni-V is the most formidable missile in India's arsenal, with the longest range. With this grand success, India joins the U.S., Russia, France and China, which have ICBM capability. With India's policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons, Agni-V will provide the country with depth in deterrence.

India’s key to elite nuclear club (PDF)

In a flawless mission, Agni-V, painted in white and black with an orange ribbon across, lifted off majestically from a rail mobile launcher at 8.04 a.m. from the Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast. After a 20-minute flight, the missile's nose-cone carrying a dummy payload impacted near the pre-designated target area with an accuracy of few metres between Australia and Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.

After the lift-off, it cut a ballistic path across the sky reaching a height of 600 km, before rapidly descending. The mission was so smooth that the missile's three stages ignited on time and decoupled with clockwork precision before the re-entry vehicle was injected into the atmosphere at an altitude of 100 km with a velocity of 6,000 metres per second. The re-entry vehicle withstood scorching temperatures of about 3,000 degree Celsius as it sliced into the atmosphere at a remarkably accurate angle.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has designed and developed Agni-V. Although DRDO officials claim that Agni-V “is not any country-specific,” the fact remains that the missile can reach most parts of China. The three-stage, 17-metre tall Agni-V, weighing 50 tonnes, is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead of 1.1 tonnes.

During the final, pre-launch moments, there was an air of anxiety and expectation in the Mission Control Room as V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, and other missile technologists sat in front of computer consoles.

Moments after the mission's success, Dr. Saraswat told The Hindu: “Today, we have made history. We are a major missile power.” India was among the select group of countries to have the capability to design, develop, build and manufacture a long-range missile of this class and technological complexity. “The versatile capability of this missile will enable India to leapfrog into areas of Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs), anti-satellite weapons and the capability to launch satellites on demand. This will usher in a new era of missile development in India,” he asserted.

“Fantastic mission”

Avinash Chander, Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems), DRDO, and Programme Director, Agni-V, called it a “fantastic mission, which has achieved a range of more than 5,000 km.” The success gave India the confidence to go ahead with a larger number of missiles and longer ranges, he added.

V.G. Sekaran, Director, Advanced Systems Laboratory, Hyderabad, described the success as “overwhelming.”

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