With three consecutively successful flights of Agni-III, the missile technologists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have raised the bar: they will now busy themselves with realising Agni-V which will have a range of 5,000 km.
The success of the Agni-III flight on Sunday, according to them, sent out several signals: it has become a proven missile; the decks have been cleared for its induction with nuclear warheads, into the Army; it established the maturity of India’s nuclear deterrence programme and its second-strike capability.
It was the Army which conducted the successful flight. With this, the induction process of the missile has commenced. “This launch is a stepping stone to the DRDO realising its next intermediate range ballistic missile, Agni-V,” V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, said.
Dr. Saraswat, who is also Director-General of the DRDO, said the flight proved that the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which aimed at denying missile technologies to India, “has not affected our programme.”
“The development of the Agni-III took place independent of the MTCR. About 80 to 85 per cent of the components were indigenous. The indigenisation has gone to such a level where we are independent of any embargo,” Dr. Saraswat said.
W. Selvamurthy, Chief Controller (Life Sciences and Human Resources), DRDO, described the flight as “a milestone in strengthening our defence and developing our second-strike capability.”
Dr. Selvamurthy said that since India was wedded to the doctrine of “no-first-use” of its nuclear weapons, it needed to have a robust second-strike capability. If any country were to use nuclear weapons against India, the country should be able to retaliate in kind. “India should be able to deploy them [Agni-III missiles] in places where they cannot be detected,” he said.
Both the stages of Agni-III are powered by solid propellants. It is 17 metres long, has a diameter of two metres and a launch weight of 50 tonnes. It can carry payloads weighing 1.5 tonnes.
The missile was equipped with a sophisticated computer system, navigated with an advanced navigation system and guided with an innovated guidance scheme. Several radars and electro-optical tracking systems, along the coast of Orissa, monitored its path and evaluated its parameters in real-time. Two ships tracked and witnessed the missile reaching its target.
Avinash Chander, Mission Director, called the flight “a thrilling experience,” with all the mission objectives met. “It was a copy-book flight with all the events listed in the flight being executed accurately,” he said.
The missile was tested for its full range and its integrated strategic command network was fully proved, said Mr. Chander, who is also Director, Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), Hyderabad. The ASL designs and develops the Agni variants.
According to A. Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, BrahMos Aerospace, the success brought big credit to the DRDO.
Lt. Gen. B.S. Nagal, chief of Strategic Forces Command, witnessed the flight from the Wheeler Island.
V.G. Sekaran, Agni-III Project Director, coordinated the entire integration and launch activities.
While the first flight of Agni-III on July 9, 2006 failed, its second and third flights on April 12, 2007 and May 7, 2008 were successful.