After 18 months, Agni-V will be ready for production

The ambitious Agni missile programme of the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), whose efficacy at developing a long range ballistic missile was successfully tested on Thursday with the test-firing of Agni-V, will continue and honed further.

DRDO Chief V.K. Saraswat made this assertion here on Friday, maintaining that there are no plans to cap the programme.

Refusing to enter into a debate whether the latest DRDO vehicle can be characterised as an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile that starts with a range 5,500-km plus as against the declared range of 5,000-km of Agni-V, Dr. Saraswat declared that the Thursday test proved the country has the capability and technical competence in developing a long range missile.

While the Thursday test carried a single dummy warhead, the DRDO had started working on the Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV), known as a collection of nuclear weapons, but has not decided when to fit it in the missile.

The spin-off benefit of Agni-V is that the booster technology gives the country the ability to launch satellites on demand that may be required in war theatre situations when existing satellites are affected — requiring rapid deployment of mini or micro satellites in low-orbit for navigation and communication purposes.

Another benefit is in making the missile an anti-satellite weapon. According to Dr. Saraswat, Agni-V could give the boosting capacity to deliver a kill vehicle that could home in on a satellite with the help of ground-based radars. He, however, noted that India did not believe in weaponising space.

“We are only talking of capability and not taking steps in the direction or to develop ASAT [Anti-Satellite] military offensive,” he emphasised. In January 2007, China demonstrated its ability to destroy a satellite in the polar orbit, raising concerns across the world.

Asked for his assessment of threat, considering reports that China has missiles with a reach of 10,000 km, the DRDO chief said such a missile would land in the Arabian Sea. India does not require a missile of that range.

With its policy of “No First Use,” India only wanted deterrence and not stockpiles. The country had technical parity in missiles with the most developed countries. Agni-V is a 21 century missile, he asserted.

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