The Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Indian Army launched the Agni-I missile from the Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast, on Friday.

The flight was a success with the missile travelling its full range of 700 km. The practice launch took place at 10.06 a.m. with Agni-I lifting off from a road mobile launcher (a modified TATRA truck) stationed at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) on the Wheeler Island and the missile sped towards its targeted area in the Bay of Bengal. It followed its path perfectly guided by onboard computers. The missile’s re-entry systems worked well and it plunged into the targeted area with accuracy.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) designed and developed Agni-I. The Army has already deployed this short-range missile which can carry nuclear warheads.

An elated V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, told The Hindu from the Wheeler Island, that all the Agni missiles — Agni-I, II, III, IV and V, developed by the DRDO, “are flying high.” The DRDO launched Agni-V with a range of more than 5,000 km in April this year and the DRDO was back to launching Agni-I now, he said.

“All Agni missiles are performing well. Their production systems are working on schedule and the user [the Army] is conversant with the exercise of the launch. They have done a superb job today. The Strategic Forces Command has mastered the technology of launching the missile to a high degree of perfection,” said Dr. Saraswat, who is the DRDO Director-General and a missile technologist himself.

“As the designer and developer of Agni missiles, the DRDO is elated,” Dr. Saraswat said. As many Agni missiles as are required would be produced and delivered to the user, he added.

Avinash Chander, Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems), DRDO, who was the Mission Director, described it as a textbook launch, with the mission meeting all its objectives. Radars installed along the coast kept a tab on Agni-I. Cameras on board two ships stationed near the targeted area recorded the terminal event of the missile’s flight. The missile was drawn from the production lot.

“It was a complete success,” said G. Satheesh Reddy, Associate Director, Research Centre, Imarat (RCI), one of the DRDO laboratories situated in Hyderabad.

The launch operations were monitored by Project Director, Agni-I, J. Chattopadhyaya. Those who witnessed the launch included V.G. Sekaran, Director, Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), Hyderabad; S.K. Chaudhuri, Director, RCI; M.V.K.V. Prasad, Director, ITR, Balasore, Odisha; and top officers of the SFC. The ASL, a DRDO laboratory and the RCI developed many systems used in Agni-I.

Agni-I is 15 metres long and weighs 12 tonnes. It is a single-stage missile that is powered by solid propellants. It can carry a nuclear warhead weighing one tonne. With its range of 700 km, it is Pakistan-specific.

The first flight of Agni-I took place on January 25, 2002. The DRDO developed it quickly within 15 months because need was felt for missile with a short range which will cover the western area — after the Kargil war between India and Pakistan in 1999.

Dr. Saraswat said the maiden launch of India’s Nirbhay, a sub-sonic cruise missile, would take place by the end of August this year. Nirbhay is India’s equivalent of Tomahawk, a long-range sub-sonic cruise missile in the arsenal of the U.S. The Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a DRDO facility situated in Bangalore, has designed Nirbhay which has several technologies derived from Lakshya, a pilotless target aircraft.

The launch of Agni-V from a canister would take place after five months, he added.

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