New capabilities: India and the Agni-V with MIRV 

The choice of MIRV on Agni-V gives it range and ability to defeat defences

March 22, 2024 12:20 am | Updated 08:41 am IST

On March 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi used social media to announce India’s entry into a small club of countries capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads on a single missile. This was accomplished with the maiden flight test of Agni-V, India’s longest range ballistic missile with a range of over 5,000 kilometres, with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) technology under ‘Mission Divyastra’ by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Since its first test in April 2012, Agni-V has undergone several tests and developments including canisterisation to improve its ease of handling and operation. The MIRV system’s indigenous avionics systems and high accuracy sensor packages ensure that the re-entry vehicles reach the target points accurately. The DRDO said the mission accomplished the designed parameters. The test also comes five years after India’s maiden anti-satellite (ASAT) test under Mission Shakti. On March 27, 2019, a live satellite in the low earth orbit of around 300 km was shot down using a modified interceptor of the Ballistic Missile Defence system.

This is a significant technological breakthrough that furthers India’s nuclear weapons programme and strengthens second strike capability. This is particularly important given India’s nuclear doctrine based on a no-first-use policy, credible minimum deterrence and massive retaliation in case of a first strike, which was espoused in 2003, after the nuclear tests of 1998. The choice of the MIRV on Agni-V, a three-stage solid fuelled engine, is significant as it is focused towards China given its range and multiple warheads give it the ability to defeat missile defences. India completed the nuclear triad when Mr. Modi declared in November 2018 that the country’s first nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine INS Arihant had finished its first deterrence patrol. The MIRV is the next technological threshold in this direction and it is now only logical and a matter of time before the MIRV is deployed on submarine-launched ballistic missiles. China, which is fast expanding its nuclear arsenal, has already deployed MIRV technology — first deployed by the U.S. in 1970. Pakistan claims to have tested it as well. In this regard, the other side of this development is the factor of escalation dynamics that is going to accelerate in the region with China and Pakistan. This spiral race of one-upmanship is only going to deepen, get more technology-intensive and turn out to be an expensive endeavour as well.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.