Agni-V update

India successfully tested its long range surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Agni-5, for its full range from Dr Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha. The nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile has a strike range of 5,000 km, which can cover most of China.

The missile will eventually be inducted into the tri-service, Strategic Forces Command, which manages India’s nuclear arsenal. With the Agni-5, India will become part of a small group of countries having ICBMs (range of 5,000-5,500 km) — only the US, China, Russia and France are known to have ICBMs.

This was the fifth test of the missile and the third consecutive one from a canister on a road mobile launcher.

India is a step away from gate-crashing into the super exclusive club of countries with ICBMs with the successful “first pre-induction trial” of its over 5,000 km range Agni-V inter-continental ballistic missile that brings all of Asia and China within its nuclear strike capability.

The range of the missile places parts of Europe and Africa within reach but India’s security concerns are closer home. Sources said India’s most formidable missile will undergo one more pre-induction trial “within this year” before it is inducted into the Agni-V regiment already raised by the Tri-Service Strategic Forces Command with the requisite command and control structures.

Once that happens, India will rub shoulders with countries like the US, UK, Russia, China and France. While a belligerent North Korea over the last six-seven months has rattled US with tests of its two new ICBMs—Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15—expert opinion is divided whether they are fully-operational and deployed as of now.

On Thursday, in its first preinduction trial conducted by the SFC, the 17-metre Agni-V was launched from a canister atop the road-mobile launcher from the Dr Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast at 9.53 am. The three-stage missile zoomed to a height of over 600-km in its parabolic trajectory and then splashed down around 4,900-km away towards Australia in the Indian Ocean, barely 19 minutes later. The missile’s canister-launch version makes it deadlier because it gives the armed forces the requisite operational flexibility to swiftly transport and fire the missile from anywhere they want. “Since the missile is already mated with its nuclear warhead before being sealed in the canister, it drastically cuts down the reaction time for a retaliatory strike…only the authorised electronic codes have to be fed to unlock and prime it for launch,” said a source.

India, of course, wants a credible strategic deterrent against an aggressive and expansionist China, which has a large arsenal of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. The SFC already has regiments of the Prithvi-II (350-km), Agni-I (700-km), Agni-II (2,000-km) & Agni-III (3,000-km) missiles—mainly meant to deter Pakistan from any misadventure. The Agni-IV (4,000-km) and Agni-V (over 5,000-km), in turn, have been developed with China in mind.

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