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AGNI: India’s Most Powerful Missiles

INDIAN MISSILE ARSENAL

India’s Missile arsenal serves a number of purposes in New Delhi’s defense strategy. Fundamentally, its ballistic missile arsenal is a means to deliver nuclear weapons to deter both Pakistan and China. The latter requirement has pushed India to develop longer-range missiles and to diversify its delivery platforms beyond mobile land-based missiles. To this end, India is developing ship- and sub-launched ballistic missiles and has collaborated with Russia on cruise missile development.

Over the years, India has been able to acquire a credible minimum nuclear deterrence. In this, the Agni missile system is integral to India‟s counter second-strike capability especially against China. The Agni category missiles are solid propelled ballistic missiles, ranging from short-range missiles to intermediate-range missiles (700-5000kms) with road and rail mobility providing greater chances of survivability during an enemy attack. This strengthens its scope of launching a counter/second strike. This makes India one of the few countries in the world with the ability to potentially decapitate its enemy by preserving its arsenal in the first attack from the enemy. This article provides a deep analysis of India‟s Agni missile systems.

Research in missile technology resumed again after India’s independence along with weapons of mass destruction and followed with various missile programs in the 70s with the development of various ballistic, cruise, surface to air, anti-ballistic missile, and orbital launch systems. India test its nuclear missile and initiated with PROJECT DEVIL  as an attempt to reverse engineer Soviet surface to air missile to develop an IBM. However, it could not succeed and the experience gained led to the development of the Prithvi series of short-range ballistic missiles.

In the early 80s, India conducted and synchronized its research institutions under IGBMD and successfully developed a series of strategic missile systems. Since then, India has developed, tested, operationalized, and is developing a number of missile systems that are limited to only a handful of countries including ICBMs and other weapon systems. Threats posed by enemy missile systems led to the pursuit of  Indian ballistic missile development program In 2017, India produced most of defined MTCR defined missile technologies required to be integrated to produce most missile systems

MISSILE ARSENAL OF INDIA
INDIA’S MISSILE ARSENAL DEMONSTRATIVE IMAGE

INDIA TOWARDS WEAPONIZING : AGNI MISSILES PROGRAM

After failing to reverse-engineer an SA-2 Guideline SAM as a viable ballistic missile under Project Devil in the 1970s, India formed the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program IGMDP in 1983 with the aim of achieving self-sufficiency in missile development & production.

The Department of Defense notes that “the space program supports New Delhi’s missile efforts through shared research, development and production facilities.” The two systems produced under the IGMDP that are most likely to be a delivery vehicle for nuclear warheads are the short-range tactical missile, Prithvi SS-150 (Army) and SS-250 (Airforce), and the Agni-II Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM).

WHAT IS PROJECT DEVIL AFTER WHICH INDIA THINKS ABOUT IRBM ??

The Defense Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL) is India’s premier missile facility. India’s Ministry of Defence initially constituted the Special Weapons Development Team in 1958 to undertake the development of first-generation anti-tank missiles.it was shifted to Hyderabad in 1962.

In the 1960s, the DRDL was tasked with the design and development of an anti-tank missile for the Indian army. However, the effort was terminated in 1970 when the Indian government decided to manufacture the SSIIBI anti-tank missiles under license from France.

In the 1970s, the DRDL undertook two additional projects. The first, Project Valiant, involved the development of a long-range ballistic missile. The second, Project Devil, was aimed at reverse engineering of the Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missile. Both projects were considered failures and came to be viewed by India’s armed services and the government as competence-building exercises. Project Valiant was terminated in 1974; Project Devil ended in 1980. However, during the period 1972-80, the DRDL developed the infrastructure and facilities to undertake the design and development of missiles.

However, during the period 1972-80, the DRDL developed the infrastructure and facilities to undertake the design and development of missiles. The Indian government revived the missile program during the 1980’s under the rubric of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP). The IGMDP was launched in 1983 with the objective of developing five missile systems simultaneously. These included:

Trishul: short-range surface-to-air missile
Akash: medium-range surface-to-air missile
Nag: third-generation anti-tank guided missile
Prithvi: short-range surface-to-surface missile

Agni-I: intermediate-range surface-to-surface missile (technology demonstrator)

CONCEPT AND NAME OF THE MISSILE

The Indian Missile Agni series is named after one of the five elements of nature — Fire. Agni (Fire) is an Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) that began development in 1979. It became part of the India Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) in 1983 and has a tested range of 1400-1500 km.

The Agni was developed principally by the Indian Defense Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) under the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), at the Defence Research Complex at Kanchanbagh, on the periphery of Hyderabad Old City.

The Agni is built by Bharat Dynamics, which has its primary facility in Hyderabad Defense Research Complex. A second Bharat Dynamics facility in Bhanoor is probably responsible for the manufacture of the Agni solid rocket motors. Also at the Hyderabad Defence Research Complex, the Defense Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) and the government-owned special metals industry Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd. (MIDHANI) provide assistance in the research and fabrication of special metals used in missile construction.

SOME GLIMPSE OF “WINGS OF FIRE”

During the project demonstration, one of the most difficult questions came from a young scientist: “How are you going to stop these projects from going the Devil way?” I explained to him the philosophy behind IGMDP—it begins with design and ends in deployment. The participation of the production centres and user agencies right from the design stage had been ensured and there was no question of going back till the missile systems had been successfully deployed on the battlefield.

MISSILE MAN CELEBRATING SUCCESS
LATE DR.A.P.J ABDUL KALAM CELEBRATING AGNI SUCCESS.

In another context during the visiting of the site “The missile integration and checkout facility built during the Devil phase consisted only of a 120 sq. meter shed thickly populated with pigeons. There were space and the facility to integrate the five missiles which would arrive here shortly? The Environmental Test Facility and the Avionics Laboratory were equally cramped and ill-equipped.

I visited the nearby Imarat Kancha area. It used to be the test range for anti-tank missiles developed by DRDL decades ago. The terrain was barren—there were hardly any trees— and dotted with large boulders typical of the Deccan plateau. I felt as if there was some tremendous energy trapped in these stones. I decided to locate the integration and check-out facilities needed for the missile projects here. For the next three years, this became my mission.

DEVELOPMENT OF AGNI

The missile program had been pursued concurrently and had partners in design, development, and production from 12 academic institutions and 30 laboratories from DRDO, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), ISRO and industry. In fact, more than 50 professors and 100 research scholars worked on missile-related problems in the laboratories of their respective institutes. The quality of work achieved through this partnership in that one year had given me tremendous confidence that any development task could be undertaken within the country so long as we have our focussed schedules.

FIRST LAUNCH OF AGNI-I

The Agni launch had been scheduled for 20 April 1989. The launch was at a countdown of T-14 seconds when the computer signaled “Hold”, indicating that one of the instruments was functioning erratically. This was immediately rectified. Meanwhile, the down-range station asked for a “Hold”. In another few seconds, multiple Holds were necessitated, resulting in a irreversible internal power consumption and the launch has to abort.

After a detailed analysis conducted virtually around the clock for the next ten days, our scientists had the missile ready for launch on 1 May 1989. But, again, during the automatic computer checkout period at T10 seconds, a Hold signal was indicated. A closer inspection showed that one of the control components was not working according to the mission requirements. The launch had postponed yet again.

There are several cartoons made by newspapers and other advertising websites during the test but the most popular one is Amul’s cartoon which suggested that what Agni needed to do was use their butter as fuel!
Finally, the launch was scheduled for 22 May 1989. Agni took off at 0710 hrs. It was a perfect launch. The missile followed a textbook trajectory. All flight parameters were met perfectly.

AGNI 1 MISSILE
AGNI-I MISSILE SYSTEM

On 22 May 1989, India test-fired its first intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Agni. It is a two-stage missile with the first stage using the first-stage solid-fuel booster motor of the SLV-3 satellite launch vehicle. This marked the first time that India had used directly a component of its civilian space research program for military purposes

HURDLES FACED DURING TESTING

In 1994, the United States persuaded India to suspend testing of the Agni missile after three test flights. India refers to the Agni not as a weapon system but as a “technology demonstrator project” to establish re-entry vehicle technologies. The U.S. has opposed the program as another potential proliferation affront to the MTCR, which India has criticized as biased in favor of the major powers. Notwithstanding its justifications for the Agni development, India formally suspended the program at the end of 1995. Whether the suspension is real and the result of diplomatic pressure, technical problems, or other factors, is not evident.

TURNING POINT OF DEVELOPMENT

India’s turning point came when an openly pro-nuclear government took office in March 1998. The new coalition elected to power pledged, in the words of A.B. Vajpayee, to “exercise all options, including the nuclear option.” The new government announced that a new version of the Agni with an extended range was under development.

SPECIFICATIONS OF AGNI- I (SHORT RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILE)

The short-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile Agni-1 has a strike range of over 700 km.
The sophisticated Agni-1 missile is equipped with a specialized navigation system that ensures it reaches the target with a high degree of precision accuracy of 25 CEP.

The trajectory of the trial was tracked by a battery of sophisticated radars, telemetry observation stations, electro-optic instruments, and naval ships right from its launch till the missile hit the target area with pinpoint accuracy.

The missile is capable of carrying nuclear warheads, can hit a target beyond 700 km.
No. of Inductions:- 70 (2017).
Launch platform :- 8 x 8 Tatra transporter erector launcher/rail mobile.
The missile was integrated by Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad. The last trial was successfully conducted on November 22, 2016, from the same base.

TARGET HITTING IMAGES
WORKING DEMONSTRATED BY THIS IMAGE.

AGNI- II (MEDIUM-RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILE)

The Agni-2 is a two-stage, medium-range, rail/road-mobile, solid propellant ballistic missile. Development on the Agni-II variant missile began in July 1997 after the original Agni (technical demonstrator) missile program was canceled in 1996. The Agni-2 borrows heavily from the original program, though it uses a two-stage solid propellant motor instead of the liquid propelled second stage motor employed by its predecessor.

AGNI 2 MISSILE
AGNI -II MISSILE SYSTEM DURING REPUBLIC DAY PARADE.

The Agni-2 uses a combination of inertial navigation and GPS in its guidance module as well as dual-frequency radar correlation for terminal guidance. Older Agni-2 models used four moving control fins in order to maneuver independently during the terminal phase. Newer models use side thrust motors instead of older ones. It has been reported to have an accuracy of 40 m CEP.

The Agni-II is always in a ready-to-fire mode and can be launched within 15 minutes as compared to the almost half-of-a-day preparation time for the previous generation Agni-I.

Agni-II cleared its night trial the missile had plunged into the sea after covering less than 100 km in 41 seconds. After almost a decade of the first attempt in 2009, the nuclear-capable missile was successfully flight-tested by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Indian Army.

Mounted on a mobile launcher, the indigenously developed strategic weapon system with an intended strike range of 2000 km was test-fired from the launching complex-IV of Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast at about 7.30 pm.

There are 12 Units of Agni-2 missiles that had been inducted till 2017.

AGNI- III (INTERMEDIATE RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILE)

Having witnessed many successful missile fires, the year 2013 has finally ended with a bang as the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) successfully fired the long-range Agni 3 missile from Wheelers Island, off the Odisha coast on Monday at about 4.58 pm. The Agni 3 has a range capability of over 3,000 km.

AGNI 3 MISSILE
AGNI-III MISSILE SYSTEM IN REPUBLIC DAY PARADE

It was the sixth launch of Agni 3 whose maiden launch in 2006 was a disappointment but the subsequent five launches have proved successful. Officials disclosed that the ‘ users ‘ are involved in every stage followed by development trials in the case of strategic missiles and usually after three consecutive successful fires it is inducted into the forces.

Agni III is equipped with an advanced high accuracy navigation system and guided by an innovative guidance scheme with 40m CEP

Agni-III has already been inducted into the armed forces in 2011. Propelled by a two-stage solid propellant, it is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads weighing up to 1.5 tonnes. it is 17 meters tall and has a diameter of two-meter, it weighs around 50 tonnes. All major cities of Pakistan and China come under its range.

AGNI-IV(INTERMEDIATE RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILE)

The Agni-IV which is about 20 meters tall and weighs 17 tons, was launched from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Abdul Kalam Island, formerly known as Wheeler Island, at around 12 noon.

This was the sixth trial of the Agni-IV missile. The previous test was conducted on November 09, 2015. This fire and forget missile is navigated using a jam-proof ring laser gyroscope. The re-entry heat shield can withstand temperatures in the range of over 4,000 degrees centigrade and makes sure the avionics function normally with inside temperature remaining less than 50 degrees centigrade.

AGNI 4 MISSILE
AGNI-IV MISSILE SYSTEM DURING REPUBLIC DAY PARADE

Agni-IV has a 5th generation onboard computer and a distributed architecture. It has the most up-to-date features for correcting and guiding itself during in-flight disturbances the sophisticated surface-to-surface missile is outfitted with modern and compact avionics

With the most accurate ring laser, gyro-based inertial navigation system (RINS) and supported by a highly reliable redundant micro navigation system (MINGS), the Agni-IV ensures the vehicle reaches the target within two-digit accuracy with 100 m CEP.

AGNI-IV is an advanced version of AGNI-II. Earlier It was earlier known as AGNI-II PRIME

It reached an altitude of 850 kilometers during its third test in January 2014. it was also successfully test-fired in January 2017.

AGNI-V (INTERCONTINENTAL RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILE)

Agni-V is a three-stage, solid propellant, and intercontinental ballistic surface-to-surface missile. It is about 17-meter long and weighs over 50 tonnes.

With a massive range of 5,500 to 5,800 kilometers, it is nuclear-capable, with a payload capacity of 1,500 kg of a high-explosive warhead. It has the capability to strike targets anywhere in all of Asia and parts of Africa and Europe.

India will break into the exclusive ICBM club of six countries including the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, China, and France once the 50-tonne Agni-V is ready for induction by 2014-2015, although some others say unless India acquires an 8,000 km range missile, it cannot become a part of this club. But DRDO scientists are sticking to their claim

MISSILE AGNI V
AGNI-V MISSILE SYSTEM DURING REPUBLIC DAY PARADE

The missile travels faster than a bullet. It can carry 1,000 kgs of nuclear weapons. The fact that the Agni can be launched using a special canister means that it could even be launched from the roadside.
In its final stage, the missile reaches a height of approximately 800 kilometers and with the speed of Mach 24, it can hit the Target with 80 m CEP.

The Agni maneuvering re-entry vehicle features an attitude control system and aerodynamic fins. The 4m-long re-entry vehicle consists of five sections, with each section consisting of a two-layer composite structure. The MRV supports a range of payloads in different configurations.

AGNI-VI ( INTERCONTINENTAL RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILE)

Agni-VI will be a four-stage intercontinental ballistic missile, which is in the hardware development phase after its design phase was completed. Agni-VI is expected to have Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles as well as Maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRV). And these maneuverable warheads will give Agni VI an extended range exact figure of which is currently classified.

It will be taller than its predecessor Agni V and was expected to be flight tested by 2017. The government of India is yet to approve the project, although DRDO has completed all calculations and started the engineering work.

AGNI 6 DEMONSTRATIVE IMAGE
DEMONSTRATIVE IMAGE PF AGNI -VI

It is reported it is the latest and most advanced version among the Agni missiles. According to sources, the Agni-VI missile is likely to carry up to 10 MIRV warheads and will have a strike range of 12,000 km, though DRDO has refused to confirm the missile’s range. It will be launched from a submarine and from land-based launchers.

AGNI -P (UPGRADED VERSION AGNI-I)

The brand new missile, a variant of Agni-I, will be flight tested from a defence facility off the Odisha coast any time between June 28 and 29. Initially christened as ‘Agni Prime’, the missile will have a strike range of 1000 km to 1500 km.

Despite the Covid restrictions, preparations at the test facility have been in full swing for over a week. “Missile assembly and integration with the launcher, which was developed specifically for the missile, are nearing completion. A notice to airmen (Notam) has already been issued for the missile’s scheduled test.

If everything goes according to plan, the weapon will be tested on Monday. Agni Prime was created using the same cutting-edge technologies that were used in the 4000-km Agni-IV and 5000-km Agni-V missiles. Inertial navigation systems based on advanced ring-laser gyroscopes will guide the two-stage, solid-fuelled missile. Both stages have composite rocket motors and equidistant guidance systems.

MISSILE CAPACITY AND RANGE
AGNI MISSILE RANGE

Unlike the single-stage Agni-I, the double-stage Agni Prime will have a canister version with the flexibility to be fired from both road and rail-mobile launchers. The sleek missile that weighs less than that of the previous variant due to the integration of new technologies will be more lethal in terms of power and killing ability.

It is not clear if Agni would be used as a counter-strike or second strike weapon system. Whether the system is used for counterstrike or second-strike, India would continuously need to conduct flight tests of the Agni systems to check their operational readiness. These tests need to be conducted on a regular basis during morning, evening, or night. While Agni-VI has been speculated, the government has denied any such efforts or programs being carried out by India. However, should India‟s strategic compulsion coerce India to develop so, New Delhi surely would go ahead with such capability.

In addition, missile systems especially land-based systems would also need to be protected from enemy attacks. While road and rail mobility are options, India is also working on a ballistic missile defense (BMD) system to intercept incoming enemy missile systems. At the same time, Agni with MIRVs as mentioned before can raise concerns in adversaries‟ minds that India may have adopted a „first-use‟ policy in its nuclear doctrine. In addition, BMD can also be used both as an offensive and defensive system. missile systems to launch a counter-attack on India‟s nuclear and conventional capabilities. However, India needs to clearly elaborate its BMD posture in order to avoid any confusion and state that the BMD would be deployed to strengthen India‟s „no-first-use doctrine.‟

Animesh Singh

Engineering Scholar , Persuing from AKTU Uttar Pradesh

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