(This was originally posted in The New Indian Express by Hemant Kumar Rout)
DRDO Set To Back In Action With ‘Agni Prime’ Test Scheduled Next Week After a lull of more than three months due to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic leading to restriction in movement of manpower, material and machinery, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is set to back in action. The premier defence agency that came to the rescue of people during the pandemic by developing and transferring 52 new technologies, including the anti-Covid drug 2DG, ventilator, PPE, mask, and pressure swing adsorption technique for oxygen plants at hospitals, is readying for the trial of a new Agni series missile early next week.
Defence sources said the brand new missile, a variant of Agni-I, will be flight tested from a defence facility off 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. Preparations are in full swing at the test facility for the past over a week amid the Covid restrictions. “Missile assembling and integration with the launcher, exclusively developed for the missile are nearing end. A notice to airmen (Notam) has already been issued for the scheduled test of the missile. If everything goes as per plan, the weapon will be test-fired on Monday,” the sources told The New Indian Express.
The DRDO had left the world awestruck after launching 12 missiles within a span of six weeks in September and October last year. The last missile technology tested from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) of Odisha coast on March 5 was Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) that will help India develop long-range air-to-air missiles.
A defence official associated with Agni project said the Agni Prime has been developed with the cutting-edge technologies used in 4000-km range Agni-IV and 5000-km Agni-V missiles. The two-stage and solid-fuelled missile will be guided by inertial navigation systems based on advanced ring-laser gyroscopes. Both stages have composite rocket motors and guidance systems are equipped with electromechanical actuators.
“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,” the official said refusing to divulge more specifications of the weapon.
First test-fired in May 1989 as India’s first intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Agni-I having a strike range of 700 km to 900 km was inducted in the armed forces in 2004. Once inducted after successful experimental trials, the Agn Prime is expected to replace the Agni-I missile. India has five missiles in its most ambitious Agni series.