India is getting ready to test its surface-to-surface Agni-5 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in its final operational configuration off Odisha after two years. The missile could reportedly reach as far as Beijing, the capital of China.
Preparations have begun in full swing to launch the nuclear-capable Agni-V from its canister on a launcher truck towards December-end or early January. India wanted to exercise some strategic control, while making aÂ bid to join the 48-country Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which China had defeated earlier this year. India, however, did manage to join the 34-nation Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), as also ink a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan recently.
Once the Agni-5 is inducted, India will join the superexclusive club of nations with ICBMs (missiles with a range of over 5,000-5,500km) alongside the US, Russia, China, France and the UK.
The impending fourth test of Agni-5, capable of striking even the northernmost parts of China, is significant. This will be the final test of the missile, which will be tested before the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) begins its user trials. The tri-Service SFC which manages India’s nuclear arsenal, will conduct two more tests before producing the missile in many numbers.
The third test, held in January 2015, saw it being fired from a canister mounted on a Tatra launcher truck. Its canister-launch version makes the missile even deadlier since it gives the armed forces the flexibility to transport and fire the 50-tonne missile from anywhere they want.
It may be noted that a canister launch means a gas generator inside the canister ejects the missile up to a height of 30 metre, after which a motor is ignited to fire the missile further.
Apart from shorter-range Prithvi and Dhanush missiles, the SFC has inducted the Agni-1, Agni-2 and Agni-3 missiles. While these missiles are geared towards Pakistan, the Agni-4 and Agni-5 are mainly meant for threat perception from China.
Meanwhile, DRDO to defeat enemy ballistic missile defence systems, has worked on multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) for Agni missiles under which one missile can carry several nuclear warheads, each programmed to hit different targets.