India has successfully test-fired Agni-V, its first Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). The missile was launched from Wheeler Island off the Odisha coast at 8:05 this morning. The test launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was postponed due to bad weather.
Designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientists, Agni-V has a range of 5,000 kilometres. The three-stage missile, once validated and inducted into the armed forces after several more tests, will be India's longest-range missile which can carry nuclear warheads.
17 metres tall and 50 tonnes in weight, Agni-V's three stages are powered by solid propellants. It has the capacity to carry a nuclear warhead weighing over one tonne, DRDO scientists said.
The Hindu newspaper quoted Avinash Chander, Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems), DRDO, describing Agni-V's technology as a "game-changer" for strategic options. Except the US, Russia, France and China, no other country had designed and developed this range of systems, he said.
Last month, DRDO chief Dr VK Saraswat had told reporters that India will break into the exclusive ICBM club once the 50-tonne Agni-V is ready for induction by 2014-2015. The Agni series of missiles, including Agni-V, is crucial for India's defence vis-a-vis China since Beijing has upped the ante in recent times by deploying missiles in Tibet Autonomous Region bordering India.
The DRDO is also aiming to operationalise a Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) by 2013 and a missile shield for Delhi by 2014, Mr Saraswat said.
Once the 750-km-range K-15, and the 3,500-km K-4 become fully operational, they will be inducted onto India's indigenously-manufactured nuclear submarines. The first home grown Nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, scheduled to undertake sea trials this August, will need these SLBMs to complete what is called nuclear-triad.
After a rare failure of Agni-III missile test in August 2006, the DRDO has been on a roll with the tests of the two-tier ballistic missile defence (BMD) system, designed to track and destroy incoming hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere, scheduled to be completed by 2013. "We will test the exo-atmospheric interceptor at 150-km altitude this year, which will be followed by an endo-atmospheric test at 30-km altitude," Dr. Saraswat said.