Come Wednesday and India may join a select club of countries that possess or are about to possess an ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile).
Hectic preparations are on for the launch of Agni-V missile that day from the Wheeler Island off the Orissa Coast.
Designed and developed by India’s Defence Research And Development Organisation (DRDO) scientists, the three-stage missile the missile is scheduled to be launched from a road mobile launcher.
With a range of 5,000 km, Agni-V, once validated and inducted into the armed forces after several more tests couple of years down the line, will be India’s longest-range missile which can carry a nuclear warhead.
Seventeen metres tall and 50 tonnes in weight, Agni-V’s three stages are powered by solid propellants. It will have the capacity to carry a nuclear warhead weighing over one tonne, DRDO scientists have 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 U.S., Russia, France and China, no other country had designed and developed this range of systems, he said.
Earlier 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 crcucial for India’s defence vis-à-vis China since Beijing has upped the ante in recent times by deploying missiles in Tibet Autonomous Region bordering India.
DRDO is also aiming to operationalise a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) by 2013 and a missile shield for Delhi by 2014, Saraswat said.
”The K-15 SLBM is now getting ready for the final phase of induction after its two recent tests (from submersible pontoons) were successful…We have done over 10 flights of it so far,” the DRDO chief 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 unmdertake sea trials this August, will need these SLBMs to complete what is called nuclear-triad.
After a rare faiulure of Agni III missile test is Agust 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.
All eyes are now on the launch of Agni V on April 18.