India successfully flight-tested Agni-Prime a New Generation Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missile from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam island off the Balasore coast in Odisha on June 28, 2021. It is touted to make a big difference to the accuracy, reaction time and India’s strike capability against tactical targets in China and Pakistan.
The Agni-P surface-to-surface ballistic missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is expected to strengthen India’s Credible Deterrence capabilities.
According to defence analysts, the Agni-P missile will replace the Prithvi, Agni-1 and Agni-2 missiles in India’s arsenal.
Congratulating the DRDO after the successful test flight of Agni P Defence Minister Rajnath Singh twitted, “I compliment the efforts of the team behind this mission. Many advanced technologies including Composites, Propulsion Systems, innovative Guidance and Control mechanisms and state of the art navigation systems have been introduced.
The Agni P missile is an advanced variant of the Agni class of missiles and has a range of 1000 to 2000 km.
According to a DRDO official, Agni P is designed to be different from the earlier versions of Agni missiles, in terms of accuracy, manoeuvrability and time required to launch the missile as well as storage and mobility. Also being a canisterised missile it can be stored for a longer period and transported across the length and breadth of the country.
Another feature of the Agni P missile is that it weighs half of the Agni III missile and has been developed using many innovative guidance and control mechanisms, propulsion systems, and state of the art navigation systems.
Above all, it has the flexibility, range and accuracy to target enemy warships in the Indo-Pacific.
Significantly the DRDO had started developing the Agni family of medium to intercontinental-range ballistic missiles named after the five elements of nature under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) in the late 80s. Prithvi, the first missile built under the IGMDP program could drop a nuclear bomb with reasonable accuracy on a target 150-250 km away. Soon it gave way to Agni-I India’s first intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range between 700 – 900 kilometres which was inducted into service in 2004.
The biggest plus point in favour of Agni surface to surface ballistic missiles was their long-range and capability to deliver a nuclear warhead. The Agni-1 ballistic missile had a range of 700–900 km and was capable of carrying a conventional payload of 1,000 kg or a nuclear warhead at a speed of 2.5 km/s. It weighed close to 12 tonnes and had a length of 15 metres. It was also found to be user friendly, simple, accurate and more mobile than Agni-II which had a range of 2,000–2,500 km.
Agni-III the third Agni series of missiles has a range of 3,500 km and was capable of carrying a warhead of 1.5 tonnes. It was reported to be the most accurate strategic ballistic missile of its range class in the world with a range of 3,500 km and the capacity to carry a warhead of 1.5 tonnes.
Agni-IV is the fourth in the Agni series of missiles earlier known as Agni II prime tested from Wheeler Island in eastern Orissa had a range of 4,000 km.
Agni-V is a solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test-fired on 19 April 2012 from Wheeler Island off the coast of Orissa was found fit to strike targets more than 5,500 km away. To ensure that it could be swiftly transported and fired from anywhere it used a canister launch missile system. The basic difference this made was that till now Indian ballistic missiles used to be mounted on trucks and had to be transported carefully. They needed to be transported less frequently and needed protective shelter. They also needed to be refuelled before being fired, whereas the new canister technology protects the missile from the outer elements and makes it is flexible to use in adverse weather conditions. The canister made of marginal steel preserves the missiles for long life through a completely airtight sealed atmosphere. As a result, the missile can be transported and deployed anywhere in war or peace.
As things stand today, Agni P a medium-range ballistic missile look similar to Agni-III but is almost half its weight.
According to defence analysts, both Agni-P and Agni-5 complement each other and will go on to fortify India’s nuclear arsenal against Pakistan and China.