For a while now, Indian defence scientists have been working hard on developing missile systems that they hope will be game changers in any future military conflict. The Agni series is the standard-bearer of this Indian effort.
India last month completed a successful test-firing of one of its most potent strategic weapons, the medium range Agni-I missile, from Wheelers Island off the coast of the Bay of Bengal. This was the eighth test-firing of the Agni-I since it was first tested in January 2002.
The Indian Defence Ministry promptly issued a terse press note to announce the event:
‘The launch took place…in a copybook style and reached the designated target in the Bay of Bengal. Radars, telemetry and electro-optical systems along the coast tracked and monitored all the health parameters. Ships located near the target area witnessed the terminal event. The launch of the A1 missile was carried out by the Strategic Force Command (SFC) as part of the user exercise.’
The strategic utility of the surface-to-surface Agni-I is that it can carry nuclear payloads weighing up to one tonne, meaning that unlike the Prithvi series of missiles, the Agni-I can strike deep into Pakistani territory without having to be deployed at the borders. This gives an enormous tactical advantage to the Indian armed forces. Indeed, Pakistan and China must both be anxiously keeping a watch over the Indian missile programme as they’re ultimately the ones likely to be the targets of any Indian missiles.
The Agni-I is both road and rail mobile and incorporates new guidance and control systems. The continuing testing is aimed at incorporating significant improvements to the missile’s re-entry technology and manoeuvrability.
Last month’s test was the first in a planned series that Indian defence scientists have scheduled for the upcoming weeks. The second test, which reportedly took place successfully today, was for the supersonic 290-kilometre range Brahmos cruise missile. This is to be followed by the test-launch of the Agni-II later this month.
In addition, two more missiles developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization are set to be tested in January 2011—a new Agni-II+ missile and an interceptor missile. The interceptor missile, known in defence parlance as an Advanced Air Defence missile, is designed to shoot down incoming enemy missiles and will be a key part of the DRDO’s Ballistic Missile Defence shield project. It was previously tested (unsuccessfully) in March 2010.
It’s becoming increasingly clear India is really adding some teeth to its missile strike and defence capabilities.