Asia Defense | Security | South Asia

India Test Fires Agni-II Nuclear Capable Medium-Range Ballistic Missile

The test was reportedly conducted at night on November 16.

Franz-Stefan Gady
India Test Fires Agni-II Nuclear Capable Medium-Range Ballistic Missile
Credit: Agência Brasil/Wikimedia Commons

India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) has conducted a nighttime test firing of a medium- to intermediate-range nuclear capable ballistic missile as part of its annual training cycle to validate the combat readiness of the Indian Army’s missile forces.

An Agni-II medium- to intermediate-range ballistic missile was launched  at Launch Complex 4 at nighttime on November 16 from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) on Dr. Abdul Kalam Island in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of the Indian state of Odisha, according to local media reports citing government sources.

“The missile was launched from the IC-4 pad at Wheeler Island [Dr. Abdul Kalam Island], Balasore,” Sirf News writes. “Splashdown was 2,000 – 2,100 km. downrange in the Bay of Bengal, on a trajectory designed to simulate a range of 2,800 – 3,000 km.” The launch marked the first successful test of the Agni-II at night. A previous test, conducted in 2009, ended in failure.

The Agni-II constitutes the backbone of India’s land-based nuclear deterrent.

Its maximum range is estimated somewhere between 2,000-3,000 kilometers and it can carry a conventional or nuclear warhead of up 1,000 kilograms. It was first deployed in 2004 and is both road and rail mobile.

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As I noted previously, there has been an ongoing concern that the two-stage solid-fueled ICBM entered service prematurely.

The missile was last test fired in February 2018. Another test, which took place in May 2017, failed for unknown reasons.

India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) was also expected to launch a K-4 intermediate-range, nuclear-capable submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from a submerged platform off the coast of Andhra Pradesh in southeastern India earlier this month. However, to date no test has taken place.

The K-4 has an estimated maximum range of 3,500 kilometers and can be fitted with a 2,000-kilogram nuclear or conventional payload.

A previous flight-test from a submerged pontoon in December 2017 failed as a result of a battery failure. The last successful launch of the SLBM in in full  operational configuration from India’s first domestically developed and built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), the INS Arihant, took place in April 2016.

DRDO is also expected to test-fire the Agni-III and BrahMos missiles this month.

The Pakistani military test fired a Shaheen-I medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) on November 18.

“Pakistan successfully conducted training launch of (…) Shaheen-1 capable of delivering all types of warheads up to range of 650 [kilometers],” said Director General of Inter Services Public Relation, Major General Asif Ghafoor, in a statement. The “launch was aimed at testing operational readiness of Army Strategic Forces Command (ASFC) ensuring Pakistan’s credible minimum deterrence,” he added.