BALASORE (ODISHA): India finally made it. In a giant leap in country’s deterrence capability, the most potent forbidden surface-to-surface nuclear capable Inter-Continental range Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-V was successfully test-fired in full operational configuration for the first time from a canister-based launcher at a defence test facility off the Odisha coast, on Saturday.
With the maiden successful test launching of the canisterised version of Agni-V, indigenously developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), India has achieved another major milestone in its on-going defence preparedness signaling that this developing country is steadily but surely becoming a super power in the South East Asia region.
Defence sources said the sophisticated missile with a dummy payload blasted off from the confines of its canister, a hermetically-sealed airtight container mounted on a road-mobile Tatra truck launching platform positioned at the launching complex-four (LC-IV) of the Wheeler Island test range at about 8.09 am.
“The strategic missile lifted off majestically leaving a trail of orange flames and pierced into the sky after the gas generator at the bottom of the canister gave it initial thrust. The Gas Generator System (GGS) with a compact solid rocket motor put inside the canister successfully ejected the missile,” said a source.
At the predetermined moment, having risen to about 20 meters height, the missile’s first stage motor ignited lifting it into the sky. The flight continued on its predetermined path during which the second, all composite light weight motor, followed by the third, innovatively designed conical all composite rocket motor propelled the missile into space taking it to a maximum altitude of more than 600 km.
The missile, after reaching peak of its trajectory turned towards earth to continue its journey towards the intended target with an increased speed due to the attraction of earth’s gravitational pull and its path precisely directed by the advanced on-board computer and inertial navigation system. As the missile entered earth’s atmosphere, the atmospheric air rubbing the skin of the missile during the re-entry phase raised the temperature to beyond 4000 degree Celsius.
However, the indigenously designed and developed carbon-carbon composite heat shield continued to burn sacrificially protecting in the process the payload, maintaining the inside temperature below 50 degree Celsius. Finally, commanded by the on-board computer with a support of highly accurate ring laser gyro based inertial navigation system, the most modern micro inertial navigation system (MINS), fully digital control system and advanced compact avionics, the missile hit the designated target point accurately, meeting all mission objectives.
It was third test of Agni-V and first from a canister. While two basic versions of the missile were tested in hot launch configuration, this one was in cold launch configuration. Earlier, the Agni-V missile had been tested successfully twice from mobile launchers. While its first test was conducted on April 19, 2012, second test carried out on September 15, 2013.
Emotions ran high inside the mission control room in Wheeler Island as out-going Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister and DRDO Chief Avinash Chander, considered as brain behind the Agni series of missiles, announced successful accomplishment of the mission. His last day in the office turned out to be really momentous for him as he was lifted with joy and shouldered by his fellow scientists soon after the successful launch.
“It was a fantastic mission. I am highly satisfied with my works. A symbol of DRDO’s technological excellence and India’s strength, the missile flew on a predefined path and reached its destination with expected precision. Three consecutive successes have proved the designs are just perfect and the system is matured. Now the missile is ready for the production,” said Chander, who was unceremoniously removed from his post by the Government.
The test has demonstrated the maturity, repeatability and robustness of the Agni-V system, paving the way for initiation of its production and subsequent induction. With the terminal phase velocity of Mach 24, the missile reportedly covered the full range of about 5,000 km in around 1,200 seconds.
Addressing the gathering and project team, a visibly happy and satisfied Chander thanked the DRDO staffs for demonstrating such a great success on the last day of his work in DRDO. “I cherished every moment of my service in DRDO and I thank you all for the relentless support given to me all through. I am leaving with a great satisfaction of equipping the country with such advanced missiles. I wish the entire DRDO community a great future”.
The missile, powered by three stage solid rocket motors had in fact a flawless, spectacular launch in auto mode and followed its entire trajectory in textbook manner, dropping the three motors at predefined stages into the ocean.
Three warships – one in mid-range and two at the target point tracked the missile and witnessed the final event. All the radars and electro-optical systems monitored the performance parameters of the weapon and displayed information in real time. All the systems and subsystems of the missile, including the launch system, navigation system, control systems, rocket motors and re-entry mechanism performed well.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated all the scientists and personnel of DRDO associated with the mission and said defence scientists have made the country proud. Terming the event as a milestone in the long range missile era of India, Modi tweets: “Successful test-firing of Agni-V from a canister makes the missile a prized asset for our forces. I salute our scientists for their efforts”.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval also congratulated Chander and the mission team for the successful launch, over a tele-conversation. Congratulating team Agni, Air Chief Marshal Anup Raha, Chairman Chiefs of staff committee and Chief of Air Staff, who had witnessed the entire launch operations from the control room, called it a great achievement. Lt Gen Amit Sharma of Chief Strategic Forces Command, also present on the occasion, called it a fantastic achievement.
Director General (Missiles and Strategic Systems) VG Sekaran and Agni-V Project Director Rajesh Kumar Gupta described the success as ‘historic achievement and a dream fulfilled’. The DRDO chief had throughout guided the launch as well as prelaunch activities. Among others RCI Director G Satheesh Reddy, ITR Director MVKV Prasad and a host of defence scientists witnessed the launch operation.
Since the 5000-km range missile had to traverse across the Indian Ocean, all logistic issues were fixed. A number of countries including Indonesia and Australia were alerted and the international air and maritime traffic within the test zone also controlled accordingly.
Agni-V is the country’s first intercontinental range ballistic missile which is capable of hitting targets in all Asian countries and parts of Africa and Europe. The 17-meter long, 2-meter wide, three-stage, solid-fuelled missile can carry a payload of 1.5 tonne and weighs around 50 tonnes.
As a canister-launch system gives the forces the requisite operational flexibility to promptly transport the ballistic missile and launch it from a place of their choice, the DRDO is also working on the canister version of other Agni series of missiles including Agni-I, Agni-III and Agni-IV.
After Agni-V missile is inducted, the DRDO will focus more on multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) and maneuvering warheads or re-entry vehicles to defeat enemy ballistic missile defence systems.