Amid Beijing's concern over India's inter-continental missile capabilities, the DRDO successfully test launched the country's longest range nuke-capable missile Agni-V from a defence base off the Odisha coast on Sunday. It was second experimental test of the 5000-km range weapon system capable of delivering nuclear warhead with high precision.
Defence sources said the indigenously built surface-to-surface Inter-Continental range Ballistic Missile (ICBM) blasted off from a mobile launcher at the Wheeler Island, a part of Integrated Test Range (ITR) at about 8.50 am. The entire mission team celebrated the moment as the missile pierced into the sky, spewing thick yellow and white smoke in a repeat of spectacular maiden launch last year.
A major milestone, this second successful test of Agni-V has demonstrated the maturity, repeatability and robustness of the system, paving the way for initiation of its production and subsequent induction. The missile reportedly covered the full range in around 1200 seconds.
Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister and Director General of DRDO Avinash Chander said 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.
"The aim of the trial was to make sure that whatever we had achieved last time is perfectly repeated. We are ready to go further and the system has to get inducted fast. We have been very successful in achieving that objective.
Two consecutive successes have proved the designs are just perfect and the system is matured.Now the missile is ready for the production," he told 'The Express'.
Though initially the countdown was stopped nearly 14 seconds prior to the launch due to a 'false' alarm about a possible glitch in a missile component, it again started after a clearance from the mission control room.
Earlier, a snag was also detected in the telemetry system positioned in a ship which was ignored.
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.
Sources said the first rocket engine took it to a height of about 40 kms while the second stage pushed it to about 120 kms before the third stage carried the vehicle to about 300 kms above the earth. The missile finally reached an altitude of about 600 kms before zeroing in on the target.
Three warships - one in midrange 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. The re-entry heat shield withstood temperatures of over 3000 degree centigrade and made the avionics function normally.
As the missile is expected to be inducted in the armed forces by 2015, personnel of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) along with its top brass was present during all the operations to get acquainted with the system and trained.
Defence Minister AK Antony has congratulated all the scientists of DRDO associated with the mission and said defence scientists had made the country proud. Terming the event as a milestone in the long range missile era of India, National Security Advisor (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon also has praised DRDO scientists for the success.
The DRDO chief had throughout guided the launch as well as prelaunch activities. Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems) VG Sekaran, ASL Director Jayaraman, RCI Director Satish Reddy, ITR Director MVKV Prasad, Pune based R&DE Director Guruprasad, Agni-V Project Director R K Gupta and a host of defence scientists witnessed the launch operation.
Canister-based Agni-V launch next year
Soon after the second successful test of Agni-V, DRDO Chief Avinash Chander declared that the missile would be test fired from a canister-based launcher next year. In its operational form the missile is designed to be stored and launched from the canister, enhancing its storage, operational readiness, transportability, response time and shelf life. The canister-based system mounted on a truck will add operational flexibility thus making it user friendly. "The next test of Agni-V will be from a canisterised launcher," he added.
Third test of Agni-IV shortly
After the Agni-V success, the DRDO is planning to carry out the third developmental test of 4,000-km range ballistic missile Agni-IV. This nuclear tipped missile will be tested from the Wheeler Island soon. The two-stage solid propelled missile is 20 meter tall and weighs around 17 tonne.Compared to the Pershing missile of the US in terms of technology, the Agni-IV has many cutting-edge technologies, which can meet global standards.