Monday, December 19, 2011

India's ICBM Program Marching Ahead


The successful launch of the Agni-IV missile from the coast of Orissa has made India break open the doors of the exclusive inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) club. Scientists and engineers of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and other agencies associated with the development programme and the country at large can be proud of the achievement.
Though DRDO has fallen short at times, it has done good work in some areas especially in missile technology. The development and improvement of missile technology has gone hand in hand with the progress made in the refinement of space technology which has helped the country overall to become a member of the space club also. This is no surprise because the technologies are related. The success of Agni-IV has set the stage for the launch of Agni-V, which is expected to be tested in February 2012.

Agni-V will mark a quantum leap in India's missile technology because it will be an ICBM with a range of 5000 km and above. DRDO has shown steady progress from a small technology demonstrator missile based on SLV-3 through various versions like Agni-II and Agni-III to the present stage.

Agni-III which was tested in the year 2007, has a range of over 3500 km and Agni-IV is bigger with a longer range. The proposed next version which is the Agni-V will not only have a longer range but will also have systems that provide better navigation and greater accuracy. Agni-V missiles will be able to carry multiple nuclear warheads and can be transported by road and launched from a mobile platform.

All this makes the Agni-V an effective deterrent. As this is no secret, the Agni-V is to be deployed and to be used as a deterrent only for an aggressive China which claims large parts of North-East India. After Agni-V is tested in February 2012, it will take about three years for the ICBM to be made 100% operational and inducted into the Indian Armed Forces. With Agni-V about to be a reality, it is noted that India will have the capability to strike even the farthest part of China in the event of hostilities.

While this may be true, the Agni-V only has a theoretical value because no one expects a clash with China or any other country. India has a credible nuclear doctrine and it firmly stands by it's policy of 'no-first-use'.

India's indigenous missile program is necessary to protect the growing economic and other interests of the country. Unlike Pakistan which has secretly imported or stolen technology for missiles and nuclear warheads, India has a superb record of self-reliance in the face of technology denials by the west.

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