April 27, 2012

Agni V's first test - in April 2012

Rather chilling but informative youtube of the Agni V including its launch characteristics.

The inner circle (above) represents Agni II's range, middle Agni III's extended range and outer (probably) Agni V's average range.

see report of Agni V's second test - of September 15, 2013 - at http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/a-second-agni-5-test-any-mirv.html

The first test of Agni V on April 19,  2012 from Wheeler Island, Orissa, India, is to a degree domestically aimed at justifying the high expense of missile development to the broader Indian Government (which has many competing interests for the money spent) and the public. The launch is a genuine source of pride for many in India and concern in Pakistan and China. Information on the Agni V ICBM (defined as 5,500+km range) test was highly detailed. Almost all parametres except multiple independently targetted reentry vehicle (MIRV) separation may have been tested.

The Agni V is arguably an Agni III with a third stage. The Agni V range may be 5,000 km with a 1,500 kg (3 RVs MIRVed) payload and (reportedly) 8,000 km with a 500 kg (one RV) payload. An Agni V could boost a 500 kg thermonuclear warhead to most of Western Europe, all of China and Japan and central Australia (just over Pine Gap, next to Alice Springs).

Agni V is specifically designed to have an average (probably 1,000 kg payload) range to strike all of China. While Agni V is vulnerable to satellite tracking its high mobility (on TELs and rail-carriages) gives it a second and first strike capability.

One of several reasons for developing the Agni V is as a response to China's similar weight, highly land mobile DF-21. While the DF-21 has an estimated range of only 3,000 km, when placed near the China-India border a DF-21 could hit all targets in India. In contrast an Agni V on the Indian side of the same border needs to boost warheads the length of China (5,000 km) to hit Beijing and Shanghai.

India's planned SLBMs in indigenous SSBNs will eventually provide the most survivable second and first strike option. Notably the US, France and UK have steadily shifted the majority of their active nuclear warheads to SSBNs over the last 30 years.

India's SLBMs from the defendable waters of the Indian Ocean will need a range of at least 6,500 km to hit any target in China. India's proposed plan of fitting 3 - 5,000 km range navalised Agni III SLBMs to its future SSBNs would require these SSBNs to transit the dangerous chokepoints in the Indonesian Archipelago to get within range. Chinese SSNs may guard these chokepoints. These high SLBM strategic and technical requirements in part explain why India at present is emphasising the land mobile Agni V component of its evolving nuclear triad.

Shorter range Prithvi  and Agni I and II missiles encompass Pakistan but Agni III+ are needed to reach much of China and Agni V all of China. The proposed future Surya ICBM class (Agni is just marginally and ICBM) will be able to hit any targets on the planet particularly other nuclear powers.

On MIRV? - See this page on Defence Forum of India . On this page 19-04-12 08:56 PM LethalForce has reproduced my Agni V post as it stood on 19 April before I revised it. At 19-04-12 09:07 PM LethalForce asked "Australian article says it is a 3 warhead MIRV? anyone have conformation of this? " . My point is I anticipated MIRV was an outstanding issue because at that time Indian authorities had not mentioned it in connection with this Agni V test. MIRV as it applied to Indian missiles first appeared on me blog in January 2008 then MIRV on navalised Agni III SL February 2011. Several hours later DRDO chief V K Saraswat appeared to respond to the MIRV issue ""We go from here to many other missiles which will have capability for MIRV..., for anti-satellite system, ..."

On 22 April 2012 "Anonymous provided additional information "Avinash Chander, DRDO’s chief controller of missiles, explained such a missile would be “all-composite”. The Agni-5 has three stages, with the second and third stage built of composite materials. The next missile will have a composite first stage as well, making it lighter and, therefore, able to carry a heavier payload than the 1.5-tonne payload of the current Agni-5. According to DRDO sources, an MIRV payload would be significantly heavier since it would consist of several nuclear warheads, each weighing about 400 kg. A five-warhead MIRV, therefore, would weigh two tonnes."

About five additional and successful Agni V tests will be required before Agni V can be deployed (perhaps in 2016) as India's long range deterrent missile.
See the extended Comments Section below which contributes much on the physical and political issues of the Agni V test and about ballistic missiles in general.