India successfully conducted the “first pre-induction trial” of its over 5,000-km range Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday.
According to sources, the country’s most formidable missile will undergo one more such pre-induction trial “within this year” before it is inducted into the Agni-V regiment already raised by the tri-Service Strategic Forces Command (SFC) with the requisite command and control structures.
Following India will gate-crash into the super-exclusive club of countries with ICBMs (missiles with a range of over 5,000-5,500km) like the US, Russia, China, France and the UK. While a belligerent North Korea over the last six-seven month has rattled the US with tests of its two new ICBMs, Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15, expert opinion is still divided whether they are fully-operational and deployed as of now.
The over 50-tonne Agni-V, designed to carry a 1.5-tonne nuclear warhead, has been tested four times in “developmental or experimental trials” earlier. The missile was tested in an “open configuration” in April 2012 and September 2013, while it was test-fired from hermetically sealed canisters mounted on transport-cum-tilting launcher trucks in January 2015 and December 2016.
On Thursday, in its first pre-induction trial conducted by the SFC, the 17-metre Agni-V was launched from a canister atop the road-mobile launcher from the Dr. Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast at 9.53 am. The three-stage missile zoomed to a height of over 600-km in its parabolic trajectory and then splashed down around 4,900-km away towards Australia in the Indian Ocean barely 19 minutes later.
India, of course, wants a credible strategic deterrent against an aggressive and expansionist China, which has a large arsenal of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. The SFC already has regiments of the Prithvi-II (350-km), Agni-I (700-km), Agni-II (2,000-km) & Agni-III (3,000-km) missiles, which are mainly meant to deter Pakistan from any misadventure. The Agni-IV (4,000-km) and Agni-V (over 5,000-km), in turn, have been developed with China in mind.
“The missile’s flight performance was tracked and monitored by radars, range stations and tracking systems all through the mission. All mission objectives were successfully met. This successful test of Agni-V reaffirms the country’s indigenous missile capabilities and further strengthens our credible deterrence,” said a defense ministry official.
India continues to test what appear to be ICBMs, and President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un trade verbal jabs in an escalation that many fear could lead to nuclear war.
The Pentagon also reportedly is considering the defense tactic of a nuclear strike against cyberattackers. Trump’s administration seems to be advocating nuclear capabilities as “supplements” that will “enhance deterrence,” according to a pre-decisional draft of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review .