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Agni-VI: India’s Next Missile all set to Surprise the World ?

India’s most formidable missile, the over 5,000-km range Agni-V, is now ready for user trials by the military after it underwent its fourth and final test-firing from the integrated test range off the Odisha coast on Monday.

The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Agni-V, dubbed a “game-changer” in strategic deterrence because it brings the whole of China and much more within its strike envelope, was fired from its canister on a launcher truck just after 11am.

Powered by three-stage rocket motors, the 50-tonne missile tore into space to a height of 500 km before following its predetermined flight-path to the “splash point” in southern Indian Ocean 20 minutes later. President Pranab Mukherjee and PM Modi congratulated DRDO.

As Agni-V can be dubbed as first Indian weapon system which was called “China Centric” and caught the attention of the world and peaceful rise of India has a Regional Super Power which was moving away from being Pakistan centric mindset and started focusing on its larger regional rival in the east which had started breathing fire near its border .

Agni-VI: India’s Next Missile all set to Surprise the World ?

Agni-VI is an intercontinental ballistic missile being developed by the DRDO for the use of the Indian Armed Forces

Agni-VI will be a four-stage intercontinental ballistic missile, which is in the hardware development phase, after its design phase was completed. Agni-VI is expected to have Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle as well as Maneuverable reentry vehicle(MaRV). And these maneuverable warheads will give Agni VI an extended range exact figure of which is currently classified. It will be taller than its predecessor Agni V, and is expected to be flight tested by 2017. The government of India is yet to approve the project, although DRDO has completed all calculations and started the engineering work.

It is reported to be the latest and most advanced version among the Agni missiles. According to sources, Agni-VI missile is likely to carry up to 10 MIRV warheads and will have a strike range of 8,000 km to 12,000 km, though DRDO has refused to confirm the missile’s range. A senior DRDO scientist was quoted as saying that the new generation Agni-VI missile will be sleeker, easily transportable and would be readily deployed. It will have the capability to be launched from submarine and from land-based launchers

Opacity regarding the development
Till 2009, it was reported that the Government of India had not considered the development of an ICBM with a range of 10,000 km or above. Speculations of an ongoing program for a longer range ICBM resurfaced in 2011. Some reports claimed that the ICBM is already named “Surya” and code named AGNI-VI.

Other reports suggested that New Delhi had not given serious weight to the necessity for an ICBM. DRDO can take up a project to develop India’s ICBM only after permission from the government of India. Since India was not a signatory  to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) until 27 June 2016, the Indian missile program was not limited by any treaty commitment to cap the development of ICBM capability. Some media reports had occasionally suggested that, despite India being a non-signatory to MTCR, there is a voluntary moratorium on developing missiles beyond the range of 5,000 km.(India is member of MTCR as of 2016 June) MTCR does not prevent India from developing missiles beyond 5,000 km. MTCR prevents transfer of technology to a different state which will lead to proliferation. The treaty does not differentiate between MTCR signatories and non-MTCR signatories, with respect transfer of technology, or components. However, there is a legal argument that transfer to an MTCR signatory does not lead to proliferation. Technology stays within the MTCR signatories, and export control prevents non-MTCR signatories from obtaining the technology. For example, U.S. domestic law differentiates between technology transfers or exports to MTCR signatories and non-MTCR signatories.

Indian Air Chief’s allusion to a longer range ICBM

In June 2011, for the very first time then IAF Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik vehemently argued in favour of broadening India’s nuclear strike capabilities beyond the immediate neighbourhood. Naik, who was also the head of the Chiefs of Staff committee, stated that, “India should pursue an ICBM programme to acquire ranges of 10,000 km or even more. Breaking out of the regional context is important as the country’s sphere of influence grows. We have no territorial designs on any country, but India needs the capability to match its sphere of influence.”

Doubts about viability

In October 2011, a report published by The Pioneer raised doubts about DRDO’s ability to independently develop the “seeker technology” (guidance technology) eligible for ICBMs, that could enable the missile to traverse long distances in excess of 10,000 km. The same report also asserted Russia’s willingness to provide India with help in the field of “seeker technology”. The authenticity of the pioneer report is disputed by at least one foreign newspaper, with the counter-claim that the involvement of Russia is probably inflated out of proportion, because if the report about Russian involvement is true, Russia may be suspected of violating the Missile Technology Control Regime. In response to the scepticism, a top DRDO scientist asserted that India has all the equipment and technology needed to develop ICBMs, “but where the warhead should go or what the range should be will have to be a political call.”

Confirmation of the programme

On 20 June 2011, Indian Defence News published an article titled India Serious About 10,000 km ICBM which stated that India is seriously contemplating to enhance the reach of its strategic missiles and that the Ministry of Defense is considering a DRDO proposal to develop intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting targets 10,000 km away. Building an ICBM has international ramifications and the ultimate decision to go ahead with the proposal would be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

In April 2012, after the successful launch of Agni V, Saraswat revealed that India had no plan to cap the Agni programme and there will be more missiles in the series of Agni missile.

Recent developments

In May 2012, reports confirmed the development of another ICBM in the Agni series, a three-stage Agni VI missile. It was purported that the missile will be developed in 2014 or so and will have an even longer range, up to 8,000 km to 10,000 km. The Agni VI will be sleeker than the Agni-V and capable of carrying at least 10 nuclear warheads, capable of targeting multiple targets at the same time. In January 2013, DRDO chief V K Saraswat said that after the development of Agni V, DRDO will develop Agni VI, which will have Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) capability. He said that the missile design has been completed and DRDO is in the hardware realisation phase. Agni VI, the new multi-target missile under development, will serve as a ‘force multiplier’, Defence Research and Development Organisation chief V.K. Saraswat said on 9 February 2013.

Some other weapons that are under-development and will be ready in next few years(As per DRDO annual report) –

Solid fule ducted Ramjet (SFDR) technology for air launched tactical version
the state of the art SFDR is a joint development project between DRDO and russia. SFDR is designed with an advance propulsion system having thrust modulation using hot gas flow controller. the missile is configured with reduced smoke nozzle-less boosters, having a range of 120 km at 8 km altitude with a speed of 2.3-2.5 Mach. Preliminary design documentation of SFDR propulsion has been completed. Wind tunnel testing of SFDR model was completed in Oct 2015.

New generation anti-radiation missile(NGARM)
DRDO is involved in the design and development of NGARM having a range of 100 km. AKU-58 launcher after suitable modificationwill be used for missile integraation on Su 30MKI airccraft.
some of the major improveent of the project includes: wind tunnel testing for force and moment charecterization of NGARM configuration, static firing of pulse-1 rocket moter for evaluation of moter performance at nominal sea levelcondition and machenical integration trial on Su-30MKI aircraft using a geomatric NGARM missile at IAF station.

Man-portable Anti-tank guided missile (MPATGM)
the project was sanctioned in jan2015 towards design and development of MPATGM system comprising of 3rd generation anti tank guided missile with launch tube and launcher with command launch unit. During the year, design configuration has been finalized and reviewed. Eight static tests of the rocket motor were conducted to achieve consistent ballistic performance.

third generation helicopter launch anti-tank guided missine “Helina”
Helina is a 3rd gen helicopter launched anti-tank guided missile with 7 km lock-on-before-launch (LOBL) range capability with imaging infra-red(IIR) for integration on ALH-WSI. Programme “Helina” had successfully established the safe separation from AHL and programmed control performance over full range during earlier flight campaigns. Flight test campaign of “Helina” was conducted in july 2015 at chandan rajasthan wherein three missiles were testfired from ALH-WSI. During the flight trials, the complete Helina weapon system performance was successfully proven.

third generation anti-tank guided missile “Nag” (PROSPINA)
Nag having an operation range of 4 km is a 3rd generation anti-tank guided missile with fire and forget and top attack capabilities, which can be used in day and night. It is deployed on a specially modified infantry command vehicle(ICV) BMP-2 vehicle called NAMICA. HOT test of NAG and functional testing of safety arming mechanism in flight configuration were completed in Oct 2015.

Smart anti air field weapon (SAAW)
SAAW is long-range, stand-off, precision air-to-surface weapon (123 kg class) capable of engaging ground targets for launch from jaguar and Su-30MKI aircrafts. All subsystems have been realised and are in various stages of testing. Aerodynamic studies and Phase-1 wind tunnel testing has been completed. Trial was conducted in sep 2015 at Rail Track Rocket Sled (RTRS) test facility, TBRL Ramgarh to evaluate the wing opening mechanism of SAAW. Structural load test and wing load test have also been completed. Drop trials are planned for early 2016.

the project has recently been sanctioned in mar 2015 towards design and development of pralay Surface to surface missile with reliable performance. Aerodynamics configuration has been finalized and all system studies have been completed. Configuration has been approved by the configuration review committee. Preliminary design review of electro mechanical actuation system, canisterm jet vane system for thrust vector control, integrated avionics module and telemetry, tele command and transponder have been completed. Development flight trial approach has been finalized.

All about Agni series –

The Agni missile (Sanskrit: अग्नि, Agnī, “fire”; also the Hindu God of Fire) is a family of medium to intercontinental range ballistic missiles developed by India, named after one of the five elements of nature. Agni Missiles are long range, nuclear weapons capable surface to surface ballistic missile. The first missile of the series, Agni-I was developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program and tested in 1989. After its success, Agni missile program was separated from the IGMDP upon realizing its strategic importance. It was designated as a special program in India’s defence budget and provided adequate funds for subsequent development. As of 2008, the Agni missile family comprises three deployed variants while two more variants are under testing

Name Type Range
Agni-I MRBM 700 – 1,250 km (Operational)
Agni-II MRBM 2,000 – 3,000 km (Operational)
Agni-III IRBM 3,500 – 5,000 km (Operational)
Agni-IV IRBM 3,000 – 4,000  km(Operational)
Agni-V ICBM 5,000 – 8,000 km (Testing)
Agni-VI ICBM 8,000 – 10,000 km (Under development)
Missile Type Warhead Payload (kg) Range (km) Fuel/Stages In service CEP (m)
Agni-I Strategic Nuclear, HE, penetration, sub-munitions, FAE 1,000 700–1,250 Single stage solid 2002 25
Agni-II Strategic Nuclear, HE, penetration, sub-munitions, FAE 750–1,000 2,000–3,500 Two and Half stage solid 1999 30
Agni-III Strategic Nuclear, HE, penetration, sub-munitions, FAE 2,000–2,500 3,500–5,000 Two stage solid 2011 40
Agni-IV Strategic Nuclear, HE, penetration, sub-munitions, FAE 800–1,000 3,000–4,000 Two stage solid 2014
Agni-V Strategic Nuclear, HE, penetration, sub-munitions, FAE 1,500 (3–10 MIRV) 5,500–8,000 Three Stage solid Tested <10 m
Agni-VI Strategic Nuclear, HE, penetration, sub-munitions, FAE 1,000 (10 MIRV) 8,000-10,000 Three Stage solid Under development


The two-stage Agni technology demonstrator, with a solid-fuel first stage, was first tested at the Interim Test Range in Chandipur in 1989. It was capable of carrying a conventional payload of 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) or a nuclear warhead. This original technology demonstrator evolved into the solid-fuel Agni-1 and Agni-2 missiles. India first developed the two-stage 2000 km range Agni-2, testing it in 1999. It then used the first stage of this system to develop the 700 km range single-stage Agni-1, which was first tested in January 2002.

Weighing 12 tonne with a length of 15 metres, Agni-1 has a range of 700–1250 km and is capable of carrying a conventional payload of 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) or a nuclear warhead at a speed of 2.5 km/s. Agni missiles consist of one (short range) or two stages (intermediate range). These are rail and road mobile and powered by solid propellants. Agni-I is used by the Strategic Force Command (SFC) of the Indian Army. The latest missile test occurred on 13 July 2012, when India test fired Agni I successfully at Wheeler Island off Orissa coast. On April 11, 2014 the missile was test fired for the first time in a night trial exercise to its full range of 700 km from the Wheeler island off the Odisha coast. The missile randomly picked from production line was test fired by the Strategic Forces Command after 11 pm in the night. This test was first night after 2 previous test failed due to technical glitches. The missile was test fired from a mobile launcher with logistics support from DRDO at the Integrated Test Range as part of the regular training exercise by the armed forces.

With a special weapons load Agni-I can reach 1200 km. As compared to Agni-II, Agni-I is less costly, simple, accurate and more mobile.


Agni-II with a range of 2,000–2,500 km is 20 metres long, has a diameter of one metre, and weighs around 18 tonnes. Agni – II uses solid propellant in both of its two stages. They are claimed to be a part of the “credible deterrence” against China and Pakistan. India stated that its nuclear and missile development programmes are not Pakistan-centric, that the Pakistani threat is only a marginal factor in New Delhi’s security calculus, and that Agni is at the heart of deterrence in the larger context of Sino-Indian equation.

The 2000 km range nuclear weapon capable missile, already inducted into country’s arsenal, was successfully launched as a training exercise by the Strategic Forces Command on 9 August 2012. India on 7 April 2013 conducted its latest test of its nuclear capable Agni-II strategic ballistic missile from a missile testing range in Odisha. The test was conducted from Wheeler’s Island in Bhadrak district, by army personnel as part of a training exercise.


Agni-III is the third in the Agni series of missiles. Agni III uses solid propellant in both stages. Agni-III was first tested on 9 July 2006 from Wheeler Island off the coast of the eastern state of Orissa. After the launch, it was reported that the second stage of the rocket did not separate and the missile had fallen well short of its target. Agni-III was again tested on 12 April 2007, this time successfully, again from Wheeler Island. On 7 May 2008 India again successfully test fired this missile. This was the third consecutive test; it validated the missile’s operational readiness while extending the reach of India’s nuclear deterrent to most high-value targets of the nation’s most likely adversaries. Agni-III has a range of 3,500 km, and can take a warhead of 1.5 tonnes.

It has been reported that the missile’s circular error probable (CEP) lies in the range of 40 meters, This would make Agni-III the most accurate strategic ballistic missile of its range class in the world. This is of special significance because a highly accurate ballistic missile increases the “kill efficiency” of the weapon; it allows Indian weapons designers to use smaller yield nuclear warheads (200 kiloton thermonuclear or boosted fission) while increasing the lethality of the strike. This permits India to deploy a much larger nuclear force using less fissile/fusion material (plutonium/lithium deuteride) than other nuclear powers. Older ballistic missiles, such as those deployed by earlier nuclear powers required larger yield (1–2 megaton) warheads to achieve the same level of lethality. It has also been reported that with smaller payloads, the Agni-III can hit strategic targets well beyond 3,500 km.


Agni-IV is the fourth in the Agni series of missiles which was earlier known as Agni II prime. Agni-IV was first tested on 15 November 2011 and 19 September 2012 from Wheeler Island off the coast of the eastern state of Orissa for its full range of 4,000 km. The missile lifted off from a road mobile launcher at 11.48 a.m. and after climbing to an altitude of over 800 km, it re-entered the atmosphere and impacted near the pre-designated target in the Indian Ocean with remarkable degree of accuracy following a 20-minute flight. Carrying a payload of explosives weighing a tonne, the missile re-entered the atmosphere and withstood searing temperatures of more than 3,000 °C. With a range of 3,000–4,000 km, Agni-IV bridges the gap between Agni II and Agni III. It was again successfully test fired on 20 January 2014. Agni IV can take a warhead of 1 tonne. It is designed to increase the kill efficiency along with a higher range performance. Agni IV is equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, that includes indigenously developed ring laser gyro and composite rocket motor. It is a two-stage missile powered by solid propellant. Its length is 20 meters and launch weight 17 tonnes. It can be fired from a road mobile launcher.

Agni-V is a solid fueled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India. It will greatly expand India’s reach to strike targets more than 5,500 km away. Agni-V was first test fired on 19 April 2012 at 08:07 am IST from Wheeler Island off the coast of Orissa, the test was successful. Agni-V ICBM has been designed with the addition of a third composite stage to the two-stage Agni-III missile. To reduce the weight it is built with high composite content. The 17.5-metre-long Agni-V would be a canister launch missile system so as to ensure that it has the requisite operational flexibility and can be swiftly transported and fired from anywhere. Agni-V weighs around 49 tonnes; one tonne more than Agni III and a much longer range. The second test launch of Agni-V was successfully done on 15 September 2013 at 08:43 am IST from Wheeler Island. In January 2015, the canisterized version was successfully tested from Wheeler Island.

Further developments

In May 2008 Indian scientists announced they had developed and patented a path-breaking technology that increases the range of missiles and satellite launch vehicles by at least 40%. The enhanced range is made possible by adding a special-purpose coating of chromium-based material to a rocket’s blunt nose cone. The material acts as a reactive-ablative coating that forms a thin low density gaseous layer at the tip of the rocket as it approaches hypersonic speeds; this super-heated gas layer reduces drag by 47% (at mach 7–8), thereby allowing range enhancements at least 40%. It has been announced that this technology will be incorporated in future Agni deployments after having undergone ranging and calibration tests.


Sources: ET Defence, Wikipedia,

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