Times of India reported on December 26 that India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) test fired the “Agni-5” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from Wheeler Island off Odisha on Monday, paving the way for its eventual induction into the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) after user-trials. As the missile has a range of more than 5,000 km, and is capable of carrying a warhead of one ton, the Indian media generally regard it as “a weapon against China.”
The report quoted a DRDO official as saying: “We are studying the missile test-related parameters, and it will take some time to determine the success of the test.” It is reported that “Agni -5” is a three stage solid-fuelled missile, and it was the fourth test firing of the missile. According to expert analysis, seeing from the official news released by the DRDO, this test also was a flight test just like the previous three tests; the purpose is to have a comprehensive assessment of the tactical and technical performance of the missile, to test the matching and coordination of the different systems and to verify the correctness of the design. Conventionally, the missile flight test includes testing of electronic instruments, testing of the individual components, sub-systems and integrated functioning of the systems, powertrain test, warhead ablation and inter-stage separation system testing. The nature of the flight test is divided into development, appraisal, acceptance and sampling flight tests. Viewing from the development rules of “Agni” family of missiles, the test conducted on December 26 test should be the last test of the development phase of “Agni -5” missile, which is an appraisal test. If the test is successful, it would clear the most critical step before being delivered to the forces for use. Next, “Agni-5” will carry out a series of large-scale ground tests of the whole weapon system, such as full weapon system road mobility and stand-by function, environmental test, life test and live ammunition target strike, etc. After these tests are completed and passed, production can start.
Indian media have repeatedly boasted that the range of “Agni-5” missile is sufficient to cover the whole of China and part of Europe. Previously the Indian media has written that “Agni -5” has high mobility, which enables it to quickly move closer to the target outside its range. In a hypothetical war between India and Sweden, an Agni-5 launcher, stationed at Bangalore in southern India, would be unable to strike Stockholm, 7,000 km away. But moving it to Amritsar would bring Stockholm within range. Similarly, moving the Agni-5 to northeast India would bring even Harbin in China within striking range. Which implies, through “forward deployment and mobile launch”, “Agni-5” will be able to cover all major targets in China.
However, there are various indications that the Indian dream of quick mobile launching of “Agni -5” may not be achievable in a long time to come. Therefore, probably it is not that easy for “Agni-5” missile to truly become a “deterrence” that China “takes seriously”. ▲