N-tipped Agni-V first india intercontinental ballistic missile can hit China and pakistan

NEW DELHI: Brimming with confidence after last week's successful Agni-III test, India now hopes to test its first-ever intercontinental ballistic

missile (ICBM) within a year. This nuclear-capable Agni-V missile will be able to hit even northernmost China.

Moreover, in the backdrop of Beijing testing anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons and ballistic missile defence (BMD) systems, DRDO chief V K Saraswat on Wednesday said India already had the 'building blocks' for ASAT weapons and was far ahead of China in the BMD arena.

DRDO, in fact, will conduct the fourth test of its two-tier BMD system, designed to track and destroy hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere, towards end-March/early-April. But all eyes are now on Agni-V, which with a range of over 5,000-km can arguably be called an ICBM, usually used to denote a missile capable of hitting targets over 5,500 km away.

Why is India not developing true-blue ICBMs, especially since Chinese missiles like Dong Feng-31A have a range of 11,200-km?

"We have the capability. But the missile's range and lethality is based on the immediate objective of threat mitigation. Agni-V suits our present requirements," said Saraswat.

Being designed by adding a third composite stage to the two-stage 3,500-km Agni-III, the 17.5-metre tall Agni-V will be a canister-launch missile system to ensure it has the requisite operational flexibility to be swiftly transported and fired from anywhere. Consequently, if launched from near the Line of Actual Control, the solid-fuelled Agni-V will be able to hit China's northernmost city of Habin. Both Agni-III, which DRDO says is now 'mature' for induction, and Agni-V will add muscle to India's 'dissuasive deterrence' posture against China.

Moreover, DRDO is also developing MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) warheads for Agni missiles. An MIRV payload on a missile carries several nuclear warheads, which can be programmed to hit different targets. A flurry of such missiles can hence completely overwhelm BMD systems.

But unlike China, which fired a missile to bring down a satellite in January 2007, India will not test a 'real' ASAT weapon. "It will lead to debris in space. We can simulate a test on ground using an 'electronic' satellite. We have the building blocks for it," said Saraswat.

"Agni-III's propulsion system coupled with the BMD system's 'kill vehicle' will compose an ASAT weapon. The propulsion system is adequate to carry the ASAT warhead to 1,000-km altitude," said Saraswat.

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