Agni missile to get multiple warheads - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 27 January 2008

Agni missile to get multiple warheads

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard: 28th January 2008

If the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre is the heart of India’s nuclear deterrent, the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) in Hyderabad is its limbs and sinews. The ASL Director, Avinash Chander, takes us through a spotless assembly room, where technicians are bolting sensitive instruments into the nose of a giant Agni-3 missile. It is eerie; before long, this very missile will roar off a launch pad on Wheeler’s Island in Orissa. It will travel 350 km above the earth, re-enter the atmosphere at a speed of 5 kilometers per second, experiencing temperatures of 3000 degrees centigrade. But the scientists here are cheerfully confident of repeating last April’s success, and proving the missile’s ability to deliver a one-and-a-half-ton nuclear bomb to within 100 metres of a target 3000 kilometers away. 

And that is routine stuff, compared to what India’s Chief Controller of Missiles and Strategic Systems (CC-MSS), Dr VK Saraswat, has divulged to Business Standard. He says that ASL is now working on new warhead technologies, which will equip the Agni-3 and all future missiles. The new warheads (usually nuclear bombs) will be capable of sneaking through enemy anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defences, fooling enemy radars and dodging enemy missiles.

The Agni’s new warheads, says the DRDO, will include five cutting-edge technologies:
  • They will be multiple warheads (Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles, or MIRVs), with each missile delivering several warheads at the same, or even different, targets.
  • Decoy warheads, which will be fired alongside the genuine warheads, so that enemy’s missiles are wasted in attacking decoys, rather than the real warheads.
  • Manoeuvring warheads, which will weave through the atmosphere, dodging enemy missiles that are fired at it.
  • Stealth technologies to make the warheads invisible to enemy radars.
  • Changing warheads’ thermal signatures, to confuse the enemy’s infrared seekers.
The decision to go in for enhanced warhead capabilities stems from growing ABM capabilities with many countries, including India, which has already conducted two successful ABM tests in Nov 2006 and Dec 2007, and plans a comprehensive two-stage ABM test this June. Dr Saraswat says, “As we are developing missile defences, other countries are also doing that. I’m sure our immediate adversaries will also try, or they will acquire, so our future missiles should counter the threat of interception by anti-missile defences.” 

The DRDO is already working on the technologies for these new systems, even though government sanction has not been formally taken. Dr Saraswat says that, “The government sanction for that is just coming, but practically you can say it is received, because we have been asked to go ahead and the work is already on.”

By 2015-2020, according to current planning, India’s missile force will consist mainly of Agni-3 and Agni-4 missiles, all of them equipped with new-generation warheads. The 5000-km range Agni-4 is also referred to as the Agni-3+, because it is almost identical in technology to the Agni-3. Its extra range comes merely from reducing its weight by making its rockets from composite materials, rather than the maraging steel, which is presently used. The Agni-4 is slated for its first flight trials in 2009.

The failure of the first Agni-3 flight test in July 2006 is now a distant memory. Avinash Chander is confident that, after two successful tests this year, an army unit will be equipped by 2009 with operational Agni-3 missiles. The officers and jawans will soon move to Hyderabad, and learn to prepare and launch the missile. The army already has two Agni units: one equipped with 700-km Agni-1 missiles, the other with the 2000-km Agni-2.

The new Agni-3 missiles will all be assembled here in ASL. Unlike every other weapon system, there is no series production line for Agni missiles. Instead, selected Indian partners manufacture individual parts of the missile, which are then integrated in ASL and handed over to the army. Avinash Chander points out that the missile is 100% indigenous, with most of it produced by private industry.

The ASL Director says, “Agni has funded industry to create that infrastructure, so that we get the best of products. We are funding seed capital where necessary, and the money is recovered from the supplies that are made. With infrastructure costs so high, and the production numbers being limited, we invest... and ask the industry to manage the product.


Missile Range Status

Agni-1 700 km In service with army

Agni-2 2000 km In service with army

Agni-3 3000 km One test successful
Two tests planned in 2008

Agni-4 5000 km First test planned in 2009

(All Agni-3 and Agni-4 to get MIRV stealth warheads by 2015-2020)


  1. Ajai, what new here. Have you wonder why DRDO always embark on high and mighty projects with thousands of crore outlay in "indigenous" effort, without effective nalysis of timeline, capability and Budget?

    This is the same DRDO which embarks on BVRAAM, when nations with much more capability and Budget were developing WVRAAM(ASRAAM, IRIS-T, PYTHON). Now after 20 years we are hearing that four contries, will be helping in ASTRA development!!!

    Don't be surprised that Nag will also get suiters just before trails(like astra)or after trails.

    Is this not the classic case of fraud? Where you know you are not capable of promised product in time or budget and still get away without any remorse??

  2. Hi,
    I came here from your article in Business Standard.
    Thanks for providing this information.


  3. Ajai,
    Good posts, but my suggestions are dont reveal too much here, because u have disclosed the assembly point too much in yr posts. I wonder how the defence department can let us know so many things, may be this is something of public domain.
    anyway good to see some one sharing. Its better we find the bottlenecks in govt departments.

  4. bs terminator, please go and get your 72 from the indian army and spare us here.

    its trials btw not trails, couldnt you get a proper education in your call center?

    you pakistani children seem to have got your panties in a bunch thanks to indias missile tests. good show, we are impressed that you care.

    now please- bugger off and play with your aq khan genius missiles and musharrafs super toys.

    and btw, "Ajai" served in the indian army against the likes of you retards, so call him with respect and dont harangue him. we come here to read what he writes and debate, not to read the 2 bit trash that you defecate on every comments thread. so, do us a favour and bump yourself off. give you a darwin award, we will for cleaning up the gene pool.

  5. Another DRDO-rakshak sneaked with usual name calling. The problem with DRDO bakshaks is they are uncomfortable with facing the fact, that they are swindling nation in the guise of high and mighty Innovation.

    The need of the hour is basic equipment for the Military, but then the opertunity of swindle is so limited.

    I know very well who Ajai is, you don't need to tell me. I also know, how much you bitch about him in DRDO-Rakshak site!!

  6. bs terminator aka buraidaiah, please sneak back to pakistan with your usual name titanium. and hug karl marx.

    you demmed idiot, we dont give a f*** for you pakistani lemmings and your bloody rakshak and brahmin this and caste that...why cant you pakistanis just go back to pakistani sites and bitch about brahmins and drdo and rusting tanks etc instead of wasting your valuable time on people like us?

    surely musharraf must have something very valuable for you!

    go fight your internet jihad with the kids on b-rakshak or whatever, leave this site alone, with all your spamming under different names you idjit.

    you have ruined shivs site by posting under various names "buradiah" and now here you are, as a bad olfactory odor.

    your obsession with indians, with caste, with all sorts of nonsense is too pathetic to ignore. there should be some law banning the likes of you procreating and further polluting the gene pool, but since we cant have that, we can at least request you to create your own paradise in some corner of the internet duly painted with the green crescent and star.

    go get a job and make something useful of your life- we come here to read about ajai and his articles, not to hear you harangue him.

    so- please sod off buradiah and leave us be.


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