India on Monday moved a step closer to join the super exclusive club of countries with nuclear-capable inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM) by successfully test-firing the indigenously developed Agni-V off the Odisha coast.
Once the Agni-V is inducted, India would be among the league of the nations like the US, Russia, China, France and Britain with ICBM capability.
President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Agni-V maker Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on the successful test of the missile that can carry nuclear warheads to a range of 5,000 km -- long enough to reach northern China.
"Successful test firing of Agni-V makes every Indian very proud. It will add tremendous strength to our strategic defence," Modi said.
President Mukherjee, the supreme commander of the Indian armed forces, said the missile "will enhance our strategic and deterrence capabilities".
This is the fourth test of the missile, developed and successfully tested by the DRDO under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.
The missile was launched around 11.05 a.m. from a mobile launcher complex-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at the Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast in Balasore district, a Defence Ministry statement said.
"The four-range test flight of the missile has further boosted the indigenous missile capabilities and deterrence level of the country," the statement said.
"All the mission objectives were successfully met."
The canisterised version of the missile was earlier successfully test-fired on January 31 this year.
Speaking about the Agni-V missile, V.K. Saraswat, former DRDO chief and Niti Aayog member, said: "Right from the beginning, the missile was designed for the canisterised version."
"Agni-V has all the capability to meet evolving threat and operational requirement of India. Now, we should look for introduction of force multipliers like MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle) in the missile."
The Agni-V missile, in its operational form, is designed to be stored and launched from the canister, enhancing its storage, operational readiness, transportability, response time and shelf life.
MIRV is a missile payload with several warheads, each capable of being aimed at independent targets. This helps in reducing the efficiency of the anti-ballistic missile capability of the adversary.
The missile employs Ring Laser Gyro-based Inertial Navigation System (RINS) and Micro Navigation System (MINS) for navigation, which support it to reach the target point within a few metres of accuracy.
With the success of the test, Agni-V is a step closer for induction into the strategic arsenal of India.
Saraswat, who was the DRDO chief when Agni-V was first tested in April 2012, said it won't be too long before the missile is inducted.
"We are using proven technology which does not require large number of tests. DRDO today has high level of instrumentation and the processing capability on ground as well as in the missile is high," he noted.
DRDO has been steadily increasing the range of the missiles through redesigning the operational missiles for longer ranges.
Speaking about Agni-V missile's capability to launch satellite, Saraswat said: "It is a building block. It can be used to deliver satellites, below 100 kg weight, into the lower earth orbit (LEO) with addition of a small injecting stage in the missile. We had made studies at that time."
A LEO satellite can be launched during the war to gather information on the "theatre battlefields" for specific requirements.
The three-stage 17 metres long, 2-metre wide, 50-tonne Agni-V is capable of delivering nuclear warhead of over a tonne.
The Agni-V's second test was conducted on September 15, 2013, and the third on January 31, 2015.
The fourth test was expected in the first quarter of 2016. However, a technical snag in the battery led to delay in the test, DRDO chief S. Christopher had told IANS.