Agni-V


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The Agni-V is an Indian intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of over 5,000 km. It is an evolution of the Agni-III IRBM, featuring similar first- and second-stage motors with an added third stage. India first tested the solid-fueled missile in 2012, conducting subsequent tests in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2018. Unlike earlier missiles, the Agni-V launches from a sealed canister on a road-mobile launcher, compressing the time needed to prepare for launch.

Agni-V at a Glance

Originated from
India
Class
Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)
Possessed by
India
Basing
Road-mobile
Length
17.5 m
Diameter
2 m
Launch weight
50,000 kg
Payload
1,650 kg
Propulsion
Three-stage, solid propellant
Range
5,000 – 8,000 km
Status
In development

Agni-V Development


India’s Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) began developing the Agni-V in 2008.1 The DRDO’s Research Centre Imarat (RCI), Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), and Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) in Hyderabad reportedly spearheaded the effort, which evolved from the ongoing Agni-III project.2 DRDO personnel initially referred to the missile as the Agni-III+ before redesignating it as the the Agni-V in 2010.3

India first flight tested the Agni-V on April 19, 2012, successfully launching the missile from its Integrated Test Range in Odisha to a designated point in the Indian Ocean. The missile travelled over 5,000 km, reaching a maximum altitude of 600 km. DRDO officials stated that the missile’s dummy warhead landed “with an accuracy of [a] few metres” near the target.4

By April 2012, the DRDO had constructed a ground test facility for the Agni-V’s canister-ejection system and had transferred production of a road-mobile launcher to industry.5 On September 15, 2013, India test launched the missile a second time, which successfully flew 5,000 km from Odisha to a target in the Indian Ocean.6

In mid-2014, the DRDO conducted a final ground test of the Agni-V’s canister ejection system, and on January 31, 2015, conducted its first flight test of a canister-launched, road-mobile Agni-V.7 This production-ready version of the Agni-V underwent another successful flight test on December 26, 2016.8

In 2018, India’s DRDO and Strategic Forces Command (SFC) conducted joint user trials of the canister-launched Agni-V, successfully launching the missile on January 18, June 3, and December 10.9 India’s armed forces began inducting an initial batch of Agni-V missiles in 2019.10

DateRangeAltitudeOutcomeNotes
April 19, 20125,000+ km600 kmSuccess; landed “within metres” of targetOpen launch from rail-mobile launcher
September 15, 20135,000 km SuccessOpen launch from rail-mobile launcher
January 31, 2015  SuccessCanister launch from road-mobile launcher
December 26, 2016  SuccessCanister launch from road-mobile launcher
January 18, 20184,900 km  SuccessCanister launch from road-mobile launcher
June 3, 2018  SuccessCanister launch from road-mobile launcher
December 10, 2018  SuccessCanister launch from road-mobile launcher
Agni-V flight test history.

Agni-V Design

The Agni-V is 17.5 m long, 2 m in diameter, and has a launch mass of 50,000 kg. With its 1,100 kg nuclear payload, the missile is capable of travelling over 5,000 km.11 In interviews, former DRDO head Vijay K. Saraswat has claimed that the Agni-V possesses a minimum range of 3,000 km and a maximum range “in the order of” 5,500 – 5,800 km.12 Chinese state-run media, meanwhile, have claimed the missile could range up to 8,000 km.13 The missile has a maximum throw weight of 1,650 kg.14

The Agni-V uses similar solid-propellant motors to the Agni-III with the addition of a conical, composite-cased third-stage motor.15 It uses a ring laser gyro-based inertial guidance system and flexseal thrust vector control systems on each stage to adjust its trajectory in flight.16 It is capable of loading nuclear and conventional payloads.

The Agni-V is a “canisterized” missile, ejected with pressurized gas from a sealed canister before igniting its rocket motor. This system, also known as a “cold-launch” system, reduces the thermal stress of hot rocket exhaust on the launch vehicle. The missile’s sealed canister is also intended to shield it from harsh environmental conditions, reducing maintenance requirements. The Agni-V’s canisterized, road-mobile system has significantly reduced launch preparation times compared to earlier systems.17

The missile’s canister is loaded on a road-mobile launcher, the Transport-cum-Tilting vehicle-5 (TCT-5), consisting of a 7-axle trailer and a 3-axle Volvo truck.18 Later reports have also described a launch truck based on a Tatra chassis. The launch system was developed by the DRDO’s R & D Establishment in Pune and its Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (VRDE) in Ahmednagar.19

Indian sources have issued conflicting statements over the Agni-V’s capacity to load multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles (MIRV). In early 2013, former DRDO head VK Saraswat stated that MIRV technologies were under development for the Agni-V platform.20 Later in 2013, Saraswat’s successor Avinash Chander disclosed that “there is no plan to carry MIRVs on Agni V,” with the payload intended for a different missile.21 Indian officials maintain that the DRDO continues development on MIRVed warheads and maneuvering warhead technologies for future missiles.22

Footnotes

    1. “India to test 5,000-km Agni by year-end,” The Indian Express, June 4, 2011, https://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/india-to-test-5-000km-agni-by-yearend/; Amidabh Sinha, “5,000-km range ballistic missile to be test-fired early 2009, The Indian Express, January 8, 2008, https://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/5000-km-range-ballistic-missile-to-be-test-fired-early-2009/; “India to test Agni-III+ ballistic missile in 2009,” The Indian Express, January 7, 2008, https://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/india-to-test-agni-iii-ballistic-missile-in-2009/.
    2. Ibid.; “Defence labs’ key role in success of Agni-V,” The Hindu, April 21, 2012,https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/defence-labs-key-role-in-success-of-agniv/article3336920.ece;
    3. Ibid.; Manu Pubby, “India to test 5,000 km n-missile,” The Indian Express, February 11, 2010, https://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/india-to-test-5-000km-nmissile/.
    4. Y. Mallikarjun and T.S. Subramanian, “Agni-V propels India into elite ICBM club,” The Hindu, April 19, 2012, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/agniv-propels-india-into-elite-icbm-club/article3330921.ece.
    5. Y. Mallikarjun, “Agni-V trials in final configuration to begin early next year,” The Hindu, April 22, 2012, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/agniv-trials-in-final-configuration-to-begin-early-next-year/article3342954.ece.
    6. Y. Mallikarjun, “Nuclear-capable ‘Agni-V’ tested for second time,” The Hindu, September 14, 2013, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nuclearcapable-agniv-tested-for-second-time/article5130101.ece.
    7. Y Mallikarju and T.S. Subramanian, “Agni-V’s maiden canister trial a roaring success,” The Hindu, January 31, 2015, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/maiden-canister-trial-of-agniv-a-roaring-success/article6841942.ece; Y Mallikarjun, “Canister-based trial of Agni-V after monsoon,” The Hindu, June 15, 2014, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/canisterbased-trial-of-agniv-after-monsoon/article6117200.ece.
    8. T.S. Subramanian, “Agni-V successfully soars yet again,” The Hindu, December 26, 2016, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Agni-V-successfully-soars-yet-again/article16944774.ece.
    9. Joshua Berlinger and Nikhil Kumar, “India test-fires Agni-V, a nuclear-capable ICBM,” CNN, January 18, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/18/asia/india-icbm-tests; “Agni-5 ballistic missile tested successfully,” The Hindu, January 18, 2018, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-successfully-test-fires-agni-5-ballistic-missile/article22462182.ece; Franz-Stefan Gady, “India Test Fires Most Advanced Nuclear-Capable ICBM,” The Diplomat, June 4, 2018, https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/india-test-fires-most-advanced-nuclear-capable-icbm/; Franz-Stefan Gady, “India Test Fires Agni-V Nuclear-Capable ICBM,” The Diplomat, December 10, 2018, https://thediplomat.com/2018/12/india-test-fires-agni-v-nuclear-capable-icbm/.
    10. “India firms up $130 billion plan to enhance military capability,” The Hindu, September 10, 2019, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-firms-up-130-billion-plan-to-enhance-military-capability/article29384403.ece.
    11. Y.Mallikarjun, “Crucial Agni-V launch today,” The Hindu, April 18, 2012, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/crucial-agniv-launch-today/article3327205.ece;
    12. Shekhar Gupta, Interview with VK Saraswat, Walk The Talk, NDTV, April 28, 2012, https://www.ndtv.com/video/shows/walk-the-talk/walk-the-talk-with-drdo-chief-vk-saraswat-230667.
    13. “India downplayed Agni-V’s capacity: Chinese experts,” Hindustan Times, April 20, 2012, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world/india-downplayed-agni-v-s-capacity-chinese-experts/story-gBWUfgMk8GWQjODjorbqXI.html/
    14. Vijay K. Saraswat, “Future Challenges of Aerospace Research in India: A Perspective,” IIT Bombay Centre For Distance Engineering Education Programme, Mumbai, March 2, 2013, https://www.cdeep.iitb.ac.in/flvplayer.php.
    15. Rajaram Nagappa, Evolution of Solid Propellant Rockets in India (New Delhi: Defence Research and Development Organisation, 2013); “Agni V missile test likely on Wednesday,” The Indian Express, April 16, 2012, https://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/latest-news/agni-v-missile-test-likely-on-wednesday/.
    16. Ibid.; “Achievements of Ministry of Defence during the Year 2012,” Release 90913, India Press Information Bureau, December 18, 2012; The Hindu 2012.
    17. Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda, “Indian nuclear forces, 2020,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 76, No. 4 (2020).
    18. Ibid.
    19. The Hindu 2012
    20. Pallava Bagla, Interview with VK Saraswat, May 4, 2013, NDTV, NDTV, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsJb7cXgJrw; Y. Mallikarjun, “Agni-V to be modified to attack multiple targets,” The Hindu, May 28, 2013, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/agniv-to-be-modified-to-attack-multiple-targets/article4758676.ece.
    21. Y. Mallikarjun, “None can intercept Agni-V: Chander,” The Hindu, September 18, 2013, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/none-can-intercept-agniv-chander/article5139186.ece.
    22. Express News Service, “DRDO Gears up for Canister Launch of Agni-V,” The New Indian Express, February 6, 2016, Accessed on http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/DRDO-Gears-up-for-Canister-Launch-of-Agni-V/2016/02/01/article3255695.ece.
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Missile Defense Project, "Agni-V," Missile Threat, Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 11, 2016, last modified May 4, 2021, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/agni-5/.