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'Agni-5 has put India in the elite club'

April 20, 2012 21:43 IST

The Indian army will have to wait four to five years to acquire Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile Agni-5, which was successfully tested on 19 April by the Defence Research and Development Organisation. Sheela Bhatt reports.

In the next 18 months, the DRDO will test fire Agni -5 two more times to assess the capabilities of the warheads that would be attached to the missile by the army.

Dr VK Saraswat, chief, DRDO, said at a press conference in New Delhi on Friday that India is moving ahead in missile technology, according to the country's threat perception.

Saraswat said that his 30-year-old dream has been realised. He also said that on day of the launch he went to temple and prayed for the success of Agni 5! He credited the success to God.

"God was kind," he said. Sarswat was wearing 5 rings on his fingers suggesting that he believes in mystic power of precious stones.

He assured that they would keep on doing things, "Our dreaming never ends. We are scientists." He was jubilant after the 'copy book' test carried out by his team , but the new missile man was quite restrained.

He didn't mention China or Pakistan while talking about the 'threat perception'. He refused to give the exact range of Agni-5, saying that it was classified information.

He did say without mentioning China that its knowledge of missile technology that could carry the warheads some 10,000 km is meaningless because the missiles will dive into the ocean..

Chinese researcher Du Wenlong has told the Global Times that Agni-5 has the potential to hit targets 8,000 km away.

He added, "The Indian government had deliberately downplayed the missile's capability in order to avoid causing concern to other countries."

But another expert Zhang Zhaozhong, a professor with the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army has claimed that unless India develops capacity to cover the 8,000 km range it cannot join the exclusive club that has ICBM capability.

China, Russia, France, the United States and the United Kingdom are members of the elite club that India has joined now.

Sarswat said, "India has joined the elite group of nations. Who else has these capabilities? This is a proud moment for India. Our focus was to build the 21st century missile. We are today a missile power. It is a major milestone."

Avinash Chander, chief controller of research and development and a distinguished scientist said that Agni-5 will be able to carry 3 to 10 warheads.

He also said that DRDO developed the design and private and public sector manufacturers produce the systems, parts, computers and machines used in Agni-5.

The number of tests were done while testing the missile were the Navigation systems, high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System and Micro Navigation System that helped the missile reach the target point.

The next two tests are crucial because only after they succeed, the production will start by the Bharat Dynamics Limited, government-owned unit in Hyderabad which is under the control of DRDO. The army will be delivered the Agni-5 after proper training.

Sarswat said that the project for Long Range Ballistic Missile programme was given the go ahead in December 2008 by the government. It was given a four-year deadline to complete the project, but the DRDO has managed to complete the project much earlier.

He said special computers with multiple memory were made, exclusive navigation system was produced. He said 80 per cent of  Agni-5 is indigenously designed. He said that 20 per cent components were easy to import because it were not in the list of embargoed items.

Team Agni based in Hyderabad was engaged in making it success.

He said it took Team Agni 20 days to assemble the final version of Agni-5.

Initially it was to be test fired on April 18 but the extreme weather that included thunder and lightening made them change the schedule.

If they had tested it in bad weather certain observations and studies could not have been possible to conduct. He said the launch done on April 19 was 'absolutely perfect'.

DRDO initially called Agni-5 'the 5000-km range surface-to-surface Agni-V ICBM' but later, it officially corrected itself to be politically correct and said it is a 'long-range ballistic missile."

Agni 5 can reach deep into China and Europe so it is a "inter-continental strategic missile."

Sarswat said, "Three ships located in the sea, at the various distances to monitor the launch on path of Agni-5 are now returning to India.

The successful test is one rare achievement for the United Progressive Alliance. It shows the political will of the government to carry forward DRDO's missiles programme.

Sarswat denied any cap coming in the ongoing programme. He said that threat perception is never static, but evolutionary. He said, "Our development is based on the existing threats to the nation. Agni-5 test launch has opened up many new avenues."

He said that the Indian government has not given a go ahead to develop strategic capacity for space warheads. But Indians scientists are developing the capacity.

Sarswat said that India being a peace loving nation, it is against the militarisation of space. He added that India is not in the missile race. But, the launch of Agni-5 is a game changer because it has added the new dimension to India's strategic warfare capacity.

Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi