Agni I to VI, and Counting…
India Strategic|February 2017

The Journey of India’s Missile Programme.

V Saxena

NEW DELHI. Way back in 1982-83, when the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGDMP) of the DRDO was sanctioned by the Government for research and development of a comprehensive range of missiles, Agni stood apart only as a technology demonstrator (TD) project. While the concurrent development of Prithvi SSM, Trishul SRSAM (Short Range Surface-to-Air Missile), Akash MRSAM (Medium Range SAM), and Nag third generation anti-tank missile kicked off on well defined milestones and PDCs (Projected Dates of Completion), the Agni development timeline was left open as it was a technology demonstrator.

The initial troubles with Agni (and Prithvi) started way back in 1988-89 when their first prototypes with ranges from 300 km and more (Prithvi-I 150 km with higher ranges successively) and Agni-I 700-1250 km) were tested. Around then, US and other western countries placed Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) restrictions on India.

Then onwards, it was the competence and expertise built by the DRDL (Defence Research and Development Lab) in the fields of propulsion, navigation and aerospace materials (based on soviet technology) that steered the programme, with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Project Director of IGMDP, declaring: We will do it on our own. His team of talented Indian scientists proved him right. The initial Technology Development (TD) version had a limited scope of developing the re-entry technologies. Nonetheless, over a period of time, the programme was expanded to build Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs) and further down, towards the Intercontinental Range Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). There was a definitive operational need for each step as the Agni journey rolled forward.

There is no point in making such distinctions as Prithvi for Pakistan and Agni for China, etc. These Surface-to-Surface Missiles (SSMs) are the components of Comprehensive National Power (CNP) whose subset, Comprehensive Military Power (CMP), gets shaped over time based on the contemporary threat perceptions and geopolitics. It is about creating Credible Nuclear Deterrence, to prevent a nuclear war, and if attacked, to delete the perpetrator.

AS SIMPLE AS THAT

As officially declared, India’s nuclear doctrine is based on the central pillar of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) with a promise of massive retaliation causing unacceptable damage to any aggressor who indulges in a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere. It does not matter if the device used in tactical or of higher magnitude.

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