File photo of AGNI-V undergoing a canister based test

BHUBANESWAR: Hectic preparations have begun at Abdul Kalam Island defence test facility off Odisha coast for the first user trial of country’s most potent longest range surface-to-surface nuclear-capable ballistic missile Agni-V. The trial would be carried out by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of Indian Army.

Sources said the launch window has been set and tracking equipment moved to the strategic locations. The indigenously designed and developed missile will be test fired anytime between January 18 and 19.

“The missile system is a proven one as already four trials - two from mobile launcher and two from canister have been conducted successfully. Data generated during all missions were quite satisfactory. The fresh trial would be carried out with the association of SFC to check its operational readiness,” said an official.

Developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the intercontinental range ballistic missile is the best in its class with advanced ring-laser gyros, composite rocket motors and highly accurate micro-navigation systems and inertial navigation systems.

The three-stage, 17-metre tall, two-metre wide Agni-V, is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead of about 1.5 tonnes. Weighing around 50 tonnes, it incorporates accelerometer for navigation and guidance and its accuracy level is far higher than its three earlier variants - Agni-II, Agni-III and Agni-IV.

“What makes the missile more effective and stealth is that it can be equipped with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV) capable of delivering multiple warheads at different targets at long distances. The technology is under development,” said a defence scientist involved with the Agni-V project.

Since the 5000-km range missile has to traverse across the Indian Ocean, all logistic issues will have to be fixed before the launch time is fixed. A number of countries, including Indonesia and Australia will be alerted and the international air and maritime traffic within the test zone also controlled accordingly. The last test of the missile was conducted from the same test range on December 26, 2016.