At a time when tensions are rising with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the successful test-firing of Agni-V, the nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range of over 5,000 km, comes as a big confidence booster and demonstrates India’s prowess in defence technology. The high-precision surface-to-surface missile will equip India better for a potential Chinese offensive as it has the capability to reach almost every part of China. The development comes just months after India test-fired the ‘Agni Prime’, the next generation nuclear-capable ballistic missile in the nuclear arsenal.

While the Agni Prime and the rest of the Agni series is focused primarily on Pakistan, Agni-V is a much larger strategic weapon, capable of striking at much longer ranges. With Agni-V, India has joined an exclusive club of countries, with the others being China, the US, Russia, Britain and France, to have ICBMs.

The Agni-V missile, which uses a three-stage solid-fuelled engine, carries enormous strategic significance for India and is also in tune with the country’s stated policy to have credible minimum deterrence that underpins the commitment to ‘No First Use’. The missile is programmed in such a way that after reaching the peak of its trajectory, it will turn towards Earth to continue its journey towards the intended target with an increased speed due to Earth’s gravitational pull. Additionally, it has a launch weight of 50,000 kg, and can carry a warhead of about 1,500 kg.

Agni-V is India’s most potent ICBM that is capable of not only repelling any adventure by the adversaries in the region but also retaliating forcefully in the event of an armed conflict. India’s missile technology capabilities will help achieve strategic balance and stability in South Asia in view of aggressive posturing by China. What makes this missile unique and agile is that it is a ‘cannisterised’ missile.

It means that the missile can be launched from road and rail platforms, making it easier for it to be deployed and launched at a quicker pace. The cannisterization, which is an encapsulated system in which the missile is stored and launched from, also gives the missile a longer shelf life, protecting it from the harsher climatic conditions. While India is among the handful of nations with ICBM capability, the next generation of the missile under development — Agni-VI — is expected to have a range of around 8,000 km. There are reports that China had tested a new hypersonic missile in August, though Beijing has denied them. India too is reportedly working towards mastering the technology. Hypersonic missiles have the ability to change track or target, mid-trajectory, along with the speed, and this makes them tougher to track and defend against.