India gets ready to test nuclear-capable Agni-V ICBM that can hit northern China

India is getting ready to test its Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in its final operational configuration from Wheeler Island off Odisha after two years.

India also conceivably wanted to exercise some strategic restraint while making a bid to join the 48-country Nuclear Suppliers Group, which China thwarted earlier this year. India, however did manage to join the 34-nation Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), as also ink a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan recently.

The impending fourth test of Agni-V, capable of striking even the northernmost parts of China, is in itself significant. “This will be the final test of the three-stage Agni-V, which will be tested for its full range, before the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) begins its user trials,” the source said.

While Agni-V was tested in an “open configuration” in April 2012 and for the second time in September 2013, the third test, in January 2015, saw it being fired from a hermetically sealed canister mounted on a Tatra launcher truck.

Once the Agni-V is inducted, India will join the superexclusive club of countries with ICBMs alongside the US, Russia, China, France and the UK.

While the Agni-I, Agni-II and Agni-III missiles are mainly geared towards Pakistan, the Agni-IV and Agni-V are specifically meant for deterrence against Chine. Beijing of course is leagues ahead of us in terms of its missile and nuclear arsenals.

But the Indian defense establishment believes the Agni-V is sufficient to take care of existing threat perceptions. As earlier reported by TOI, DRDO has also done some work on developing “maneuvering warheads or intelligent re-entry vehicles” to defeat enemy ballistic missile defense systems, as well as MIRVs for the Agni missile. An MIRV payload basically means a single missile is capable of carrying several nuclear warheads, each programmed to hit different targets.

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