India’s Defense Research & Development organization (DRDO) is planning to test fly the Agni-5 intermediate range ballistic missile for its full range in December 2011. The missile will be launched from Wheeler Island, on the Orissa coast, traveling its full range of 5,000 km southward, halfway to Antarctica. The 17.5 m’ high Agni-5 weighs about 50 tons. The DRDO predicts that if all goes well, the can strike within a few hundred meters of the designated target. This high level of precision enables the Agni-5 to carry relatively small nuclear weapon while maintaining an effective deterrence high priority targets deep inside hostile territory.

Agni-5 is similar in size and weight to its predecessor, the Agni-3, with a range of 3,500 km. The extensive use of composite materials allows Agni-5 to propel a warhead 1,500 km further. The new missile uses the Agni-3 first stage, matched with a composite-made second stage which is significantly lighter than the Agni-3. The weight saving could enable designers to add a third stage fitted with a shaped, conical rocket motor, that further accelerates the warhead section to its full range. Agni-5 will be stored, carried and launched from a sealed canister carried on a truck transporter.

An Indian Agni II Plus missile failed on its first test launch December 10, 2010. This photo shows an earlier Agni II missile launched on another flight. Photo: DRDO
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