India’s nuke arsenal to get boost with ‘Agni Prime’ missile

National, World

India is set to induct a new ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear warheads up to 2,000 km away, with the defence ministry on Thursday announcing that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted a crucial pre-induction launch of the Agni Prime missile from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast a day earlier.

This was the Agni Prime’s first pre-induction night launch and validated “the accuracy and reliability” of the weapon system, the defence ministry said in a statement. The latest test followed three successful daytime trials to prove the new weapon’s capabilities.

“The successful test has paved the way for induction of the system into the armed forces,” the statement said. It is a canisterised missile that can be launched at short notice and has a range between 1,000 km and 2,000 km.

The new missile comes with significant advancements in technology including composites, propulsion system, and guidance and control mechanisms, officials tracking the project said. It will strengthen India’s credible deterrence, they added.

“All objectives were successfully demonstrated during the flight test. Radar, telemetry and electro-optical tracking systems were deployed at different locations, including two down-range ships at the terminal point to capture flight data covering the entire trajectory of the vehicle,” the statement said. Top officials of the DRDO and the Strategic Forces Command witnessed the flight test.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh congratulated DRDO and the armed forces for the copy-book performance of the missile during the test.

The other variants of the Agni missiles developed by DRDO include the 700-km Pakistan-specific Agni-I, 2,000-km range Agni-II, 3,000-km range Agni-III, 4,000-km range Agni-IV and the 5,000-km range Agni-V missile. The Agni missiles form the backbone of India’s nuclear deterrence.

The Agni Prime is set for induction 25 years after the Pokhran-II tests in Rajasthan laid the foundation for achieving self-reliance in the nuclear weapons development programme, and confirmed India’s capability to build more powerful weapons with higher yields.

India’s nuclear doctrine, promulgated in 2003, commits to “no first use” , with weapons to be used only in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or Indian forces. In a stand that reflects the capabilities India has built over the years, the doctrine states nuclear retaliation to a first strike will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage.

Retaliatory attacks can only be authorised by the civilian political leadership through the Nuclear Command Authority consisting of a political council and executive council. The Prime Minister chairs the political council, while the national security advisor chairs the executive council.

India should look at enhancing the range, numbers, accuracy and yield of its nuclear weapons factoring the changes taking place in China and Pakistan into its decision making, former navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash (retd) earlier said. India has a fully operational nuclear triad of airborne, naval and land-based platforms.


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