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India’s Missile Programme: Augmenting Firepower

An overview by Dr. Monika Chansoria of the Centre for Land Warfare Studies

09:18 GMT, October 30, 2009 India Strategic | South Asia's feeble political and strategic equations are reflected in the volatility of its security arrangements. The evolution of elements that have been crucial towards galvanizing India's strategic response crucially include its missile programme as an unassailable part of that strategy.
The past decades have witnessed phenomenal surges in missile technology and intrusions into outer space. India, however, did not have a credible missile programme by means of which it could boast of a sturdy arsenal of missile systems of that point. India's missile programme can be stated to be an offshoot of its space programme, beginning 1967. Subsequently, in 1972, Rohini, a 560 two-stage, solid propulsion sounding rocket, was developed and test fired, capable of reaching an altitude of 334km with a 100kg payload. India first launched its small 17-tonne SLV-3 space booster (300km/40kg) in 1979 and thereafter successfully injected the 35kg Rohini I satellite into near-earth orbit in 1980. By 1987, an augmented booster, the 35-tonne ASLV (4,000km/150kg in low earth orbit), which primarily are three SLV-3's strapped together, had begun flight testing.
In what could be described as a 'decisive shift' in missile development plans, the missile capability of Indian armed forces received a major fillip from Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) following the launching of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) in 1983. The principal aim was to develop a family of strategic and tactical guided missiles based on local design and development for three defence services. DRDO accorded particular priority to development of sophisticated guidance technology.
The Indian missile arsenal boasts a range of systems and the current thrust areas of the DRDO include Internal Ram Rocket Engines, Multi-target tracking capability, homing guidance using seeker and networking of radars. Concurrently, the DRDO has consistently worked towards enhancing and upgrading the following missile system further:
The Agni missile family
Agni-I is a single stage, solid fuel, road and rail mobile, medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) using solid propulsion upper stage, derived from Prithvi, essentially to prove the re-entry structure, control and guidance. The strap-down inertial navigation system adopts explicit guidance - attempted for the first time globally. Using carbon composite structure for protecting payload during its re-entry phase, the first flight was conducted in May 1989, thus establishing the re-entry technology and precise guidance to reach the specific targets. This shorter ranger missile is specially designed to strike targets in Pakistan.
Agni II is an operational version of Agni I and is an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) with two solid fuel stages and a Post Boost Vehicle (PBV) integrated into the missile’s Re-entry Vehicle (RV) with mobile launch capability test-fired in April 1999. The range for Agni II is more than 2000 km. Quick deployment of the Agni II was possible, by building on the earlier Agni-TD programme that provided proven critical technologies and designs required for long range ballistic missiles. The Agni II missile was last test fired in May 2009. A new variant of the Agni II called the Agni IIIA is presently under development.
Additionally, Agni III, an intermediate-range ballistic missile was developed by India as the successor to Agni II. Intended to be a two-stage ballistic missile capable of nuclear weapons delivery, it is touted as India’s nuclear deterrent against China. The missile is likely to support a wide range of warhead configurations, with a 3,500km range and a total payload weight of 2490kg. The two-stage solid fuel missile is compact and small enough for easy mobility and flexible deployment on various surface/sub-surface platforms. The last development test of Agni III was conducted in August 2009 before being handed over to the army for user trails.
Agni V, believed to be an upgraded version of the Agni III is currently being worked upon by the DRDO. The inter-continental ballistic missile shall have a range of about 5000-6000 kilometres and the first test flight is expected around 2010 end. Agni V would be a three stage solid fuelled missile with composite motor casing in the third stage. Agni V will be able to carry multiple warheads and would also display countermeasures against anti-ballistic missile systems.
Surface-to-air missile
The Trishul (Trident) is a short range, quick reaction, all weather surface-to-air missile designed to counter a low-level attack. In fact, Trishul was one of the longest-running DRDO missile development programme. It can also be used as an anti-sea skimmer from a ship against low flying attacking missiles. The missile can engage targets like aircraft and helicopters, flying between 300m/s and 500m/s by using its radar command-to- line-of-sight guidance. Powered by a two-stage solid propellant system, with a highly powered HTBP-type propellant similar to the ones used in the Patriot, the Trishul has necessary electronic counter-counter measures against all known aircraft jammers. Trishul, with its quickest reaction time, high frequency operation, high manoeuvrability, high lethal capability and multi-roles for three services, is state-of-the-art system providing considerable advantage to the Indian armed forces.
The Akash system is a medium range surface-to-air missile with multi-target engagement capability. It can carry a 55-kilogramm multiple warhead capable of targeting five aircraft simultaneously up to 25km and is said to be comparable to the US Patriot as an air defence missile. It uses high-energy solid propellant for the booster and ram-rocket propulsion for the sustainer phase. The propulsion system provides higher level of energy with minimum mass, compared to conventional solid/liquid rocket motor, which has better performance with minimum weight of the missile. It has a dual mode guidance, initially on command mode from phased array radar and later radar homing guidance with unique software developed for high accuracy. The phased array radar provides capability for multiple target tracking and simultaneous deployment of missiles to attack four targets at the same time, in each battery.
Battlefield surface-to-surface missiles
Another missile under IGMDP development is the Nag, an anti-armour weapon employing sensor fusion technologies for flight guidance first tested in November 1990. The Nag is a third generation ‘fire-and-forget’ anti-tank missile developed in India with a range of 4 to 8 kilometres. Nag uses Imaging Infra-Red (IIR) guidance with day and night capability.

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