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TECH: Agni-5 – A weapon of peace


You must have heard of successful testing of Agni-5, and how this news worried China. For days, everyone was excited. But ever wondered why? In this article, Ravi Kumar Gupta, ex-scientist, DRDO, tells us why Agni-5 is special and what does its success mean for India’s R&D industry?

On December 26, 2016, India successfully test-fired Agni-5, the long range surface-to-surface ballistic missile. This was the fourth test of the missile and the second one from a canister mounted on a road mobile launcher. All the four missions have been successful. The success of Agni-5 has helped India achieve the distinction of being among top few nations of the world possessing multi-level strategic deterrence enough to take care of its threat perception.

However, a matter of even greater pride is the fact that the required technologies have been developed indigenously by our own scientists, that too against innumerable roadblocks laid by the powers that were determined to block India’s progress and re-emergence as a strong nation.

What is Agni-5 and what makes it so special and important? 

Agni-5 is a long range ballistic missile indigenously developed by DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organization), capable of delivering devastating nuclear weapons at targets as far away as 5,000 km and beyond. Advanced technological features packed in Agni-5 make it a state-of-the-art weapon system comparable to the best in the world. Some of these features are:

  • Efficient rocket motors driven by composite solid rocket propellants.
  • Second and third stage motors made of advanced, high performance, lightweight fibre reinforced composite materials resulting in very significant weight savings, thus extending the range of the missile.
  • Innovatively designed and aerodynamically shaped third stage ‘Conical Rocket Motor’
  • Superior re-entry heat shield made of multi-dimensional carbon-carbon composites ensuring protection of the payload. When the friction with atmospheric air during re-entry into earth’s atmosphere heats up the surfaces to around 5,000K, temperatures which no material is able to withstand, the ablative heat shield ensures that the inside temperatures remain within acceptable limits (about 320K).
  • ‘On Board Computer’ powered by indigenous SoC (System on Chip) along with fault tolerant software. Together, these act as a brain of the entire mega ‘system of systems’ – the ‘Fire and Forget’ Agni-5.
  • A robust and reliable Inertial Navigation System (RINS) incorporating very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro and the most modern Micro Navigation System (MINS) to ensure that payload reach the target point with accuracy within two digits.
  • Innovative systems to ensure clean and reliable separation of different stages ensuring safety of missile.
  • Road mobile  ability to launch anytime and from anywhere is force-multiplier. Mobility provides additional security for the asset from enemies.
  • Canister launched ­ Involving yet another set of highly complex technologies, gives mega advantage over open launch. The missile is stored in a hermetically sealed canister providing much longer operational life and better camouflage. The canister is carried horizontally on a specially designed multi-axle road mobile launcher. When needed, the vehicle is appropriately parked and automated launch sequence initiated. The canister takes vertical position, the system carries out self-checks and high pressure gases pop the missile up in the air to a height at which the plume can no longer cause damage to the vehicle and surroundings. The rockets motor gets fired taking the missile out of earth’s atmosphere into space (a conventional open launch requires additional preparations and checks. The plume spreading to much larger area necessitates a lot more safety measures).
  • The three stages during the power phase propel the missile into a parabolic trajectory and keep separating at predetermined sequence, even as earth’s gravity keep pulling it down. The combination of two forces result in a parabolic trajectory making the payload re-enter earth’s atmosphere and zoom towards annihilation of its target with terrific and constantly increasing velocity, braving temperatures around 5000K.

How is Agni-5 different from its earlier versions?

What makes Agni-5 different from earlier ones in series, i.e. Agni-1 to Agni-4 is not just its greater reach and payload capabilities and the resultant sufficiency of nuclear deterrence that it provides, but also a quantum jump in the level of technologies that go in to the weapon system. For instance, extensive use of light weight ‘Advanced Structural Composite Materials’ and superior composite solid rocket propellant helps it achieve higher payload capability range without much increase in weight as compared to its predecessors. Some other significant improvements are in the navigation system, sensors, onboard computer and level of redundancy.

What is Strategic Deterrence?

To understand strategic deterrence, let’s ask ourselves: Had India possessed its own weapons of peace during the 1971 war, would it still have to face unethical arm twisting by the threat of 7th fleet? If Japan during WWII had nuclear weapons and capability to drop them across the Pacific, would the US still have dared to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki annihilating two thickly populated cities of Japan and forcing an otherwise determined Japan to surrender unconditionally? Strategic Deterrence is the scare of an ‘eye for an eye’, the ‘fear of unacceptable retaliation that prevents any hostile country from considering a misadventure.

Why Agni-5?

India, a land of peace loving people and once a land of unparalleled skills and strength, rich culture and traditions, plentiful opportunities and prosperity became a victim of loot plunder and, over a millennium, of slavery when it lost attention to its security needs. It is indeed essential to be strong to enjoy luxury of peace. Agni-5 is India’s bold statement of strength for ensuring peace, a major landmark in the country’s journey of creating a level of strategic deterrence required to commensurate with contemporary threat perception – a deterrence level sufficient to force any adversary to think a million times before unleashing a Hiroshima style nuclear attack on any part of our nation.

The writer is a former Scientist G & Director Public Interface, DRDO, Ministry of Defence. You can view his articles on


1. Science in everyday life
2. Ten famous scientists of India

DISCLAIMER: Views expressed above are that of the author and do not reflect the views of the website. The Peeper Times does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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