Nestled in a hostile neighbourhood, India has to maintain a credible and potent defence force for which it has developed a series of tactical, medium and long-range missiles to deal with the threat posed by two nuclear adversaries – China in the north and Pakistan on its west. With the historic and successful test-firing of the supersonic cruise missile BrahMos from an Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30 MKI multirole air superiority fighter jet on November 22, India is moving towards developing the capability of launching pinpoint aerial attacks on enemy targets on land and sea, and in all weather conditions day or night.
With the IAF version of the BrahMos, India has added another lethal and potent weapons platform in its arsenal which already includes land and sea-based missiles. Apart from BrahMos, India already has the Agni, Prithvi, Nirbhay, and Dhanush series of missiles in its arsenal while submarine-launched ballistic missiles Sagarika and Shaurya along with Prahaar and Agni-V are in the development stage.
Here is a look at the deadly missiles in India’s arsenal:
BrahMos: The product of an India-Russia joint venture, BrahMos is the most advanced cruise missile in the world today. Its name is a combination of Brahmaputra river in India and Moskva river in Russia. The 8-8.2 m long, 0.67 m wide BrahMos is a supersonic (Mach 2.0-2.8), short-range, ramjet-powered, single warhead anti-ship/land attack cruise missile which can carry a 200-300 kg high explosive or submunitions warhead. Its launch weight is 2,200-3,000 kg and it has a range of 300-500 km. It can be launched from land, air, submarine and ship. BrahMos has stealth features, deep-dive capabilities to hit targets hidden in mountains, and uses a solid propellant boost motor with a liquid-fueled ramjet sustainer motor. A hypersonic variant of the missile is also under development which will use a scramjet engine and use a special fuel to reach speeds of more than Mach 5.
Prithvi-I: It is India’s first indigenous missile developed and operationalised under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). Prithvi-I is a short-range, road-mobile ballistic missile, uses single-stage liquid propellant engine and entered into service in 1994. The missile is 8.56 m long, 1.1 m in diameter, weighs 4000 kg and can carry a warhead weighing up to 1000 kg. It has a minimum range of 40 km and a maximum of 150 km. It has an accuracy of 50 m Circular Error Probability (CEP). Some missiles of the Prithvi series are nuclear tipped too.
Prithvi-II: It is similar to Prithvi-I but can carry a lighter warhead of 500 kg over a longer range of 250-350 km with an accuracy of 50 m CEP. It can carry a 1,000 kg warhead but over a shorter range. The road-mobile, single-stage liquid propellant engine driven missile is 9.0 m long, 1.1 m in diameter, and weighs either 4,000 or 4,600 kg.
Prithvi-III: The last in the Prithvi series, this too is a short-range, road-mobile missile but uses a two-stage, solid propellant motor. Much more accurate than its predecessors with a CEP of 25m, Prithvi-III has a range of 300 to 350 km and can carry a warhead of 500 to 1000 kg. It has also been configured to carry nuclear payload of 10 to 20 kilotonne.
Dhanush: This is the naval version of Prithvi-I. It is a short-range, ship-based ballistic missile which is 8.53 m long, 1 m in diameter, launch weight 5,600 kg and can carry nuclear, high explosive, submunitions, Fuel-Air Explosive (FAE) or chemical weapons over a range of 250-400 km. It entered service in 2010. Powered by a single-stage liquid it has a CEP of 25 m.
Agni-I: Aimed primarily at Pakistan, the 700km range, 14.8 m long and 1.3 m wide, the short-range Agni-I ballistic missile can carry a 2000 kg warhead. The 12,000 kg solid propellant road and rail mobile launched missile has an accuracy of 25 m CEP and can be nuclear armed with a warhead of 20 or 45 kT. Its range can be extended to 1,200 km if it carries a warhead of 1,000 kg.
Agni-II: In service since 2004, the medium range Agni-II ballistic missile is 20 m long, 2.3 m wide and has a launch weight of 16,000 kg. It is a road/rail-mobile launch missile and can carry a 1000 kg warhead which is mostly a 150 kT or 200kT nuclear bomb and has an accuracy of 40m CEP. It can also be fitted with high-explosive conventional bombs. With a reduced payload its range can be increased to 3,500 kg.
Agni-III: The intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) Agni-III uses a two-stage solid propellant engine, has a range of 3,000-5,000 km and is capable of hitting targets deep inside China including Beijing and Shanghai. It is 16.7 m long, 1.85 m wide, launch weight 48,000 kg and carries a single 2,000 kg warhead which is a 200-300 kT nuclear fusion bomb with an accuracy of 40m CEP. Some missiles have multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV), which means they can annihilate several targets simultaneously.
Agni-IV: In service since 2013, Agni-IV is an IRBM with a range of 3,500-4,000 km and a warhead capacity of 800 kg which will be a nuclear fission bomb of 20 or 45 kT or fusion bomb of 200-300 kT. It is 20 m long, a two-stage solid propellant missile with a launch weight of 17,000 kg.
Agni-V: India’s only Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), Agni-V is still in the development stage. Although Agni-V’s officially announced range is 5,500-5,800 km, defence experts are of the view that its range can be easily extended to at least 8,000 km. The missile is three-stage solid fueled missile and is configured to carry up to 10 MIRVs. The missile is 17.5-20 m long, 2-2.2 m wide with a launch weight of 49,000-55,000 kg. While there has been no official word on the kind of warhead Agni-V will carry, all such weapons with other countries are nuclear tipped.
Sagarika: It is a submarine-launched short-range ballistic missile (SLBM) and is also known as K-15/B-05. The two-stage solid propellant driven 700-750 km range Sagarika is 10.8 m long, 0.8 m wide, and has a launch weight of 5,500 to 6,300 kg. It can carry both conventional of nuclear warhead weighing 500 to 800 kg.
Shaurya: Sagarika’s advanced version, Shaurya is a submarine-launched medium-range ballistic missile which is 12 m long, 0.8 m wide, uses a two-stage solid propellant and has a range of 3,000-3,500 km. Its launch weight is 17,000 kg and it can carry a 2,000 kg warhead which is likely to be a nuclear bomb. With Sagarika and Shaurya, India has completed its nuclear triad.
Prahaar: The indigenous Prahaar is another short-range, solid propellant, road-mobile ballistic missile. It has been developed to target enemy armoured formations, bunkers, command and control centres. The road-mobile 150 km range Prahaar is 7.3 m long, 0.42 m wide and has a launch weight of 1,280 kg. It can carry a single nuclear, high explosive or submunitions warhead weighing 200 kg.
Nirbhay: This is India’s first indigenously produced 1000 km range subsonic cruise missile which can be fired from land and submarine. It is 6.0 m long, 0.5 m wide with a launch weight of 1,500-1,600 kg. It can be used to carry both conventional and nuclear warhead. While the conventional warhead can be 450 kg of high explosive or submunitions, the nuclear warhead can be of 12 kT.
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