Is India deliberately understating Agni-5’s range?
Time and again International defence experts, especially the Chinese, have claimed that India has been understating the range of its intercontinental ballistic missile Agni-5. India initially did not divulge the exact range that the missile can strike but later DRDO hinted that it has the capability to reach 5,000 kms.
Chinese experts say that the missile actually has the potential to reach targets 8,000 kilometres away and that the Indian government had deliberately downplayed the missile’s capability in order to avoid causing concern to other countries.
Before delving further into the subject, one must understand why India could be deliberately understating its military capabilities.
India is striving hard to gain into NSG and it may not go down well with the superpowers if it comes out in the open that India has an missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads to a distance of around 8,000 kms. It may hamper India’s chance of gaining entry in the elite NSG group.
Let’s compare Agni 5 with one of the most lethal solid propelled missiles in the world the Trident, developed by United Kingdom, and try to understand the things better.
The range of a missile is mainly determined by the amount of fuel it can carry, and the weight of its warheads. The fuel of a missile is determine mainly by its internal volume which is determined by its height and diameter, as well a weight.
Like Agni, even Trident has 3 stages and propelled by solid fuel. Trident weighs 59 tons, is 13.5 meters long and has a diameter of 2.1 meters. Agni 5 weighs 50 tons, is 17.5 meters long and has diameter of 2 meters. Agni 5 weighs less as its body and structure is entirely fabricated from lighter composite materials.
Agni-5’s diameter is less than Trident but is longer so it can be deduced that they carry more or less same amount of fuel.
However, the official range of the Trident is 12,000 kms while the Agni V is ‘5000’ kms.
All this taken into consideration, it clear points that Agni 5 may be able to hit targets beyond its stated 5,000 kilometres range.
Lets have a look at the other missiles in Agni series:
Agni-1 is a single-stage missile developed after the Kargil War to fill the gap between 250 km range of Prithvi-II and 2,500 km range of Agni-II. The Agni I has a range of 700-1250 km.
The Agni-II is a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) with two solid fuel stages and a Post Boost Vehicle (PBV) integrated into the missile’s Re-entry Vehicle (RV). Agni 2 has a range of 2,000 kms
Agni-III is an intermediate-range ballistic missile developed as the successor to Agni-II. It has a range of 3,500 km- 5,000 km, and is capable of engaging targets deep inside neighbouring countries.
Agni-IV is the fourth in the Agni series of missiles which was earlier known as Agni II prime. The missile is light-weight and has two stages of solid propulsion and a payload with re-entry heat shield. Agni 4’s range is aroung 4000 kms.