Is Agni 6 & Surya ICBM coming soon, or it’s just a myth?
Agni-VI !!! What’s that? Never heard about it . were the actual words used by DRDO chief Dr S Christopher when asked by media about Agni-VI Program a year back, while Government and DRDO continue to refuse to confirm or deny existence or development of successor of Agni-V.
Former DRDO chief Vijay Kumar Saraswat in his tenure had confirmed that India had all the building blocks to develop a longer range and more capable missile then Agni-V and talks about MIRVs (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) capable Agni-VI being under development as been speculated by both Indian and International Defence and Nuclear analysts for a long time now.
DRDO usually has development gap between each Agni-series of less than 4 years and Agni-V turning 5 without any successor in sight suggests that Successor at least is ready in semi-knocked down condition which can be assembled in few days for its first debut test flight if given clearance from the top but since DRDO has been so tight-lipped about Agni-VI, it suggests that the final decision will be a political one and reasons to keep Agni-VI under wrapped, might be a Strategic one .
Agni-VI is an intercontinental ballistic missile under development by the DRDO for the use of the Indian Armed Forces. Agni-VI will be a four-stage intercontinental ballistic missile. Agni-6 will carry a massive three-tonne warhead, thrice the weight of the one-tonne warhead that Agni missiles have carried so far. This will allow each Agni-6 missile to launch several nuclear warheads -Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Warheads (MIRVs) – with each warhead striking a different target. Each warhead – called Maneuverable Reentry Vehicle (MARV) – performs evasive maneuvers while hurtling down towards its target, confusing enemy air defence missiles that are trying to destroy them mid-air. And these maneuverable warheads will give Agni VI an extended range exact figure of which is currently classified.
Agni-VI with 6,000-7,500 km range and ability to carry a larger multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) payload capability over Agni-V will send shockwaves not only in Bejing but also in all European countries which will be put them under Agni-VI range. Speculation is also there that Upgraded lighter Agni-V might be tested with MIRV Capability with under reported range to pass it off as just an improved Agni-V to keep nerves calm in many countries with whom India is working in trying to secure its entry in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
All-composite Agni-V with improved components will make it significantly lighter than its current avatar and with MIRV warheads, Agni-V will lead to range extension of 1500-2000 km with a 1.5-tonne warhead
For example, Agni-III was initially stated as having a length of 17 m, diameter of 2 m and a launch weight of 42 tonnes, including a 2.5 tonne warhead and an operational range of 3500 kms. Then after a few iterations of refinement, the launch weight was brought down to 22 tonnes by using composite rocket motor casings instead of maraging steel casings. The redesign left the dimensions unchanged including a 2.5 tonne warhead but the range was also conveniently left unchanged. Anyone with an inkling of basic physics knowledge can come to the conclusion that with such a drastic reduction of weight, the range will go up proportionately. A similar story is being spun for Agni V. There was an article in the Chinese media which pointed out the fact the the range of Agni V is probably heavily understated and that is probably quite true.Agni-V with lighter weight might be able to strike over 7000km range and with light payload over 9000km .
What can we expect now?
Indian government is very unlikely to unveil, or even acknowledge the existence of Surya ICBM, for the time being. So we should expect only some improvement in the existing missile fleet of India, in form of MIRV or MARV variants of Agni V. A Surya ICBM isn’t probably coming anytime soon, even if the design and development work is fully finished.
Does India really need Surya ICBM or Agni-6?
India needs an ICBM that can reach every major country on the planet; that is, a missile with a range of at least 12,000 kilometre. We should not fear US and Europe as our economy is growing at 7-8% they will not put restriction on us as they also want access to larger market.
Now there are many people on the other side of the debate who question whether ICBMs are such a big deal. Their reasoning is that India’s furthest rival is China so there’s no need for a missile that travels further than that country. Plus, they argue, the US and Europe aren’t inimical to India so why provoke their ire by developing missiles that could potentially target these benign fellows?
Such thinking ignores a basic precept of defence – a nation must forever wage peace but keep its powder dry. ICBMs are strategic weapons and without a global-range missile, India will be unable to break out of its regional context. It’s as simple as that.
The ICBM is the doomsday weapon that separates the men from the boys in the global slugfest. While it is true that economic strength plays a key role in shaping international power equations, strategic missiles alone can guarantee fail-safe national security. As the Federation of American Scientists says, “Regardless of the origin of a conflict, a country may involve the entire world simply by threatening to spread the war with an ICBM.”
The supposedly horrendous cost of building and maintaining ICBMs is also touted as a reason why nations should avoid them. However, for decades China has strutted on the global stage on the strength of just 20 silo-based ICBMs. Today, of course, it has nuclear armed submarines and road mobile ICBMs, but those 20 venerable missiles have given it strategic parity with the US and Russia who both possess hundreds of missiles.
Clearly, strategic missiles are one reason (the other being the permanent seat at the U N Security Council) why regional chipmunks like France and Britain continue to talk big whereas Germany and Japan despite their massive economies remain fringe players. Without a credible ICBM force, India will be looked upon as nothing more than a subcontinental bully – a country that aspires to play hardball with the giants but ends up relegated to the minor league.