February 11, 2013
India is developing the sixth in its series of Agni ballistic missiles that will be capable of carrying multiple warheads.
“While the Agni-V is [a] major strategic defense weapon, the Agni-VI will be a force multiplier as it will have multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle [MIRV] capability,” says Defense and Research Development Organization (DRDO) chief V.K. Saraswat.
Saraswat, who is also the scientific adviser to the defense minister, did not divulge the range of the new missile. But a defense ministry official indicates it is likely to be 8,000-10,000 km (5,000-6,000 mi.), far beyond the 5,500-km range of the Agni-V.
While Agni-V can carry up to three nuclear warheads, Agni-VI is being designed to be able to carry up to 10.
The Indian government has yet to give its formal approval for the project, but the DRDO chief says, “Work is on in this area and designs have been completed. We are now in the hardware realization phase.”
The defense ministry official says DRDO soon will begin development trials of the new missile. It is likely to be a three-stage missile weighing around 55 tons. The missile will have the capability to be launched from submarines and land-based launchers, he says.
India test-fired the Agni-V ballistic missile in April 2012. The DRDO chief says Agni-V will be inducted in 2014 after user trials.
DRDO is also developing a missile shield program that will help to defend against low-flying cruise missiles and enemy aircraft.
Meanwhile, DRDO is planning to launch another aerostat, named “Nakshatra,” that can travel up to a height of 5 km with a 1-ton payload and 500 km radial range, a DRDO official says. The project follows the DRDO’s previous Akashdeep aerostat system. The Indian armed forces have been relying on Israeli aerostat radar systems.