India's set to test-launch an advanced, long-range ballistic missile design in coming days, it's been reported.
The indigenous Agni-V missile is nuclear-capable and has a strike range of beyond 5,000 kilometres. Should the test-firing - scheduled, unofficially, to take place on 18 April - be a success, India will join a small group of nations equipped with the ability to launch ultra-long-range strike missiles.
According to data published by the IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies), there are presently five such nations: Russia, China, the US, the UK and France.
The Agni-V missile is a 17 metre-long weapon, with a weight of 50 tonnes. It can be loaded with a one tonne warhead and its extreme range is close to double that of its predecessor - the Agni-IV. Officials believe that, once the Agni-V enters service, India will be well-placed to counter threats or potential threats over an extremely wide coverage area.
The missile's operational range brings targets in any part of Asia and around 70 per cent of Europe within reach and its maximum speed is an estimated Mach 24. Looked at another way, the Agni-V's range represents approximately 12 per cent of the entire Earth's circumference.
That's more than five times further than the range of the Agni 1 and a good 1,500 kilometres on the Agni-III's range.
Indian Long-Range Missile
While a land-based weapon, designed to be launched from the 8 x 8 Tatra Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL), unconfirmed reports suggest a naval Agni long-range Indian missile is also presently under development.
India has been testing Agni-series missiles for the past ten years. According to a missile expert quoted by news organisation Bloomberg, the Agni-V will likely need to have carried out up to five successful launches before it can officially join the Indian armed forces.
"This missile is about neutralizing the threat coming from China", National Maritime Foundation representative Uday Bhaskar explained. "The tests are about trying to create equality with China, rather than trying to outdo it."
Image copyright Anurag Pandit - Courtesy Wikimedia Commons