The successful testing of the indigenously developed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Agni V, on January 31, increases the technological sophistication of India’s nuclear deterrence. Believed to be a “game-changer” the missile enables India to envelope China’s major cities and constitutes an ideal riposte to its strategic missile forces. Developed by the DRDO, the advanced missile boasts high-accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS) and advanced Micro Navigation System (MINS), which ensures higher reliability and enhanced mobility.
The 2015 launch demonstrated the technological sophistication of the three-stage solid propellant by testing the maiden canisterised version from a road-mobile launcher. The test successfully validated the increased flexibility of launching the missile from land or rail any place in India. The ability of transporting concealed ballistic missiles provides advantage of decoy.
Agni V can be mounted on launcher trucks and moved stealthily in combat zones. Being concealed in truck-borne canisters it is difficult to detect these long-range missiles when they are mobile. Though reconnaissance satellites can reveal the existence of these missiles in a combat zone, their camouflage element prevents the detection of the exact trucks carrying canisters of ICBMs. This enhances the element of ambiguity and deters the adversary from launching any first-strike on India’s nuclear forces, thereby making it more survivable.
India’s nuclear doctrine is premised upon the principle of ‘no first use’ (NFU) that professes India will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. However, this implies that India must have an assured second-strike capability to inflict retaliation against any adversary’s first strike. The NFU strategic posture demands that India possess a nuclear arsenal that is not only capable of absorbing a first strike but after having done so retains sufficient forces to neutralise its offender. This requires a high degree of survivability of India’s nuclear armed forces.
In an age in which global politics is deeply influenced by nuclear weapons, technology is believed to be a panacea for national defence, capable of providing comparative advantage in safeguarding our national security. Agni V amply demonstrates the technological sophistication of India’s nuclear arsenal that considerably bolsters India’s nuclear deterrence and preparedness.
Reshmi Kazi is associate fellow, Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses, New Delhi
The views expressed by the are personal