Military & Aerospace

India's Strategic Missiles
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Issue Vol 22.1 Jan - Mar 2007 | Date : 15 Oct , 2014

Strong, full skin high temperature rating, high ‘²’ design. The new lightweight composites can withstand temperatures of up to 5,000º centigrade thus its cone angle is more aggressive (Figure 8-G), yet capable of all re-entry velocities.

The RV has been flight tested before maiden flight of Agni-III28.

RV-Mk.3 (Agni-3)

To test Agni-III with single new warhead requires a bigger RV body that can adapt with the large diameter motor. Compared to Agni-II this RV is shorter, more voluminous and 3.3 metre long.

Agni-III-on-transfer-craneThe large base diameter makes it unviable for high speed re-entry, thus this could be a payload adapter section that jettisons the real RV located in the front section. The high ‘²’ RV in combination with an all carbon composite body enables higher re-entry speed even with a light weight payload29.

RV-Mk.4 (Agni-3++ & Agni-3SL)

This small RV allows compact MIRV configuration atop the Agni-III (Figure 8-F & Figure 10) reducing the missile length to bare minimum. Upto 3 MIRV’s (mounted inclined to reduce the overall height) can be accommodated in the nose with a protective nose cone that is jettisoned at ~90Km altitude.

A3 stage configuration Agni-3++ with the addition of a short third stage increases the range very significantly particularly with fewer MIRVs.

Enhancing the basic two stage design to eliminate the 1metre interstage, the Agni-3SL configuration (Figure 10) is short enough to make its way to submarine deployment. At 11.3 metre the overall missile length is submarine compatible and smaller than French M51.


One can see from above that Indian ballistic missile programme has steadily and methodically progressed to provide an affordable yet robust strategic deterrence commensurate with its national needs. With Agni-III the nuclear triad will be truly complete. The missile can be dispersed far and wide in the Indian mainland, it’s far flung islands or it’s blue water naval assets dispersed across the world’s oceans. The ability to reach all corners of a potential challenger, with MIRV and flexible range of between 5,000 to 16,000 km.

Sources & References

  1. “Evaluating India’s land-based Missile Deterrent”. Indian Defence Review Vol-19(4) Oct-Dec 2004, ISSN 0970-2512, Arun Vishwakarma, Dr Sanjay Badri Maharaj. Lancer Publishers & Distributors, New Delhi.
  2. “Weapons of Peace: The Secret Story of India’s Quest to be a Nuclear Power” - Raj Chengappa (New Delhi: Harper Collins Publishers India, 2000, ISBN 81-7223-332-0).
  3. Defence Research & Development Organisation (
  4. DRDO periodicals “Technology Focus” bi-weekly (
  5. Indian Defence Technology: Missile Systems (DRDO, Ministry of Defence, December 1998).
  6. Nuclear Threat Initiative (
  7. “Ballistic Missiles and Missile Defence in Asia” NBR Analysis, VOLUME 13, NUMBER 3, JUNE 2002. (
  8. “Agni-III Long Range Missile”, Indian Defence Review Vol-21 (2) Apr-Jun 2006, ISSN 0970-2512, Arun Vishwakarma. Lancer Publishers & Distributors, New Delhi.
  9. “A study of the Motion and Aerodynamic Heating of Ballistic Missiles entering the Earth’s Atmosphere at High Supersonic Speeds”. Report 1381- National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
  10. Nuclear Weapon Archive, ‘India’s Nuclear Weapons Programme: Present Capabilities’


  1. Weapons of Peace: The Secret Story of India’s Quest to be a Nuclear Power - Raj Chengappa (New Delhi: Harper Collins Publishers India 2000, ISBN 81-7223-332-0)
  2. ibid. Also
  3. Payload defined as consisting of the weapon, re-entry vehicle, and supporting electro mechanical and avionics sub-systems.
  4. Discussion with a former space scientist in Bangalore.
  5. M51 missile can carry 6 MIRV (TN75 of 100kT yield) beyond 8000 Km.
  6. French SSBN ‘Le Triomphant’ submarines are fitted with 16 SLBM launch tubes. The first boats will carry the improved M-45 variant SLBM, until the M-51 becomes available in 2010.
  7. ‘The United States used NASA’s experience in guiding the Titan II transtage, a “bus” designed for multiple satellite launchings, to develop a bus that would accurately deliver small nuclear warheads’. Ted Greenwood, Qualitative Improvements in Offensive Strategic Arms: The Case of the MARV (Cambridge: Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Aug. 1973), p. 278.
  8. The advantage of a MRV versus a single warhead is that the damage produced in the center of the pattern is far greater than the damage possible from any single warhead in the MRV cluster, this makes for an efficient area attack weapon.
  9. Weapons of Peace: The Secret Story of India’s Quest to be a Nuclear Power - Raj Chengappa (ISBN 81-7223-332-0) Pg 207: 1975 BARC’s M Srinivasan headed the fusion boosted fission bomb. And also Li Ti based trigger. Iyengar said team worked on miniaturising the bomb with flying plate technique.
  10. ASL: ‘From long-range missiles to lightweight callipers’ M Somasekhar Business Line, THE HINDU Jul 25, 2005
  11. ICBM reaches very high final velocity ranging from 7-8Km/sec. At 8Km/sec final velocity the rocket is capable of placing the payload in low earth orbit thus capable of staying in orbit for many days.
  12. REX Re-entry experiment was the most important technology development objective of Agni-TD project. “Weapons of Peace: The Secret Story of India’s Quest to be a Nuclear Power” - Raj Chengappa (ISBN 81-7223-332-0) NAL: Computational and Theoretical Fluid Dynamics Division
  13. The ballistic coefficient ‘²’ is a measurement of an object’s ability to move through a fluid. It takes into account the effects of an object’s density and its skin friction, and is calculated as follows: ² = m * CD / A
  14. Weapons of Peace: The Secret Story of India’s Quest to be a Nuclear Power - Raj Chengappa (ISBN 81-7223-332-0)
  15. The May 1998 Pokhran Tests: Scientific Aspects, by R. Chidambaram.
  16. “Teller-Ulam” Summary : Basic Principles of Staged Radiation Implosion.
  17. U235’s fissile cross section for fast neutron emanating from the fusion stage is about twice that of Natural Uranium.
  18. “Measurement of neutron-induced fission cross-sections of Th232, U238, U233 and Np237relative to U235 from 1 MeV to 200 MeV”, Oleg A. SHCHERBAKOV1), Alexander V. FOMICHEV2), Andrei Yu. DONETS2), Alexander B. LAPTEV1), Oleg I. SETROV2),Guennadii A. PETROV1)
  19. India Cancels Agni III Test, UPI-Washington, May 31, 2006, “The Agni III is said to be able to deliver a 440-pound to 550-pound warhead with a high degree of accuracy.”
  20. NAL: Computational and Theoretical Fluid Dynamics Division
  21. French Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles programmes.
  22. There are some indications that its diameter may be 2 metre or a little more.
  23. Composites: Use in saucepan handles, artificial limbs and the Agni missile: Current Science, Vol. 86, No. 3, 10 February, 2004
  24. Although Agni-III was test fired on 9 July, 6 there is no officially published description of its physical characteristics and performance. This paper has evaluated various press reports and used trade tools and materials to reverse engineer its physical characteristics and performance. There is, however, certain missile parametres that are confidential in nature that may never be announced but one can bound its lower and upper limit. This paper is reporting the median parametre values.
  25. Launching platforms for Project K-15.
  26. Composites: use in saucepan handles, artificial limbs and the Agni missile: Current Science, Vol. 86, No. 3, 10 February, 2004
  27. Photo evidence to estimate dimension.
  28. A success story TS Subramanian Frontline Volume 22 - Issue 20, Sep 24-Oct 7, 2005.
  29. Light weight payload was an issue in earlier RV design. The older RV-Mk.2 with its blunt nose is an all range RV, however, for lighter payload its ² relatively low, thus slowing down the RV at the fag end of its trajectory
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6 thoughts on “India’s Strategic Missiles

  1. Is making a deal of Dassault Rafale by the IAF be going to be of any use in coming task , beacause most of the nations that are posing a threat on India are making even advanced fighter air-crafts ( like J-20 by CHINA).As the time is passing by, the deal is getting even costlier (and meaningless)? Although these air-crafts are going to complement the proposed FGFA and AMCA air-crafts, still spending that amount of money on such a plan that cannot prove to be decisive in a war in out of clue to understand.And at this time when India needs these fighter planes (right now), the deal is still under consideration and all the responsibility of defending Indian skies lies directly on Su-30 MKI (& also on old MIG-29 flanker).

    • Deterrence is necessary to zero out a resolute enemy’s thought of complete annihilation.
      At the same time conventional weapons are to punish enemy in sub-nuclear engagement. Tejas is seed of our IAF backbone. SU30MKI is expensive to operate & maintain. Albeit good aircraft.
      -Arun S Vishwakarma

  2. Sir,
    You wrote an eye opening article & gave us the clear view about our choice of materials as well as principles we are adopting to built nuclear weapons and missiles. I read lot of articles full with irrelevant content they were merely stories.

  3. Sir,i have read yours articles time and again they give me immense confidence and at the same time reverence for you i have tried to look for an autopsy by you of Pak nuclear arsenal but have not found it could you please write a artic le about them

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