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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)



The short-range variant of the Agni ballistic missile has a range of around 800-900 km. Significantly, this solid-propellant Agni-1 variant can be fired from road-mobile launchers. The missile was significant for operational aspects of country's nuclear deterrence policy. The designing and manufacturing of a new road-mobile launcher for this missile is noteworthy because it confers operational advantages in movement, deployment and launching. With only Prithvi-II, a relatively primitive missle with a range of 150-250 km depending on the payload, actually being inducted into the Army so far, India needed a missile to bridge the gap in range between the Prithvi and the Agni II missles.

The Agni team was comprised of more than 500 scientists. Many organizations were networked to undertake this huge effort of launching Agni. The Agni mission had two basic orientations work and workers. Each member was dependent on the others in his team to accomplish his target. Contradiction and confusion are the two things most likely to occur in such situations. Different leaders accommodate concern for workers while getting work done, in their own personal ways. Some shed all concern for workers in order to get results. They use people merely as instruments to reach goals. Some give less importance to the work, and make an effort to gain the warmth and approval of people working with them. But what this team achieved was the highest possible integration in terms of both the quality of work and human relationships.

Involvement, participation and commitment were the key words to functioning. Each of the team members appeared to be performing by choice. The launching of Agni was the common stake not only for our scientists, but for their families too., VR Nagaraj was the leader of the electrical Integration team. Dedicated technologist that he is, Nagaraj would forget basic requirements like food and sleep while on the Integration gig. His brother-in-law passed away while he was at ITR. His family kept this information from Nagaraj so that there would be no interruption in his work towards the launching of Agni.

The first Agni launch had been scheduled for 20 April 1989. This was going to be an unprecedented exercise. Unlike space launch vehicles, a missile launch involves wide-ranging safety hazards. Two radars, three telemetry stations, one telecommand station and four electro-optical tracking instruments to monitor the missile trajectory had been deployed. In addition, the telemetry station at Car Nicobar (ISTRAC) and the SHAR radars were also commissioned to track the vehicle. Dynamic surveillance was employed to cover the electrical power that flows from the missile batteries within the vehicle and to control system pressures. Should any deviation be noticed either in voltage or in pressure the specially designed automatic checkout system would signal “Hold”. The flight operations would then be sequenced only if the defect was rectified. The countdown for the launch started at T-36 hours. The countdown from T-7.5 minutes was to be computer controlled. All activities preparatory to the launch went according to schedule.

At T -14 seconds when the computer signalled “Hold”, indicating that one of the instruments was functioning erratically. This was immediately rectified. Meanwhile, the down range station asked for a “Hold”. In another few seconds, multiple Holds were necessiated, resulting in irreversible internal power consumption. We had to abort the launch. The missile had to be opened up to replace the on board power supplies.

Fanally, the launch was scheduled for 22 May 1989. Agni took off at 0710 hrs. It was a perfect launch. The missile followed a textbook trajectory. All flight parameters were met. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam wrote "It was like waking up to a beautiful morning from a nightmarish sleep.... We had survived pressure from everywhere to stop the whole thing. But we did it at last. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. A mere 600 seconds of elegant flight washed off our entire fatigue in an instant. What a wonderful culmination of our years of labour." Agni had reached the launch pad after five years of continuous work at multiple work centers.

On 25 January 2002 a variant of AGNI Surface-to-Surface missile was flight tested successfully at 0845 hrs from the Island Test Range off Orissa coast. The mission objectives were fully met as confirmed by data from the network of ground radars, telemetry stations and visual observations from the Naval ships positioned near the intended impact point. The launch was witnessed by Shri George Fernandes, Defence Minsiter, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, Dr. V.K. Aatre, Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister and other senior officers from the Armed Forces and DRDO. The Defence Minister congratulated the scientists and staff of DRDO and other partners.

The fact that it took just 15 months to test the missile would indicate that proven technologies and sub-systems from the Agni-II project would have been used to reduce development efforts and speed up hardware realisation indigenously. Information released by the DRDO indicates that the first stage and re-entry vehicle of the Agni-II has been used with some modifications in the Agni-I.

After successfully test-firing the short range, 700 km variant of the Agni-1 missile on 25 January 2002, New Delhi played down the significance of the test, given the context of the ongoing military stand-off with Pakistan. This Agni variant is part of India's Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP). With a sea based deterrent not on the horizon yet, the launch demonstrated that India wants to stabilise its nuclear deterrent on the basis of land based capability. The new missile was expected to bridge the gap between the short range Prithvi (150 km) and intermediate range Agni-II had been in production for over a year.

The road-mobile, solid propellant Agni-1 filled the need for a nuclear missile. Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee while congratulating the defence scientists, asserted that the development of this Agni missile system was an "ongoing" program and part of "several steps" taken to bolster the country's security. The launch was witnessed by Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy, Dr VK Aatre, Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister and other senior officers from the Armed Forces and DRDO. The Defence Minister also congratulated the scientists, staff of DRDO and other partners. He expressed his happiness that the mission was flawless and enhanced India's capability in deployment of such surface-to-surface missle systems.

Some Indian scientists opined that a new closed loop guidance scheme for the atmospheric phase of the missile's trajectory would be needed. And also, some rework of the airframe and sub-assemblies would be necessary because of higher boost phase acceleration expected for Agni-I in comparison to Agni-II. The design and manufacture of a new road-mobile launcher for this missile, again in 15 months, is noteworthy because it confers operational advantages.

India on 27 November 2015 successfully test-fired the indigenously built nuclear-capable Agni-I missile from the Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast. The surface-to-surface missile, capable of hitting targets up to 700 km away, was fired from launch pad-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at 10.02 am as part of Strategic Forces Command (SFC) training exercise. Defence ministry sources said the trial was successful. "The exercise was undertaken as a part of periodic training activity by SFC," official sources said. The last trial of Agni-I conducted in September 2014 was also successful.

A 25 m long, 3.2 m wide and 4.2 m high road mobile launcher has been developed for transporting, erecting and launching surface- to-surface missile Agni l. This road mobile launcher gives the flexibility to launch the missile from any place connected by road anywhere in India. The missile payload can be integrated on launcher itself. Complete realisation of the launcher has been done indigenously. All critical components are indigenous or else available easily. Launching can be done remotely as well as manually. The system has inbuilt power supply and controls. A compact missile transportation and integration system has been used to integrate the missile with launch beam for erection. Missile is fired vertically.

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