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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Agni VI / Surya

At least one source has reported that a 12,000-km range, 80,000-kg weight ballistic missile, designated Surya, was under development. (1) The status of the Surya [Sun] ICBM program is unclear, with some report indicating that the development of this system was initiated in 1994. Conflicting reports regarding the Surya's configuration claim that it will be based on the components of the polar space launch vehicle (PSLV) and the Agni IRBM, and that it will have a range between 8000 and 12,000 kms. (2)

In October 2005 it was reported that India was developing a three state missile with solid fuel rockets in the first and second stages, and a liquid propellant rocket in the third stage. The launch weight of the missile was said to be 270 to 275 tonnes. The missile could have a 5,480 pound to 7,680 pound releasable front section with two to three warheads of 15 kilo tonne to 20 kilo tonnes each. The ICBM was being developed by combining the technology of the Agni II with that of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. It was expected to have a range of more than 8,000 km. At that time it was reported that the ICBM was likely to be test-fired by 2008, and was expected to be added to the Indian armed forces' deterrence arsenal by 2015.

As of 2009 it was reported that the government had not considered an 8,000-km range ICBM.

By 2011 Air Chief Marshal PV Naik believed that if India had the capacity to build ICBM's then it should be used. His views are that India has moved out of its Regional sphere of influence and as per that it should have the tools to match the new status. Naik, who heads the chiefs of staff committee, said, "India should pursue an ICBM programme to acquire ranges of 10,000 km or even more. Breaking out of the regional context is important as the country's sphere of influence grows. We have no territorial designs on any country, but India needs the capability to match its sphere of influence."

Following the fourth test of the nuclear-capable, intercontinental Agni-V missile on 26 December 2016, Times of India reported "Also in the works is Agni-VI, which will be armed with "manoeuvring warheads or intelligent re-entry vehicles" to defeat enemy defence systems or MIRVs (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles)."

Indiandefensenews reported 28 December 2016 that "Agni VI, which is being given the finishing touches by the DRDO, will have a striking range of about 8,000kms to 12,000kms." But this report also claimed that "The most striking feature of Agni V is that it has a target capacity of more than 5,000kms and can carry multiple warheads from land, water and sea." - a statment riddled with errors.

Ajai Shukla wrote in 2013 "The Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) has briefed Business Standard about the direction of India's ballistic missile development programme after the Agni-5 enters service, probably in 2015. DRDO chief Dr VK Saraswat, and missile programme chief Dr Avinash Chander, say the Agni-6 project has not been formally sanctioned. However, the missile's specifications and capabilities have been decided and development is proceeding apace.

"The road mobile Agni-6 would also have stringent limits on its length. "It must be carried on a standard size trailer that can move from one part of the country to another, turn on our roads, cross our bridges and climb our heights. As the payload weight increases, we will require more advanced technologies to keep the missile's length constant..."

One observer suggested "Agni 6 (Agni VI)'s likely specifications are total weight 55,000 kgs, height 17-20 meters, 1.1 - 2.0 metre diameter, 3 stage rocket boosted. Launched from semi-hidden  transporter erector launcher (TEL) truck, or disguised rail car. ... The 10,000 km range would bring the capitals of three of the other major nuclear powers into range. Such a long range increases flexibility, important for deterrence. For political reasons India probably does not wish to talk about longer range ICBMs - with 13,000 km capable of reaching all nuclear powers.... India wishes the 10,000 km range missile, known as the Agni 6  (Agni VI), to have characteristics equal to (parity with) the latest ICBMs of India's main nuclear opponent, China.... Agni 6  may be first tested in 2017 . Testing may last 4 years to 2021. Then in-service, operational around 2023 or later." The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) of India is said to be developing its next Agni missile which could carry multiple warheads, according to February 2013 news reports. DRDO chief V K Saraswat has confirmed the report saying, "India is developing Agni VI missile capable of carrying multiple warheads." He also added that the developmental trial of the missile will begin soon. "Agni-V is major strategic defence weapon. Now we want to make Agni-VI which would be a force multiplier," said V K Saraswat DRDO chief, PTI reported.

According to Zee News, the missile will measure 40 meters in length [twice the length of other Agni issiles] with a width of 1.1 meters [half that of the long range Agni 3/5 family]. These numbers are implausible. It was also said that the new missile will have the capability to launch from submarine and land-based launchers - hardly likely for even a 20 meter long missile. "It will be a three-stage missile and taller than the Agni-V. The design is just taking shape and other sub systems are under development. If everything goes as per the program, the missile will be ready by mid 2014," Zee News quoted a source as saying. Needless to say, as of 2016 the long skinny Agni-VI remained vaporware.

By 2017, it was reported that "Agni-VI will be a four-stage intercontinental ballistic missile, which is in the hardware development phase, after its design phase was completed. Agni-VI is expected to have Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle as well as Maneuverable reentry vehicle(MaRV). And these maneuverable warheads will give Agni VI an extended range exact figure of which is currently classified. It will be taller than its predecessor Agni V, and is expected to be flight tested by 2017. The government of India is yet to approve the project, although DRDO has completed all calculations and started the engineering work.

"It is reported to be the latest and most advanced version among the Agni missiles. According to sources, Agni-VI missile is likely to carry up to 10 MIRV warheads and will have a strike range of 8,000 km to 12,000 km, though DRDO has refused to confirm the missile’s range. A senior DRDO scientist was quoted as saying that the new generation Agni-VI missile will be sleeker, easily transportable and would be readily deployed. It will have the capability to be launched from submarine and from land-based launchers."

DRDO missile program chief Dr Avinash Chander was quoted in Business Standard 08 May 2013 saying "Our ballistic missiles must be compact and road mobile, even the Agni-6 with its heavy payload. We will do this by building the first stage with composites, fitting the Agni-6 with India's first composite 40-tonne rocket motor. This is a technical challenge but we have good capability in lightweight composites." The road mobile Agni-6 would also have stringent limits on its length. "It must be carried on a standard size trailer that can move from one part of the country to another, turn on our roads, cross our bridges and climb our heights. As the payload weight increases, we will require more advanced technologies to keep the missile's length constant," explains Chander. Eventually the Agni-6 will be no taller than the Agni-5, i.e. about 17 meters, says Chander. It will, however, be heavier and thicker - slightly over two meters. The missile’s launch weight would be around 55 tons.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2018 13:19:06 ZULU