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Rajya Sabha TV: In Depth Nuclear Agni-II Increasing Strike Range

Rajya Sabha TV: In Depth Nuclear Agni-II Increasing Strike Range

India’s strategic forces test fired Agni II on Feb 20, 2018 on medium to intermediate range nuclear capable ballistic missile. The test was conducted from Dr. Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha as a part of annual programmes to test the combat readiness of Indian Army missile forces.


  • In Indian history, Mysorean rockets were the first iron cased rockets that were successfully deployed for military use. These were used by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan successfully against the British East India Company in 18th
  • Post-independence, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was formed in 1958 for military’s research and development under the control of Ministry of Defence. The Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) was launched in 1982-83 by the Indian Government which saw the projects of:
  1. Prithvi (Short range surface to surface missile)
  2. Trishul (short range surface to air missile)
  3. Aakash (Medium range surface to air missile)
  4. Nag (Third generation anti-tank missile)
  5. Agni-I (Agni missile was later separated from the IGMDP due to its strategic importance)

  • After India test-fired the first Prithvi missile in 1988, and the Agni Missile in 1989, the Missile Technology Control Regime decided to restrict missile technologies to India. To counter this move, IGMDP with the help of DRDO laboratories made India capable of making all the technologies indigenously over time.
  • After the successful competition of IGMDP on 8 Jan 2008, India now develops all its current and future missile as independent projects, with private companies and foreign partners (like Brahmos with Russia).
  • Dhanush is the naval version of Prithvi missile. It can carry payloads up to 500 kg and target both land-based and sea-based targets.

The K family of missiles is a series of submarine launched ballistic missiles developed by India. They are reported to faster, lighter and stealthier than their Agni missiles counterparts. Example: K-15 (or Sagarika), K-4, K-5 and K-6.

  • A ballistic missile is a missile with a high, arching trajectory, which is initially powered and guided but falls under gravity on its target.
  • A cruise missile is a low-flying missile which is guided to its target by an on-board computer. Modern cruise missiles can travel at supersonic or subsonic speeds. Supersonic travel is rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speeds of sound (Mach 1 = 343m/s).

Example: Tomahawk (United States), Nirbhay (India) and Brahmos (India).

Brahmos is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world with a speed of Mach 2.8 – 3 at present. Russia supplies 65 % of its components including its ramjet engine. Brahmos II with a speed of Mach 7-8 is currently under development.

Nirbhay is a long range, all-weather subsonic cruise missile designed and developed in India by DRDO. It can carry conventional and nuclear warheads.


  • India is now a member of three export control regimes
  1. the Missile Technology Control Regime (since 2016),
  2. Wassenaar Arrangement (since December 2017) and
  3. Australia Group (since January 2018).

             Biological and Chemical Weapons Convention have also been signed by India.

But, India has not signed Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

  • Agni missiles are long range nuclear-capable surface to surface ballistic missile. Its specifications are:
Ballistic Missile Weight (kg) Payload






Type of range Operational range (in km)
Agni-I 12,000 1.0 15 1.0 Medium 700-900
Agni-II 16,000 0.75-1.0 21 1.0 Medium 2,000-3,500
Agni-III 44,000 2.0-2.5 17 2.0 Intermediate 3,500-5,000
Agni-IV 17,000 0.8-1.0 20   Intermediate 3000-4000
Agni-V 50,000 1.5 17.5 2.0 Intercontinental Over 5,000

(Under development)

55,000 1.0   1.1 Intercontinental 8,000-10,000


  • India has a second use (no first-use) nuclear policy which means it can use it only when an enemy does on it. But for that a deterrence mechanism is needed which is a strategy intended to dissuade an enemy from taking an action not yet started. This is done by showing one’s capability and strategy.
  • The Agni missiles have an advanced high-accuracy navigation system. It uses an inertial navigation system that uses a computer, motion sensors and rotation sensors to continuously calculate the orientation and velocity of moving object.
  • Agni II uses a two-stage solid propellant It is developed by advanced systems laboratory along with other DRDO laboratories. It is integrated by Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad.
  • The lesser the distance travelled by a missile, the more payload it can carry.
  • The first prototype of Agni-II was launched on 11 April 1999. A launch on 7 April 2013 was conducted by Strategic Forces Command. It was inducted into the Indian Army in 2004.
  • Agni-II was upgraded to a nuclear warhead after the Pokhran-2 test in 1998.
  • The recent successful trial of Agni-II on 20 Feb 2018 reconfirms Indian Army’s readiness. It has also shown an accuracy within (30-40) m of range in hitting the target.
  • With rising challenges from China and Pakistan, it is important to test the missiles and remove any shortcomings. Technical problems, for example, have occurred in some of the previous launches in the second stage when the warhead separates.
  • With Agni-V, India has entered into the list of countries possessing Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). Other countries in the list are Russia, United States, France, North Korea and China.

An ICBM is a guided ballistic missile with a minimum range of 5,500 km primarily designed for nuclear weapons delivery. Similarly, conventional, chemical, and biological weapons can also be delivered with varying effectiveness.

  • Russia, China and United States have one of the world’s most powerful missiles that can travel between 10,000-15,000 km. Examples:
Missile Type Maximum Range (km) Country
R 36 16,000 Russia
Dongfeng 5 and 41 15,000 China
Hwasong-15 13,000 North Korea
RS-26 Rubezh 12,600 Russia
LGM-30 Minuteman III 13,000 United States
Trident I 12,000 United States
M 51 10,000 France
Agni V 8,000 India


  • For India, the concern presently is China which is way ahead in missile technology and capability and has a battle-ready army. Pakistan is also improving its arsenal. In response to Agni V, Pakistan is working on ICBM which is said to be working on ICBM ‘Taimur’. Shaheen-III (range of 2750 km), Shaheen-II (range of 2,500 km) and Shaheen-I (range of 750 km) are ballistic missiles of Pakistan.


India has travelled a long way since the development of its IGMDP programme in indigenously developing its missiles technology by the help of DRDO laboratories. With missiles like Agni, Brahmos, etc India has developed a good deterrence mechanism. But, China which has seen standoff with India in recent past is way ahead in these technologies. So recent successful testing of Agni II is a good move and India should keep its readiness and efficiency in missile striking capabilities on track with its Strategic Forces Command.