Trial Launch Looms for Indian Nuke-Capable Missile That Can Strike Beijing

India is just days or even hours away from the initial trial flight of its longest-range nuclear-capable missile, a weapon that analysts say could change the security dynamic with neighboring China (see GSN, April 12).

Indian Defense Research and Development Organization spokesman Ravi Gupta said, "It will be a quantum leap in India's strategic capability," the Associated Press reported.

The  three-stage, solid-fueled Agni 5 ballistic missile could be test-fired at any time between now and Friday, according to Gupta. The missile is to be launched from a facility on Wheeler Island near the coast of Odisha, formerly Orissa state.

China already possesses an ICBM that can strike any area in India while New Delhi's operational Agni 3 ballistic missile has a range of  just 2,175 miles. The Agni 5 has a top flight distance of greater than 3,100 miles, which gives it near-ICBM capabilities and the capacity to strike faraway targets in Shanghai and Beijing.

New Delhi-based defense expert Rahul Bedi noted that "while China doesn't really consider India any kind of threat or any kind of a rival, India definitely doesn't think in the same way." The two nations went to war in 1962 and have a persistent boundary disagreement; New Delhi also worries about Beijing's projection of power on the Indian Ocean, AP reported.

Indian officials said the Agni 5 should not be viewed as a danger. "We have a declared no-first use policy, and all our missile systems, they are not country specific. There is no threat to anybody," Gupta insisted. "Our missile systems are purely for deterrence and to meet our security needs" (Associated Press/Washington Post, April 18).

Should the coming flight test prove successful and the Agni 5 enters into service, New Delhi would have "the ability to deter China by holding at risk the major Chinese cities," the Washington Times quoted Globalsecurity.org's Tim Brown as saying.

"The ultimate aim is to deter China," Brown said (Shaun Waterman, Washington Times, April 17).

The Agni 5's range would also bring the capitals of North Korea and Iran within striking distance, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A missile launch that goes as planned would make the Agni 5 "the most advanced in the Indian missile inventory," IHS Jane's Asia-Pacific military expert Poornima Subramaniam said in an e-mail message to the newspaper (Wall Street Journal, April 18).

 

April 18, 2012
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India is just days or even hours away from the initial trial flight of its longest-range nuclear-capable missile, a weapon that analysts say could change the security dynamic with neighboring China.

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