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Editorial of the Day (19th Mar): Agni 5 MIRV and Deterrence

Context: The Agni-5 is significant not only for its range but also for its advanced capabilities, marking a pivotal moment for India’s nuclear deterrent strategy.

Strategic Importance of Agni-5 Test

  • This missile has a range of over 5,000 kilometres, making it India’s longest-range missile tested so far.
  • Its MIRV capability allows the missile to hit multiple targets simultaneously, making it a more formidable weapon.
  • This counters ballistic missile defences and strengthens India’s nuclear deterrence, especially against China’s growing arsenal and potential first strike.

Technical Challenges Overcome

  • Demands of MIRV Technology: Developing MIRV-capable ballistic requires
    • nuclear warhead miniaturisation,
    • designing lightweight warhead carriers,
    • ensuring precise configuration,
    • separation of re-entry vehicles,
    • achieving high accuracy and stability during re-entry.
  • India’s Milestone: Despite challenges such as limited nuclear testing, which affected warhead miniaturisation and design, Indian defence research organisations like DRDO, Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL), and Advanced Systems Limited (ASL) have successfully met these complex requirements with the recent test of Agni-5.

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Balancing Power with China

  • China possesses MIRV technology and is developing ballistic missile defences like the Hongqi (HQ-19) interceptors.
  • The Agni-5 MIRV restores balance in the Sino-Indian nuclear equation, deterring China’s first-strike advantage.
  • Further testing is needed for the Indian armed forces to have full confidence in the system.

Future Prospects and Implications

  • Uncertainties and Capabilities: Details about the number of warheads the Agni-5 can carry and their yield remain speculative and likely classified.
    • Questions also exist about the missile’s ability to carry decoys and chaff to evade interception.
  • Road-Mobile Launch Platform: The Agni-5 is expected to be launched from a road-mobile platform, enhancing its strategic flexibility and survivability.
  • Counter to Chinese Advances: The Agni-5, particularly with its MIRV capability, is seen as a counter to Chinese missile and missile defence advancements.
    • It signals India’s readiness to bolster its nuclear arsenal and deterrence capabilities against China.
  • Continued Development: India’s successful test of the Agni-5 MIRV missile represents a critical step in its ambition to become a leading nuclear and missile power.
    • Future developments may include long-range Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs) to further enhance India’s strategic nuclear capabilities.

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