Bengaluru, Jan 31: India on Saturday stamped its authority as a missile-faring nation when the surface-to-surface Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-5 hit the designated target with clockwork precision.
The 17-m-long Agni-V, with a strike range of 5000 km and capable of carrying over one-tonne nuclear warhead, was launched from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) (Wheeler Island, off Odisha Coast) at around 8.09 am. The total weight of A-V is 50 tonne.
"It was a fantastic launch. It was a beauty to watch all the three stages separating one after another. We couldn't have asked for a better result. It is a 200 per cent successful mission," a top DRDO scientist told OneIndia over the phone from Wheeler Island.
This was Agni-V's third launch and the first from a canister. "The missile met all parameters during the flight that lasted for 20 minutes. It climbed at a maximum altitude of over 600 km and made the re-entry later to fall into the Australian waters," the scientist said.
Speaking exclusively to OneIndia, DRDO's outgoing chief Dr Avinash Chander said: "Mission accomplished. I am a satisfied man."
He confirmed that similar to earlier launches of Agni-V, the DRDO packed the gen-next technologies into the missile during Saturday's launch as well.
"The Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS) and Micro Navigation System (MINS) ensured that the missile hit the designated-target area with pin-point precision," Dr Avinash said. (OneIndia will bring to you a snap interview with Dr Avinash later today.)
Emotional parting gift to DRDO Chief
As reported by OneIndia earlier, with the successful launch of Agni-5, the Missile Cluster of DRDO gave a perfect and emotional parting gift to its outgoing chief Dr Avinash Chander.
Dr Chander is scheduled to step down from the top post today. The Appointments Committee of Cabinet has handed over the additional charge of DRDO to R K Mathur, who is currently India's Defence Secretary.
It was an emotionally charged day for the Missile Cluster team members of DRDO, who were present in full strength during the launch. "People were jumping in joy and some were seen even crying. Dr Avinash Chander was lifted on our shoulders and we were all in tears. Agni-V is his baby and this mission will be remembered for a long time to come," the scientist added.
DRDO's smart tech ensured clean hit
DRDO Spokesperson Ravi Gupta told OneIndia that the missile first gained a height of 20 meters at the designated moment. "At this height, the first stage motor got ignited and Agni-V disappeared into the sky within seconds. In the second stage, the all-composite light weight motor got into action. This was followed by triggering of the third stage (all-composite rocket motor) taking the missile to a height of more than 600 km," Gupta said.
Giving more technical details of the mission via an official release, DRDO said that the missile, after reaching peak of its trajectory turned towards earth and continued its journey towards the intended target. The missile's momentum accelerated at this point due to earth's gravitational pull.
The missile's path was directed by an advanced on-board computer (OBC) and inertial navigation system (INS). As the missile entered earth's atmosphere, the atmospheric air rubbing the skin of the missile during the re-entry phase raised the temperature to beyond 4000 degree Celsius.
The indigenously-designed and developed carbon-carbon composite heat shield continued to burn sacrificially protecting the payload and maintaining the inside temperature below 50 degree Celsius.
Towards the end of its journey, highly-accurate ring laser gyro-based INS, micro inertial navigation system (MINS), fully digital control system and advanced compact avionics guided A-V to hit the designated target point accurately, completing all mission objectives.
DRDO claimed that Saturday's mission was in A-V's deliverable configuration with short preparation time need for the launch, as compared to an open campaign. DRDO also said that canister launch gives higher reliability, longer shelf life, less maintenance and enhanced mobility.
Induction likely after 2 more launches
DRDO said that the missiles will be eligible for induction after a couple of more trials. "After another few more launches in the canister configuration, we are hopeful of Agni-V getting inducted into India's missiles stables. In addition to our two ships positioned near the impact point, all radars, telemetry stations and tracking systems kept a close eye on the missile's health," the scientist said.
The first two launches of Agni-5 were carried out in Hot Launch Configuration, with the first one (A5-01) on April 19, 2012 and second one (A5-02) on September 15, 2013. Today's successful mission (A5-03) was carried out in the Cold Launch Configuration.
The entire launch activities were done in a low-key fashion, as compared to its highly publicised first two missions. No media representatives were taken to Wheeler Island to cover the event.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)