Agni missiles: How far can they strike in Chinese territory?
Agni II, medium-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, was on Tuesday test fired from Abdul Kalam island off the Odisha coast. Agni missiles are claimed to be a part of the "credible deterrence" against China and Pakistan. India has time and again stated that its missile development programmes are not Pakistan-centric as the Pakistani threat is only a marginal factor in New Delhi's security calculus. Agni is, however, at the heart of deterrence in the larger context of Sino-Indian equation.
Agni series has five missiles with varying strike capabilities and ranges. Agni 1 is a single stage solid fuel missile with a range of 1250 kms while Agni 2, an improvement of Agni 1, is a two-stage missile capable of striking targets 2000 kms away. Agni 2, if launched from a strategic location, can target western, central, and southern China.
Agni 4, however, can strike targets in nearly all of China, including Beijing, provided they are launched from the northeast. All the missiles in the Agni series are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. On 19 April 2012, India made its entry into the Intercontinental ballistic Missile (ICBM) club after the successful test launch of its indigenous Agni V missile.
Time and again International defence experts, especially the Chinese, have claimed that India has been understating the range of its intercontinental ballistic missile Agni-5. India initially did not divulge the exact range that the missile can strike but later DRDO hinted that it has the capability to reach 5,000 kms.
Chinese experts say that the missile actually has the potential to reach targets 8,000 kilometres away and that the Indian government had deliberately downplayed the missile's capability in order to avoid causing concern to other countries. If the 8000 kms theory is true then India can strike whole of China even if the missile is launched from Southern India.
Agni-V also features Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRVs) with each missile being capable of carrying 2-10 separate nuclear warheads. Each warhead can be assigned to a different target. One of the main advantages of Agni missiles are that they all use solid fuel which greatly reduces their launch time. If the missile is fitted to a mobile launcher, it can be launched within minutes. Some of the Chinese missiles use liquid propellant, which take time to launch compared to solid fuelled missiles because of the time needed to fuel the missile.