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Exclusive: Super-charged Agni-5 farewell awaits DRDO Chief

By Dr Anantha Krishnan M

Bengaluru, Jan 17: A fitting tribute for his four-decades-plus selfless work awaits India's top missile brain and outgoing Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chief Dr Avinash Chander.

Top sources have confirmed to OneIndia on Saturday that the much-talked about canisterized version (cold launch) of the surface-to-surface Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Agni-5 will now in all likelihood be held on January 31 from Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast.

Agni-5 farewell awaits DRDO chief

On the same day, Dr Avinash will step down as the DRDO chief following the Modi government's bolt-from-the-blue decision to terminate his contract, citing his age and ‘inability' to change the system.

Top scientists from DRDO's eight labs have begun the preparations for the critical trial of the 5000-km missile, with the launch campaign teams having started to move to Odisha. 

If all plans go as per the script and the missile zeroes in on its target, then it would be an emotion-charged reply by Dr Chander's shishyas to the ‘Yes Ministers' in the government.

For Dr Chander too, it will pave the way for a head-held-high exit from the top office, which he otherwise was eligible to occupy till May 2016.

A section of the media had earlier reported that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was expected to witness the 3rd launch of A5, with no official confirmation coming from the PMO or the Ministry of Defence.

In short, India will probably witness for the first time the launch of a nuclear-capable missile, tipped with emotion, anger and gratitude.

Third launch of Agni 5

This will be the third launch of Agni-5 (A5-03 mission) from a road mobile launcher. The Gas Generator System (GGS) with a compact solid rocket motor housed inside the canister is used for ejecting the missile out of canister.

Once the missile is out of the canister, a Stage-1 rocket motor is ignited, setting the missile on its course.

Agni-5 is a three-stage, solid propelled, road mobile, state-of-the-art nuclear capable long-range ballistic missile (LRBM). With a launch mass of 50T, it is capable of delivering a payload of one tonne over a range of 5000 km.

All the three stages are controlled by flex nozzle control system and guided by an Innovative Inertial Energy Management


Explicit Guidance

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. Both missions were successful with a high-impact accuracy and all the mission objectives achieved.

With the successful launch of A5-01 and A5-02, complete mission and system design of Agni-5 was proven.


Dr Avinash - the main architect of A5

Post-news of the termination of Dr Avinash, the Directors of various labs under the Missile Complex are said to be having a difficult time handling the emotions of younger members of the team.

"We are finding it tough to up the morale of the youngsters. Just by mixing two solutions in a lab, you can't become a scientist. The government seems to have forgotten our sacrifices and the contributions of a great soul in our chief," a DRDO director told OneIndia from Delhi over the phone.

As the main architect of the Agni-5 missile system, Dr Avinash is looked up to as a great visionary with technical excellence and a wide spectrum of knowledge in the field of strategic systems.

"Be it electrical, electronics, mechanical, aeronautical or any other discipline, none can match his technical competence.There is no parallelism which can be drawn with him in this field," the official said.

Avinash Chander

Exemplary leadership

Most of the people who shared their experiences with OneIndia were of the opinion that Dr Avinash was the sole individual responsible for outsmarting the technology control regimes, which consistently denied critical know-how to India.

"He envisioned and carried out design and indigenous development of various critical technologies including propulsion systems, composite rocket motors, aerospace mechanisms, structural design, re-entry vehicle design, missile integration, advanced high accuracy navigation systems, robust avionics systems, mission design and design of multi-stage guidance algorithms to name a etc," says another colleague of the DRDO chief.

Interestingly, much before the Modi govt rolled out the ‘Make in India' campaign, DRDO insiders say that on the missile development front, Dr Avinash ensured that self-reliance was achieved in an enviable manner.

"He had set the tone for many initiatives including identifying seven labs for youngsters to run. He seldom took any credit for his work," the official said.

Father of Indian nav systems

One of the significant contributions of Dr Avinash is his introduction of the concept of ‘strap-down inertial navigation' in India.
"Today all aerospace systems right from systems with few metres to thousands of kilometres are deployed with this wonder concept. To us, he is the ‘Father of Indian navigation systems.

We are happy that our biggest parting gift to him will be the successful launch of A5 missile. We want to give him a dignified farewell," an official said.

Agni-5 farewell

No media interaction, focused on work

While Dr Avinash has stayed away from the media ever since the news of his termination emerged, sources confirm to OneIndia that the missile scientist has now reached Hyderabad.

"We received him at the airport on Friday morning and he is calm and composed. He has been conducting various review meetings and thrashing out technical points that came up for discussions. He is not encouraging any talk on his possible sudden exit," an official said.

So, whether PM Narendra Modi finds the time to witness the A5 launch or not, after his bonding session with US President Barrack Obama, there's one thing the weathermen are already predicting, off the Odisha coast for January 31. "Clear skies, misty eyes and heavy downpour of emotions."

(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)

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