The 'mystery' surrounding Agni 5's range
India on Thursday successfully test-fired intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Agni-5 from Abdul Kalam island, Odisha. The sophisticated missile traveled for 19 minutes and covered 4,900 km. The sleek missile was test-fired from a canister launcher, mounted on a mobile platform, at about 9.54 am from No. 4 launch pad of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Abdul Kalam Island.
Though Agni 5 is said to have a range of 5,000 kms, its range has been a contentious issue. Even India initially did not divulge the exact range of the missile, 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.
Before delving further into the subject, one must understand why India could be deliberately understating its military capabilities.
India is striving hard to gain into NSG and it may not go down well with the superpowers if it comes out in the open that India has a missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads to a distance of around 8,000 kms. It may hamper India's chance of gaining entry in the elite NSG group.
Let's compare Agni 5 with one of the most lethal solid propelled missiles in the world the Trident, developed by the United Kingdom, and try to understand the things better.
The range of a missile is mainly determined by the amount of fuel it can carry, and the weight of its warheads. The fuel of a missile is determined mainly by its internal volume which is determined by its height and diameter, as well a weight. Like Agni, even Trident has 3 stages and propelled by solid fuel. Trident weighs 59 tons, is 13.5 meters long and has a diameter of 2.1 meters. Agni 5 weighs 50 tons, is 17.5 meters long and has diameter of 2 meters.
Agni 5 weighs less as its body and structure are entirely fabricated from lighter composite materials. Agni-5's diameter is less than Trident but is longer so it can be deduced that they carry more or less same amount of fuel. However, the official range of the Trident is 12,000 kms while the Agni V is '5000' kms.