New Delhi, Nov 8: Agni 5 is India's most advanced missile and it has been inducted into the service after successive trials. After Agni 5 project ended, there were speculations that the DRDO may have begun working on an ICBM with longer range and payload carrying capabilities.
Many reports have claimed that the DRDO a three-stage Agni VI missile. India has not made any clear statement on the development of Agni 6 which, many opine, may have range between 8,000 km to 10,000 km.
DRDO usually has a development gap between each Agni-series of around 4-5 years. It has been over 5 years since Agni-V was developed and this has led to speculation that its successor could be ready.
Agni 6 could be a three-stage solid fuel ICBM missile which will be heavier and thicker than the Agni-V. Agni-VI could possibly be able to carry 3 tonne warheads thrice that of Agni-V which can carry only 1.1 Tonne warheads. Agni-VI will be the first missile to have the capability to carry 4 or 6 multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV) payloads.
The question of MIRV technology is tricky, as some reports suggest that India may already have tested Agni 5 with MIRV technology. DRDO or the government has made no official statement on any Indian missile capable of MIRV.
The range of Agni 5 itself is a mystery of sorts as China claims that it can travel as far as 8,000 kms. The DRDO claims that Agni 5 has a range of 5,000 kms.
Range of ballistic missiles is a contentious issue. Many European nations and experts in the US argue that why should India develop a 10,000 kms plus range ICBM when its furthest rival is China.
If India unveils Agni 6, then it may irk the US and some European countries. India would be risking sanctions if it blatantly goes ahead and tests Agni 6.
India is a rising economic power and at this juncture, it would not like to sour economic ties with Europe. A missile of 10,000 km range is bound to make European nations uncomfortable and this may have an impact on trade ties.
So, even if the DRSDo is ready with the technology, Indian government is very unlikely to unveil, or even acknowledge the existence of Agni 6 ICBM.