March 24, 2017

Agni V Missile: What is the true Range?

India tested the Agni V missile for the second time. Once again it was called as an “over” 5000 kms range missile.

I am recounting from the first test and all the information that came out from it in this post.

On my forum, I had said that the missile was going to be at least 8000 kms in range before the test. It didnt make any sense for India to make a new missile for just 1500 kms more than the Agni III missile.

For India to have true deterrence against China, it should be able to fire a missile from its southernmost tip that is Kanyakumari to the northern most point in China. This distance is nearly 7000 kms. A 5000 kms range missile will have to be stationed in Northern  India to be able to reach every part of China making it susceptible to a Chinese first strike.  India should be in a position to fire a missile hidden somewhere in the Western Ghats to Harbin in norther China.

If Agni V really is a 5000 kms range missile then it would actually mean India has a lot to catch up with its engine and propulsion technology and this missile is highly inefficient. But India has an advanced missile program and gathered over 30 years of experience.

Looking at the reports from the first test, the splash down was “somewhere” along the southern tip of Africa and Australia.

Southern Tip of Africa is 35° S and Australia is 44°S and Wheeler islands is at 20°N.

To a latitude range near South Africa the total distance traveled is 55° of latitude. I remember learning in geography that every degree of latitude covers 111 kilometers. This would make the distance traveled at about 6100 kms. If we consider the latitude range of southern Australia, total distance traveled is 64°. which puts total distance traveled at 7100 kms. A median of this is 6,600 kms.

Also consider that the DRDO has said that the flight time is about 20 minutes at speeds of about 25,000 kms per hour. Doing the math, it works out to 8,300 kms. Yes it does take some time to reach that speed but still means a total travel of about 8000 kms.

The missile was tested in a depressed trajectory which is not quite an ideal way and is a non-optimal, lower and flatter trajectory which takes less time between launch and impact.

Soon after the first test, the Chinese officially said that they think the range of India’s Agni V is 8000 kms. We have heard about China having monitoring station on Coco Islands as well as monitoring by satellites and sea based radars on their naval assets.

It is my belief that the Agni V is not just a 5000 kms range missile but an ICBM of 8000 kms range. India will continue to keep ambiguity over the range of the missile to probably address the western audience who would start to factor in India’s ability to reach their shores and be vocal about it. Yes they would have monitored the flight and known the distance traveled but “officially” Indian missiles dont pose a threat to the west till India does not officially say it has an ICBM of over 8000 kms range. That will change if the proposed Agni VI of over 10,000kms range is tested.

Picture Credit: You Tube

Republished with Permission from Yusuf T Unjhawala                                                                   Source:

Commentator on defence and strategic affairs. Editor of Indian Defence Analysis.   He tweets @YusufDFI


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