India's most formidable strategic missile, the over 5,000 km Agni-V, was tested from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast on Saturday morning.
The 50-tonne inter-continental ballistic missile, the country's first such missile, was tested for the first time in a canisterised version. This was the third test-firing of the three-stage missile, as was earlier reported by TOI.
Preliminary reports held that the test, conducted at 8.09am, was "successful" but a more detailed analysis was awaited. It also came on the last day in office of missile scientist Avinash Chander, who contract as DRDO chief was abruptly ended earlier this month by the Modi government.
A canister-launch system will give the forces the requisite operational flexibility to swiftly transport the ballistic missile and launch it from a place of their choosing. Consequently, the highly road-mobile Agni-V will be able to hit even the northernmost part of China if fired from close to the Line of Actual Control.
It will, however, take a couple of years for the Agni-V to be inducted into the Strategic Forces Command. The armed forces have already inducted the Pakistan-specific Agni-I (700-km) and Agni-II (over 2,000-km) as well as the 3,000-km Agni-III.
The 4,000-km Agni-IV and the Agni-V missiles, however, are in a different class with "much higher accuracy and kill efficiencies" to give teeth to the minimum credible deterrence posture against China. With a massive nuclear arsenal and missiles like the 11,200-km Dong Feng-31A capable of hitting any Indian city, Beijing is leagues ahead of New Delhi.
DRDO, too, is also working to make the solid-fuelled Agni-IV and Agni-V even more lethal by arming them with maneuvering warheads or re-entry vehicles to defeat enemy ballistic missile defence systems and MIRVs (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles).
An MIRV payload implies a single missile carrying several nuclear warheads, each programmed to hit different targets.