Close on the heels of the successful launch of Agni-V, Agni-II, Agni-I and Prithvi-II missiles from April this year, the Defence Research and Development Organisation is making preparations on the Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast, for two more Agni variants’ launches.
While Agni-IV will lift off from a rail-mobile launch pad on September 18, Agni-III missile will blast off on September 21, said V.K. Saraswat, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister. The maiden launch of Nirbhay, a sub-sonic cruise missile, will take place in October or November.
Both Agni-IV and Agni-III are two-stage missiles that can carry nuclear warheads weighing one tonne each. In the missions on September 18 and 21, Agni-IV and Agni-III will be armed only with conventional explosives. Both missiles are 17 metres long. While Agni-IV can devastate areas situated 4,000 km away, Agni-III’s range is over 3,000 km.
While the DRDO will flight-test Agni-IV, the Strategic Forces Command of the Army, which is entrusted with firing strategic missiles, will fire Agni-III. This is Agni-IV’s third flight. Agni-III will be flying for the fourth time. The maiden flights of both missiles ended in failure.
The Aeronautical Development Establishment, a DRDO facility in Bangalore, has developed Nirbhay, a subsonic cruise missile. Nirbhay means “Fearless” and the missile is a derivative of Lakshya, a pilotless target aircraft. DRDO sources said Nirbhay’s range was “in the region of 1,000 km.” “It is a tree-top missile, that is, it can fly at the height of a palmyra tree.”