India will test a 5,000-km-range (3,100-mi.) intercontinental ballistic missile by the end of this year, according to the chief of the country’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO).

“[The] Agni-V missile [should] be ready for a test, probably in December,” says V.K. Saraswat.

The Agni-V system is being designed by adding a third composite stage to the two-stage, 3,500-km Agni-III. It will be able to carry multiple warheads and will have countermeasures against anti-ballistic missile systems. The completely indigenous system can reach most targets in northern China, including Beijing.

Skirting assumptions that the missile is being developed to target China, Ravi Kumar Gupta, publicity director at DRDO, tells Aviation Week that “the missile is not being made to target any particular country. . . . India has a declared policy of no first strike, but we should have the power to retaliate in case of an attack.”

India, which recently introduced the Agni-III into its armed forces, has begun serialized production of the weapon system. “Agni-III is an inducted missile,” Saraswat says. “It has completed its development and is under production.” 

Defense Minister A. K. Antony says India has reached an appreciable level of competence in missile technologies, with a reach capability of 3,500 km. “DRDO has developed a spectrum of missiles with a different range and payload capability. Now DRDO must demonstrate its capability to reach a range of 5,000 km at the earliest.”

Agni-V will be the latest entrant to the Agni family of ballistic missiles. Besides Agni-III, the other two in the series are the 700-km Agni-I and 2,000-km Agni-II.

Antony also asked DRDO to bring the country into the elite club of nations to have developed a credible ballistic missile defense (BMD) system to intercept enemy missiles that may target India. DRDO has carried out six tests in the last two years, of which four have been successful.

The BMD program comprises a two-tiered system called Prithvi Air Defense for high-altitude intercepts at 50-80 km, and Advanced Air Defense for low-altitude intercepts at 15-30 km.

Other missiles developed by DRDO are the Prithvi and its variants with ranges up to 350 km, the surface-to-air Akash with a range of 25-30 km and the short-range anti-tank NAG missile.

DRDO scrapped the Trishul air defense missile program owing to excessive delays.