Agni-V with multiple warheads: DRDO chief



New Delhi: Agni-V, India's most powerful missile with a strike range of over 5,000 kms, is set to get substantially higher destruction capabilities with plans to equip it with multiple warheads.

"We are working in this area. It will take time for us to develop but our work is on," DRDO Chief Dr V K Saraswat said when asked whether the agency is developing capabilities to produce a variant of Agni-V missile which can hit multiple targets.

Known as Multiple Independently Targeted Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV), the missile would be capable of carrying multiple warheads to destroy several targets.

Asked about the plans in that regard, he said, "Basic vehicle (missile) will remain the same. The first three stages will also remain the same and only the kill vehicle or the payload delivery system will need changes."

Terming it as a "force multiplier", the DRDO chief said, "If I am able to do force multiplication with this... Where I was using four missiles, I may use only one missile. So it becomes a force multiplier given the damage potential." Such a capability exists only with a select few countries such as the US, Russia and China.

Comparing Agni-V missile to the best in the world, Saraswat said, "It is a game changer missile... It has taken the missile technology to the highest level and matches with the best and the current world standards."

MIRV missiles are equipped with small on-board rocket motors and computerised inertial guidance system which manoeuvres warheads to several different trajectories.

On plans to develop missiles with 8000 km or even longer range, the DRDO chief said that will be done according to the evolving threat perception.

"Whenever the need arises, we will develop... Right now we feel, 5000 km-class of system meets our threat perception and threat requirement. But that does not mean that we will not develop a longer range missile. We will develop, but depending on the evolving threat perception," Saraswat said.

He said that the successful test flight of Agni-V missile has given the country the necessary capability to design and develop missiles of longer ranges as well. "As far as the capability of doing that kind of work (developing longer range missiles) is concerned, this missile (Agni-V) gives you the capability to build any missile of a range on the higher side," he said.

Talking about the ongoing efforts to develop an array of tactical missiles, Saraswat said, "Work is going on a number of tactical missiles such as the long and medium-range surface-to-air missiles. The Mark-I version of Astra Long Range Air-to-Air Missile will be ready by 2015."

He said that the long-range surface-to-air missile would be ready by 2014 while its medium-range version will take a year more. Astra Mark-I will be an 80-km range missile.

Saraswat refused to divulge the range of the Mark-II version of Astra missile. On development of 150 to 180-km range Prahaar missile for the Army, the DRDO Chief said the project has now matured and demonstrations were given to the force.

"We have demonstrated it (Prahaar missile) to the Army. It is a fully developed missile including its launcher and cannister. It is ready and, if the Army makes a choice then we can take it from the present demonstration stage to the production stage," Saraswat said.

Prahaar is a derivative of the interceptor missile designed by DRDO as part of its project to develop Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) shield.

"Prahaar is a matured missile as it is a derivate of the endo-atmospheric interceptor of the BMD programme. We modified that and converted it into Prahaar," he said.

Saraswat said that Prahaar can be used to launch different kinds of warheads, giving the commanders flexibility to choose from various options.

"It is a very good missile and gives you accuracy, range and capability to use different types of warheads. It gives tremendous flexibility to the commander. This will be a 150-180-km range missile," he said.

PTI