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AGNI Missiles: India's Long Range Nuclear Ballistic Missiles

Updated on June 16, 2017

Agni Missile History

Envisaged and implemented by former President of India, Dr Abdul Kalam and his eminent team of scientists, the Agni series of nuclear capable Ballistic missiles was developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program(IGMDP) In 1991, after the successful testing of Solid Propelled AGNI - 1, the AGNI missile program was separated from the IGMDP in lieu of realizing its strategic importance as a pillar to Indian defense programs.

As of dec 2014,Indian Armed forces has inducted three variants of the AGNI family and three more variants are in either different stages of development or testing. AGNI IV,has completed all its trials successfully as of January 2014,and according to armed sources will be inducted soon into the Army.

AGNI V missiles, an ICBM(Inter continental Ballistic Missile) with a range of 5500-5800 km are undergoing intense testing trials,last one conducted on September 15,2013 from Wheeler Island at Odisha coast.

AGNI VI, an ICBM with high end technologies like Multiple Independently Target able Re-entry Warheads as well as Maneuverable Reentry Vehicle (MaRV) is under the development phase at DRDO; the nations pioneer defense agency.

AGNI V at Republic Day Parade

Missile Categories

In order to get a grip of categorization of different classes of AGNI missile family, it's imperative to have some knowledge about the different class of Ballistic missiles currently operating in the current defense universe.

BALLISTIC MISSILE : Any missile who's lion share of trajectory is guided by the laws of classical mechanics, i.e the section of mechanics which deals with projectiles, flight path etc. A Ballistic missile is only guided briefly using electronic controls and spends most of its trajectory uncontrolled, governed only by gravitational forces, air resistance, and other atmospheric phenomenon.

Ballistic Missile being the daddy of all killing missiles are further classified according to their ranges, they are:

  • Short range Ballistic missile : Range less than 1000 kms ;Eg :- Prithvi.
  • Medium range Ballistic missile : Range Between 1000 kms - 3500 kms ;Eg :- Agni 1
  • Intermediate range Ballistic missile : Range between 3500 kms - 5000 kms;Eg :- Agni 4
  • Intercontinental Ballistic missile : Range greater than 5500 kms ;Eg :- Agni 5

Missiles with range less than 300 km can be further classified into Tactical Ballistic missile and Battlefield Ballistic missile.

Indian Ballistic Missile System


AGNI 1 (Short Range Ballistic Missile)

First test fired at 1989 at the interim range in Chandigarh, Agni 1 is a medium range rail, road mobile ballistic missile with solid propellant as fuel.The need for Agni 1 was felt at the Kargil War, when India was in dire need of medium range ballistic missiles capable of carrying conventional payloads.

Though Agni 1 has a less range than Agni 2, it is contrived to carry heavier payloads than its sister, Agni 2. Agni 1 is revered for its accuracy as with an circular error probability (CEP) of just 25m.

Agni 1 was inducted into the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Indian army and has been in persistent production since. With enough power carry a 1000 tonne nuclear warhead to about 700 km - 1250 km, Agni 1 acts as a robust deterrent to Pakistan army advances. It is found that, if payload is reduced, Agni 1 can travel more than 1500 km.

  • Length : 15 m
  • Diameter : 1.3 m
  • Weight : 12000 kg
  • Propulsion : Single stage with solid fuel
  • Range : 700 - 1250 km

AGNI II (Medium Range Ballistic Missile)

Inducted into the India army after a successful test launch at 17th may 2010, Agni 2 is a railroad mobile medium range Ballistic Missile which enables India to strike targets with in all of Pakistan but not all of mainland China.

The first two tests of the missile,conducted on April 1999 and January 2001, respectively from a rail carrier and a road mobile TEL vehicle, proved India's demand that the missile could ramble up to a distance of 2000 - 2100 kms. The present production capacity of Agni 2 missiles is said to be 10-12 missiles per year. Each units costs approximately about $5,635,000 (35 crores Indian rupees).

Agni 2 consists of two stages of propulsion,both using solid propellents as fuel. Unlike western missiles which use re-entry vehicles(RV) based on purely ballistic technology, Agni 2 incorporates control and navigation until the target strike, thus making the CEP (circular error probability) of just 40m.

Contrived to carry a 100kg payload to a distance of 3000 km,theoretically,the Agni 2 is a necessary backbone to the Indian armed forces who constantly gets agitated by their not so friendly neighbors.

  • Length : .21 m
  • Diameter : 1.30 m
  • Weight : 15000 kg
  • Propulsion : two and a half stage solid propulsion
  • Range : 2000 - 3000 kms

AGNI II in Republic Day Parade 2004


AGNI III (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile)

Contrived and developed by Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), Agni III is a solid propellant fueled(like its predecessor Agni II) nuclear capable two stage intermediate range ballistic missile.

In a trial held on 7th Feb 2010, the nuclear capable surface to surface missile flaunted the indigenous navigation system developed by DRDO which reduced the missiles CEP( Circular error probable) to 40 meters similar to Agni II.

A modified version of Agni III called K-4 SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic Missile) has been developed by India to provide a proper strike capability in
times of dire need.

After several successful launch trials, the missile was incorporated to the Indian army on August 2010. The last successful trail was done on 27th April 2017.

  • Length : 17 m (more compact than Agni II)
  • Diameter : 2 m (encompassing 2 stages)
  • Weight : 22000 kg
  • Propulsion : two stage solid propulsion
  • Range : 3500 - 5000 km

Agni III in Republic Parade Day


Agni Iv

Equipped with capacity to carry a payload of 1 tonne, Agni IV was designed to fire from TELAR (Transporter erector launcher) as a deterrent if the need arises.

This Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited was inducted into the Indian army on December 2014 after consecutive successful launches.The last launch was done on 2 January 2017.

With a range of 1000 km more than Agni III, Agni IV (range- 4000 KM) can penetrate deep into Chinese and Pakistani territories if such an unfortunate scenario arises due to escalating tensions which has seen a sharp increase in the last decade.

  • Length : 20 m (slightly larger than Agni III)
  • Diameter : 1 m (Less than Agni III)
  • Weight : 17000 kg
  • Propulsion : two stage solid propulsion
  • Range : 4000 KM

Agni IV- Jan 2017 Launch

AGNI V - ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile)

The first missile in Agni series to achieve single digit accuracy, the Agni V, a three stage ICBM (Intercontinental ballistic missile) is a modified version of Agni III, borrowing its first stage from Agni III. With a range of 5000 KM, Agni V imparts Indian Union a strike capacity to cover entire Europe and Asia.

The missile has successfully completed 4 test launches from Abdul Kalam island, Odisha and is now preparing for user trails by Strategic Forces Command (SFC),
the body that controls the missile and payload stockpile of India.

Though not yet tested, Agni V has been designed to carry multiple warheads. With an official range of 5000 KM, but with Chinese media reporting a range of 8000 KM, Agni V is the power house of India's missile arsenal.

  • Length: 17.5 m (compact than Agni IV)
  • Diameter : 2 m
  • Weight: 50000 kg (Almost double of Agni IV)
  • Propulsion: Three stage solid propulsion
  • Range: 5000 KM

AGNI V - Range

AGNI VI (Long range ICBM - Still in development)

Even Though not yet green flagged by the center of power in India, the framework and calculations for India's first and probably last long range ICBM (8000- 10000) KM has been completed.

The missile is equipped to be fitted with a payload of 3 tonne, almost twice that of Agni V, the major challenge was developing an indigenous rocket which could propel a 3 tonne payload into space.

But with the launch of GSLV- MarkIII on June 6th 2017, with its own low cost cryogenic technology India was able to launch a 3136 Kg satellite into space, this will pay way for proper launch pads from which India can launch Agni VI missiles if required.

As per DRDO scientists, Agni VI will carry MIRV(Multiple Independently Target-able Re-entry Warheads) which can target multiple targets in one go and can cause chaos in an unprecedented scale.

  • Length : more than 20 m
  • Diameter : 2 m
  • Weight : 55000 - 65000 kg
  • Propulsion : Four stage solid propulsion
  • Range : 8000 - 10000km

AGNI VI Details (Rumored)

AGNI Comparison

Range (KM)
Weight (KG)
Agni I
Single stage with solid fuel
Agni II
two and a half stage solid propolsion
Agni III
two stage solid propulsion
Agni IV
two stage solid propulsion
Agni V
Three stage solid propulsion
Agni VI
Four stage solid propulsion

AGNI Missiles - Major Facts

  • Agni missile program was started in 1991.
  • longest range Agni missile will be Agni VI with a range of 8000 - 10000 km.
  • Only United states, Russia,China, Israel and India has ICBM's.
  • Agni missiles are nuclear capable and gives India credible second strike capabilities.
  • Agni VI will be last land based surface to surface ICBM, as India has set priority to develop submarine based ICBM's.

India's Missile capability

Do you think India has the sufficient arsenal to keep up with the current World Powers

See results


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    • TheGlobeTrotter profile imageAUTHOR

      Aswin Kumar 

      2 years ago from Kerala

      Yes Ashutosh, Indian missile system has a lot to improve.

      but it is still one of the best in the world and will improve and be more efficient as time flies.

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      That was a good breakdown. Although we are still far behind the rest of the super powers.


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