I’m not relieved, that another “free” country has mastered the ICBM. China’s displeasure is manifest, and Washington sounds a lot like China on North Korea.
The launch, which was flagged well in advance, has attracted none of the criticism from the west faced by North Korea for a failed bid to send up a similar rocket last week.
But China noted the launch with disapproval.
“The west chooses to overlook India’s disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties,” China’s Global Times newspaper said in an editorial published before the launch, which was delayed by a day because of bad weather.
“India should not overestimate its strength,” said the paper, which is owned by the Chinese Communist party’s main mouthpiece, the People’s Daily.
India has not signed the non-proliferation treaty for nuclear nations, but enjoys a de facto legitimacy for its arsenal, boosted by a landmark 2008 deal with the US.
On Wednesday, Nato said it did not consider India a threat. The US state department said India’s non-proliferation record was “solid”, while urging restraint.
India says its nuclear weapons programme is for deterrence only. It is close to completing a nuclear submarine that will increase its ability to launch a counter strike if it were attacked.
Of course, the only country the Agni-V can’t hit in this vicious triangle is the United States. There’s also the contentious relationship, that also involves China and Russia as conventional suppliers, between India and Pakistan, which also has tactical nukes. Both Mark Magnier and Zachary Keck analyze the missile’s capabilities.
India on Thursday successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile that landed 20 minutes later in the Indian Ocean.
The 50-ton, 55-foot three-stage Agni V rocket, named after the Hindu god for fire and dubbed the “China killer” by some in India’s hyperactive news media, reportedly reached its target at the outer end of its 3,100-mile range, confirming that the weapon system can reach Shanghai and Beijing. It lifted off from an island in the eastern state of Odisha.
Video released shortly after the 8:07 a.m. launch showed the rocket’s white exhaust stream searing across an overcast sky. The test missile held a dummy payload, but it reportedly is capable of carrying a 1-ton nuclear warhead. Reporters at the launch site described scientists jumping in the air with delight after the test proved successful.
The Agni-V is a three-stage, solid-fuel missile with a range of 5,000 kilometers. Agni-V is technically an intermediate ballistic missile because ICBM’s have ranges greater than 5,500 kilometers, but it still demonstrates that New Delhi has cleared all the significant technological hurdles on the pathway to an ICBM.
The most difficult of these is the missile’s ability to reenter the earth’s atmosphere. Because ICBM’s reenter the atmosphere at a much higher velocity than other ballistic missiles, the reentry vehicle’s (RV) nose tip must be able to withstand an enormous amount of heat, around 2,000 degrees Celsius. The Agni-V uses high ballistic coefficient strategy during reentry, which is the technologically more difficult option, but also the most accurate.
Currently only China, Russia and the United States have land-based ICBMs. France used to deploy them, but has since decommissioned them because of their cost.
The Agni-V is capable of delivering an atomic warhead anywhere in China, even when positioned deep inside India’s own territory. It was developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and modeled off the Agni-III, a two-stage missile with a range of 3,500 kilometers that India first tested successfully in April 2007. The two missiles share the same size, shape, and height according to V.G. Sekaran, the Director of the Advanced System Laboratory (ASL) at DRDO. Sekaran was the chief designer of the Agni-V, according to The Hindu.
Clearly, the U.S., China, and India have become Asia’s looming strategic triangle. Unfortunately, I think this makes it highly unlikely Beijing will restrain North Korea, if India can deter China so easily.