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India’s Mission Divyastra: MIRV-enabled Agni-V missile is capable of firing multiple nuclear warheads in a single launch. All you need to know

Reportedly, MIRV technology can enhance a country's nuclear capacity by several folds with the capacity to hit targets as far as 1,500 KM apart. Large missiles, small warheads, a complex mechanism and a precise guidance system are keys to MIRV's success.

On 11th March, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, congratulated the people of the nation on the successful first flight test of the indigenously developed 5,000 KM range Agni-5 nuclear missile. Named Mission Divyastra, the testing took place from the APJ Abdul Kalam island in Odisha’s Chandipur. On March 7, India issued a NOTAM (notice to airmen) over a large area across the Bay of Bengal, triggering speculations about major missile tests.

the missile is equipped with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology. With the MIRV technology, the missile can deliver multiple warheads at different locations or the same location in a single launch. Furthermore, it could also include decoys to deceive the anti-ballistic missile programme of the enemy nation. Experts said if India wants, it can now hit targets beyond 7000 KM as well.

The test was carried out from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha. In a post on social media, PM Modi said, “Proud of our DRDO scientists for Mission Divyastra, the first flight test of indigenously developed Agni-5 missile with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology.”

With the successful Mission Divyastra, India entered the elite group of countries that have MIRV-capable missiles. Apart from India, only the US, UK, Russia, China, and France have functioning MIRV-capable missiles. Israel is expected to have an MIRV-capable missile system but it has not been announced yet. Pakistan is also developing the missile system and reportedly tested the MIRV-capable missile, Ababeel, in 2017.

What is MIRV technology used in Mission Divyastra?

MIRV is a concept of ballistic missile payloads which enables a single missile to carry multiple warheads. Each of the warheads is capable of targeting the enemy at different locations. The United States introduced it with the successful test of Minuteman III in 1968. In 1970, the US brought the technology into actual use. The Soviet Union developed an MIRV-enabled missile system by the end of the 1970s.

Reportedly, MIRV technology can enhance a country’s nuclear capacity by several folds with the capacity to hit targets as far as 1,500 KM apart. Large missiles, small warheads, a complex mechanism and a precise guidance system are keys to MIRV’s success.

How does MIRV work?

MIRV-enabled missiles work as other ballistic missiles. First comes the booster phase followed by the missile’s upper stage which pushes the missile to suborbital spaceflight. It helps the missile to align itself based on designated targets. The upper stage or the “bus” of the missile then deploys multiple warheads along with countermeasures and decoys. Every warhead included in the missile can be assigned a different trajectory and target making it one of the most lethal weapons.

What are Agni V missiles?

Agni, a long-range missile system, has been developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation, DRDO. The first member of the Agni missiles family was introduced in India’s arsenal in the 1990s. MIRV-enabled missile system Agni-V is the latest missile of the system. The development of Agni-V was approved by Dr Manmohan Singh-led government in 2007. In 2012, DRDO announced India was working on MIRV technology. In December 2022, a successful flight test of Agni-5 was conducted off the coast of Odisha. While Agni-I can hit the target up to 700 km away, the latest version, i.e. Agni-V can hit the target around 5,000 KM away. In 2021, DRDO also successfully tested Agni P missile system which is a canisterised missile. It can hit targets between 1,000 to 2,000 KM away and can be launched from road and rail platforms making it easier to deploy and launch at a quicker pace.

Mission Shakti was successfully tested in March 2019

In March 2019, ahead of the Lok Sabha Elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the people of India on the successful test of anti-satellite missiles (ASAT) which can take down enemy satellites in space. Apart from India, only the US, Russia and China have ASAT missiles.

While Congress leaders tried to take credit for the missile system claiming it was approved by the UPA-led government, the then-DRDO chief categorically credited PM Modi for the success of the mission. He said in 2012, India was planning to develop the ASAT system but was far from reality. He said, ” I would like to give the credit to Honourable Prime Minister Modi for giving DRDO scientists the clearance to build those building blocks which were missing and realize the ASAT system. Because of that kind of clearance and push, the DRDO scientists have been able to integrate today a very potent ASAT missile which is in a position to intercept a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite with high precision.”

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Anurag
Anurag
B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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