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India's New Agni Prime Missile Demonstrates Technological Advances

© Photo : Social MediaAgni Prime
Agni Prime  - Sputnik India, 1920, 21.06.2024
Agni-Prime (Agni-P) – a two-stage, solid-propellant medium-range ballistic missile which the DRDO is developing for the Strategic Forces Command. Specialised variants of the projectile will take on diverse strategic and tactical roles with nuclear or conventional warheads in the near future.


India's Agni-P (Agni-Prime) literally demonstrates DRDO's impressive strides in missile technology. Over the years, the organisation advanced its technological capability with each strategic projectile that it developed, starting with the Prithvi and going on to the Agni family of missiles.
The Agni-P was developed through backward integration of all DRDO advances over the decades, spanning – rocket motors, flight control and navigation systems, warhead technology and terminal manoeuvring.
It's capabilities are truly astounding and should make every Indian proud.

The DRDO refers to the Agni-P as a 'New Generation Missile'. That is just what it is! There is no hype!

It is much lighter than its Agni series predecessors because of the use of composites and lighter weight electronics.
The Agni-P can pulverise a target between 1,000 and 2,000 kms away with a CEP (Circular Error Probability) of less than 10m.

Agni-P Antecedents

The Agni-P is a two-stage, solid-propellant medium-range ballistic projectile which the Indian defence industry is developing for the Strategic Forces Command.
The Agni-P is the successor to DRDO's Agni-A1 single stage, solid propellant missile featuring a manoeuvring warhead, which itself was based on the first stage of Agni-2.
India developed the 700-km plus range Agni-A1 shortly after the Kargil war in 1999 to plug the gap between the 250 km range Prithvi-II and 2,500 km Agni-II.
The Agni-P (It was earlier also referred to as A1P) with its range of between 1,000 and 2,000 kms leaves almost no gap!

Technical Excellence

The two most significant Agni-P improvements over Agni-A1 appear to be:
Canister Launch Capability
Improved Range
Canisterised missiles can be kept on a higher state of alert than non canisterised, as the nuclear warhead of the projectile is mated before it is placed in the canister.
Besides canister launch, Agni-P uses other technologies developed for Agni-4 and Agni-5 missiles. For example, it does away with fins for stability and manoeuvre, relying on the more efficient differential thrust.

Other Agni-P Features

According to Jane's, Agni-P weighs about 23–25 tonnes. The mobile (rail or TEL) system features composite rocket motors, ring laser gyroscope-based inertial navigation systems augmented by NavIC satellite navigation with backup micro-navigation systems.

Terminal Manoeuvring

The Agni-P can be configured with a Maneuverable Reentry Vehicle (MaRV). The warhead reportedly features four delta fins to facilitate end game manoeuvring. The high terminal speed of the warhead combined with its ability to manoeuvre would minimise the chances of interception by adversary air defence systems.

Anti-Shipping Capability?

The accuracy of the missile and its terminal phase manoeuvring capability could also allow the projectile to target a moving ship if fitted with an active radar seeker.
DRDO has already developed a RF seeker for its Pralay missile allowing it to use a radar image for homing.
It is entirely possible that a Agni-P variant could be developed as an ASBM (Anti Shipping Ballistic Missile) like the Chinese DF-21D.

Targeting Support

The challenge in operationally fielding an ASBM is as much in obtaining real time targeting information, as it is in developing a high speed-manoeuvring warhead with a seeker.
However, the Indian Navy is well ahead in the game with its planned acquisition of surveillance drones.
In December 2023, the CNS, Admiral Hari Kumar, said AoN had been accorded for procurement of 15 MQ 9B HALE RPAS. Of these, eight drones are earmarked for Maritime operations and will be based in INS Rajali. Procurement will be completed by the end of 2026.

The Indian Navy has already inducted two leased MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones for surveillance missions. They are already operating from INS Rajali.

Meanwhile, China is currently operating two aircraft carriers - Liaoning and Shandong. A third aircraft carrier, the first with nuclear propulsion, is undergoing trials. By 2025, China is expected to deploy four aircraft carriers.
With China continuing to build and deploy large aircraft carriers, it's only a matter of time before a Chinese carrier group remains stationed in the Indian Ocean permanently.

DF-21D vs Agni-P

The DF-21D is 10.7 m long, 1.4 m in diameter and weighs 14.7 tons. It features a 600 kg payload comprising one or multiple warheads.The range of the DF-21D is estimated to be 1,450 to 1,550 km.

The Agni-P is 10.5 m long, 1.15 m in diameter and weighs 11 tons. It features a 1,500 kg payload with a single MaRV.

As is evident from the above comparison, the Agnii-P is a smaller missile, but features better performance than the DF-21D through the use of more advanced technology.

Development Progress

Strategic Forces Command (SFC) along with DRDO last tested the Agni-P on April 3, 2024.
The development testing started with its maiden flight on June 29, 2021.
The second test on December 18, 2021 proved the reliable performance of all the advanced technologies integrated into the system.
During the follow-up test on October 21, 2022, the missile travelled its maximum range.
Next, on June 7, 2023 Strategic Command personnel carried out the first pre-induction night launch validating the accuracy and reliability of the system.
Regular testing of the projectile likely indicates that its development has been on track throughout and demonstrates the maturity of DRDO's strategic missile technology.


The technical sophistication, excellent performance and smooth development cycle of the Agni-P are testimony to the high levels of design, development and manufacturing skills acquired by India's DRDO.

An objective comparison of the DF-21D with Agni-Prime clearly shows that it is the more advanced missile.

In the future, it's likely that specialised Agni-P variants will take on diverse strategic and tactical roles with nuclear or conventional warheads.
First Pre Induction night launch of New Generation Ballistic Missile Agni Prime was successfully conducted off the coast of Odisha on 07 June 2023.  - Sputnik India, 1920, 04.04.2024
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