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The use of rockets in India, for warfare, dates back to the 18th century. These rockets (also known as Mysorean rockets) were the first iron-cased rockets that were successfully deployed for military use. The British reverse-engineered these and introduced the technology to Europe (see Congreve rocket). When India became a British colony, scientific R&D in India was restricted and military science in India naturally lagged.[1]

Research in missile technology resumed again in the late 1950s under the political leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India's first prime minister. Successive Indian government after his, continued providing consistent political backing to the program. In 1982, India's political and scientific leadership, which included prime minister Indira Gandhi, Defence Minister R. Venkataraman, V.S. Arunachalam (Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister), Dr. Abdul Kalam (Director, DRDL) accelerated and gave new dimensions to the missile program, under the 'Integrated Guided Missile Development Program' (IGMDP).[2] The IGMDP is one of India's most successful defence research project, as all the missiles – Prithvi, Akash, Trishul, Nag, Agni – have been successfully tested and inducted by the Indian armed forces.[3]

After the end of the IGMDP (on 8 January 2008), India now develops all its current and future missiles as independent projects, and wherever possible, with private industries and foreign partners.[3] (Brahmos is an example of one such successful collaborative project, between India and Russia).[4]

Missile Technology in IndiaEdit


Rocket warfare

Tipu Sultan's troops rout the British using rockets in 1780 at the Battle of Guntur. The closely massed, British troops broke and ran when the Mysore army laid down a rocket barrage in their midst.

Mysorean rockets were the first iron-cased rockets that were successfully deployed for military use. Hyder Ali, the 18th century ruler of Mysore, and his son and successor, Tipu Sultan used them effectively against the British East India Company. Tipu Sultan's military manual (called Fathul Mujahidin) even advocated that 200 rocket men should be assigned to each Mysorean Kushoon (brigade). These rocket men were also trained to launch the rockets. In addition, wheeled rocket launchers capable of launching five to ten rockets almost simultaneously were used in war.

It was the world's first use of rockets for fighting modern wars. The British successfully reverse engineered and developed this rocket technology further (See Congreve rocket). After India was conquered, scientific research and development was constrained to further the British interests and military science in India naturally lagged.

Post-Independent IndiaEdit

Democratic India's missile programme dates back to the late 1950s, when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister of India and Dr. D. S. Kothari was the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister.

Motivated to strengthen its defences after the 1962 Sino-Indian War, and the prevailing international scenario of the time, the government of independent India renewed its focus on indigenous missile technology development. Initially, the scientists worked from MetCalfe House (New Delhi), but the establishment later shifted to Hyderabad after the state government granted them the former Nizam's army barracks. This was the genesis of the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) – earlier known as the Special Weapons Development Team – under DRDO, solely formed for missile technology research and development.[2]

Its first anti-tank missile was a totally indigenous product, which was successfully test-fired. The project laid the foundation of India's missile programme and many from this group who were involved in the development of the anti-tank missile to be used in Sarath ICVs manufactured at Ordnance Factory Medak, went on to set up the Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), Hyderabad in the proximity of the ordnance factory, which became the production agency of missiles in India. (In the 1970s, SS-11B anti-tank missiles were manufactured under license from France at the BDL.)

As Indian science and technology was curtailed before it became independent, and missile technology had developed at a fast pace after the second world war, India decided to update itself on missile technology by reverse engineering a surface-to-air missile. This project was code-named Project Devil and it worked, from 1970 to 1979, on reverse engineering the Russian SAM-2 (which Russia supplied to India). Dr. B. D. Nag Chaudhri (then Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister) advocated the need to build technologies needed for the future, such as liquid propellant powered engines. Thus, a parallel program called Project Valiant was also initiated to build a rocket engine powered by liquid propellants. V. K. Saraswat was part of the team that built the engine between 1971 – 1974.

Other scientists at DRDO simultaneously focused on building a guidance package – an essential part of a long-range missile that determines its path and accuracy to hit a target. A platform-based inertial navigation system (INS) was developed and tested, on board an Avro aircraft, in 1974–75. Subsequently, an INS was built for both missiles and an aircraft, and this was tested in 1979 on board a Canberra aircraft.

By the start of 1980's, DRDL had developed competencies in the fields of propulsion, navigation and manufacture of materials. Thus, India's political and scientific leadership, which included prime minister Indira Gandhi, Defence Minister R. Venkataraman, V.S. Arunachalam (Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister), decided that all these technologies should be consolidated.

This led to the birth of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme and Dr. Abdul Kalam, who had previously been the project director for the SLV-3 programme at ISRO, was inducted as the DRDL Director in 1983 to conceive and lead it. He decided that DRDL would pursue multiple projects in this area simultaneously. Thus, four projects were born under the IGMDP:

  • Short range surface-to-surface missile (code-named Prithvi)
  • Short range low-level surface-to-air missile (code-named Trishul)
  • Medium range surface-to-air missile (code-named Akash) and
  • Third-generation anti-tank missile (code-named Nag).

The Agni missile was initially conceived in the IGMDP as a technology demonstrator project in the form of a re-entry vehicle, and was later upgraded to a ballistic missile with different ranges.[5] As part of this program, the Interim Test Range at Balasore in Orissa was also developed for missile testing.[2]

Diplomatic and Technological HurdlesEdit

After India test-fired the first Prithvi missile in 1988, and the Agni missile in 1989, the Missile Technology Control Regime (then an informal grouping established in 1987 by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) decided to restrict access to any technology that would help India in its missile development program. Some of the major technology which was denied, included:

  • phase shifters for the phased array radars for Akash (denied by the USA).
  • magnesium alloy used in Prithvi's wings (denied by Germany).
  • servo-valves needed for the electro-hydraulic control systems of Agni and Prithvi.
  • gyroscopes and accelerators (denied by France).
  • processors – Intel said it would not give India chips for the computers used in Prithvi and Agni.

To counter the MTCR, the IGMDP team formed a consortium of DRDO laboratories, industries and academic institutions to build these sub-systems, components and materials. Though this slowed down the progress of the program, India successfully developed indigenously all the restricted components denied to it by the MTCR.[2]

In 2011, the DRDO Chief V K Saraswat had stated that "indigenous content" in India's strategic missiles had gone up to such a level, with ring-laser gyros, composite rocket motors, micro-navigation systems etc., that "no technology control regime" could derail them any longer.[6]

Indian Missile ProjectsEdit

Project DevilEdit

Project Devil was one of two early liquid-fuelled missile projects developed by India, along with Project Valiant, in the 1970s. The goal of Project Devil was to produce a short-range surface-to-air missile. Although discontinued in 1980 without achieving intended success, Project Devil, led to the later development of the Prithvi missile in the 1980s.

Project ValiantEdit

Project Valiant was one of two early liquid-fuelled missile projects developed by India, along with Project Devil in the 1970s. The goal of Project Valiant was to produce an ICBM. Although discontinued in 1974 without achieving full success, Project Valiant, like Project Devil, helped in the development of the Prithvi missile in the 1980s.


The Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) was a Ministry of Defence (India) program for the research and development of a comprehensive range of missiles. The program was managed by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Ordnance Factories Board in partnership with other Indian government research organisations.[7] The project started in early 1980s and ended in 2008 after these strategic missiles were successfully developed. The last major missile developed under the program was the Agni 3 intermediate-range ballistic missile which was successfully tested on 9 July 2007.[8]

On 8 January 2008, the DRDO formally announced the successful completion of the IGMDP.[7] It added that the strategic integrated guided missile program was completed with its design objectives achieved since most of the missiles in the program had been developed and inducted by the Indian armed forces.[9]

Dr. Abdul Kalam, who conceived and worked on this program, later also became the President of India.[10]


Aakash (Sanskrit: आकाश Ākāś "Sky") is a medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile defence system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories Board and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) in India.[11][12] The missile system can target aircraft up to 30 km away, at altitudes up to 18,000 m.[13]



Nag (Sanskrit: नाग, Nāg "Cobra") is a third generation "Fire-and-forget" anti-tank missile developed in India. It is one of five missile systems developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP). Nag has been developed at a cost of INR3 billion (US$48.0 million).[14]

Prithvi Missile SeriesEdit

Prithvi Missiles are tactical surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM)

Name Type Stage(s) Range Payload User
Prithvi-I (SS-150) SRBM One 150 km 1000 kg Army
Prithvi-II (SS-250) SRBM Two 250 km – 350 km 500 kg – 1000 kg Air Force, Army
Prithvi-III (SS-350) SRBM Two 350 km – 600 km 250 kg – 500 kg Army, Air Force, Navy

Dhanush is a system consisting of a stabilization platform (Bow) and the Missile (Arrow). It is intended for the Indian Navy, to be fired from ships against other ships or land targets. Dhanush can fire modified versions of Prithvi-II or Prithvi-III.

Agni missile seriesEdit

The Agni missile series started as a "Re-Entry Vehicle" project (later rechristened as Agni Technology Demonstrator) in the IGMDP.[7] The missiles in this series include:

Name Type Stage(s) Range
Agni-I MRBM One 700 km – 1,200 km[15][16]
Agni-II IRBM Two 2,000 km – 2,500 km
Agni-III IRBM Two 3,000 km – 5,000 km[17]
Agni-IV IRBM Two 2,500 km – 3,700 km[18][19]
Agni-V ICBM Three 5,000 km – 8,000 km[20][21][22]
Agni-VI ICBM Three 10,000 km – 12,000 km[23]

The Agni-I, Agni-II and Agni-III missiles were developed under the IGMDP. (The DRDO formally announced the successful completion of the IGMDP after the third test of Agni-III on 7 May 2008.[7])

Agni-IV was tested on 15 November 2011 and has a range of 3,000 km (1,900 mi), and can carry a warhead of 1 tonnes. It is a two-stage missile powered by solid propellant. It is 20 metres (66 feet) tall and has a launch weight of 17 tonnes.[24][25][26] A new missile Agni-V with 5,000 km (3,100 mi) range and MIRV is being developed and was tested on 19 April 2012. Agni-V shares the similar design as Agni-III with an extra stage added to further increase the range by 1,500 km (930 mi).[27] Agni-V will be road mobile and it has been stated that all Indian missiles developed after this will be road mobile as well.

Agni-VI is an Intercontinental ballistic missile reported to be in rudimentary stages of development by India, and until May 2012 was not officially confirmed by either the Government of India or the DRDO.[23] Reportedly, it will be capable of being launched from submarines or from land and to strike a target of over 10,000 km (6,200 mi)[23] with MIRV-ed warheads.[28] Top DRDO scientists have previously asserted that India has almost all the equipment and technology needed to develop ICBMs, "but where the warhead should go or what the range should be will have to be a political call".[29]

K Missile SeriesEdit

TYPE RANGE Weight Warhead length Status
K-15[30] 750 km 10 tonnes 1 tonne 10 m K-15/B-05 in series production. Land-based missile awaiting clearance.
K-4[30][31] 3,500–5,000 km[30] 17 tonnes[31] 1 tonne[30] – 2.5 tonnes[31] 10 m As of January 2014, at least six more tests to be performed before induction in 2017.
K-5 6,000 km Unspecified 1 tonne Unspecified Under Development by DRDO[28]


The Shaurya missile is a short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile developed for use by the Indian Army. Capable of hypersonic speeds, it has a range of 600 km and is capable of carrying a payload of one-tonne conventional or nuclear warhead.[32]


Mach 3 Supersonic Cruise Missile developed in collaboration with Russia. Land Attack and Anti-ship variants in service with the Indian Army and Indian Navy. Sub-Launched and Air Launched variants under development or testing.

Brahmos IIEdit

Mach 7 Hypersonic Cruise Missile in development collaboration with Russia.


Long Range Sub-Sonic Cruise Missile under development and testing.


Prahaar (Sanskrit:प्रहार, Strike) is a solid-fuelled Surface-to-surface guided short-range tactical ballistic missile that would be equipped with omni-directional warheads and could be used for hitting both tactical and strategic targets.[33]


Astra is a 'Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile' (BVRAAM) being developed for the Indian Air Force.[34]


A variant of NAG Missile to be launched from Helicopter is being developed under the Project named HELINA (HELIcopter launched NAg).[35] It will be structurally different from the Nag.

Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSDTV)Edit

Project HSTDV is a technology demonstrator aimed to demonstrate autonomous flight of a Scramjet Integrated Vehicle using kerosene.[35]

Indian Ballistic Missile Defense ProgramEdit

Prithvi Air Defence (PAD)Edit

PAD integration

Prithvi Air Defense

The Prithvi Air Defense missile has been named as Pradyumna Ballistic Missile Interceptor. It has a maximum interception altitude of 80 km and is capable of engaging the 300 to 2,000 km class of ballistic missiles at a speed of Mach 5.[36][37] DRDO is currently working on a missile for intercepting targets of 5,000+ km range and engaging them at altitudes of up to 150 km.The tests are expected to commence from 2010–11.[38]

Advanced Air Defence (AAD)Edit

Main articles: Advanced Air Defence

Also known as Ashwin Ballistic Missile Interceptor.

Anti-Radiation MissileEdit

India is developing an Anti-Radiation Missile (ARM) that will help to destroy enemy advance warning systems. Production of the ARM is being done on a priority basis by the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), which specialises in missile development. Such missiles can be mounted on the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter planes.[39]

Anti-Satellite MissileEdit

India is developing anti satellite weapons. Following the successful Agni-V ICBM test, this looks all the more achievable.[40]
In an interview with India Today Dr. V. K. Saraswat said,

"Today, India has all the building blocks for an anti-satellite system in place.

We don't want to weaponise space but the building blocks should be in place. Because you may come to a time when you may need it. Today, I can say that all the building blocks (for an ASAT weapon) are in place. A little fine tuning may be required but we will do that electronically. We will not do a physical test (actual destruction of a satellite) because of the risk of space debris affecting other satellites."[41]

According to Rajeswari Rajagopalan, senior fellow at Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi, "it is important to discuss various issues concerning space security, and ASAT is one of them." Increasing awareness of space debris and continued efforts to develop and implement international measures to tackle the problem is a major concern for India as well as other countries.[42]

According to some researchers, "as it stands today, in space, the probability of debris hitting a satellite is more than an adversary taking your satellite down."

Research and Development OrganizationsEdit

Current missile research and development in India happens under the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), and a group of laboratories collectively called the Missile Complex Laboratories.[43]

Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL)Edit

Develops the mission control software among other missile technologies.

Missile Complex LaboratoriesEdit

These laboratories were earlier part of the DRDL or set up under them, but all are now independent entities.

Research Centre, Imarat (RCI)Edit

Develops navigation and electromechanical actuation systems.

Composite Products Development Centre (CPDC)Edit

Interim Test Range (ITR)Edit

Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL)Edit

Does research and development on motors, jet vanes and structures for launch vehicles and missiles.

Missile Systems Quality Assurance Agency (MSQAA)Edit

High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL)Edit

Propellant (missile fuel) research is done in HEMRL.

Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL)Edit

Manufactures the missile and also has an associated R&D lab.

Vehicle Research and Development Establishment (VRDE)Edit

Develops missile launchers.

Other DevelopmentsEdit

There were a number of failures and successes, which led to an expansion of the program in the 1990s, to develop the long range Agni missile, a ballistic missile (codenamed Sagarika), which would be the naval version of the Prithvi, and an inter-continental-ballistic-missile (codenamed Surya missile) with a range of 8,000–12,000 km.[44]

In 1998, the Government of India, signed an agreement with Russia to design, develop, manufacture and market a Supersonic Cruise Missile System which has been successfully accomplished by 2006. BrahMos is a supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. At speeds of Mach 2.5 to 2.8, it is the world's fastest cruise missile and is about three and a half times faster than the American subsonic Harpoon cruise missile. BAPL is contemplating a hypersonic Mach 8 version of the missile, named as the BrahMos II. BrahMos II will be the first hypersonic cruise missile and is expected to be ready by 2012–13. The laboratory testing of the missile has started.[45]

According to a statement by Dr. S Prahlada (DRDO Director), new missile and weapons systems would henceforth be developed in five-year programs and include both Indian private industries as well as foreign partners to lower costs. Further development work on Nag and Surya missile would continue independently.[46] In addition, the DRDO is also developing a laser-based weapon system as part of its ballistic missile defence program to intercept and destroy missiles soon after they are launched towards the country.[47]

Since 2008, follow on strategic projects are being either pursued singly (e.g. the Agni project) whereas tactical systems could involve joint ventures with foreign partners.[48]

India is said to be in the intermediate stages of developing a new cruise missile, Nirbhay (Sanskrit: निर्भय meaning fearless). The subsonic Nirbhay is said to be 6 m in length with a 520 mm diameter, weigh 1,000 kg and have a 1,000 km range with a speed of 0.7 mach. The technology demonstrator flight is planned for end-2009.[49]

In September 2008, Indian scientists developed a path-breaking technology that has the potential to increase the range of missiles and satellite launch vehicles by at least 40%.The enhanced range is made possible by adding a special-purpose coating of chromium metal to the blunt nose cone of missiles and launch vehicles. This would add-up on the stated range.[50]

A new tactical missile that will fill the gap between the Pinaka rocket system and the Prthvi series of missile has been developed. The first successful test of the missile was carried on 17 July 2011. The 150 km range missile has been named Prahaar. Each Road mobile launcher is designed to carry six missiles.[51]

See alsoEdit


  1. R, Krishna Kumar (23 June 2005). "Tipu's missile launch pad in shambles". Karnataka, India. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 T. S., Subramanian (31 January 2009). "Missile shield". India. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "India scraps integrated guided missile programme". New Delhi, India. 9 January 2008. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  4. "History of Brahmos". Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  5. "Integrated Guided Missile Development Program". Retrieved 7 June 2012. 
  6. Pandit, Rajat (17 November 2011). "Eyeing China, India to enter ICBM club in 3 months". India. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Integrated Guided Missile Development Program". Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  8. "Agni III Launched Successfully". New Delhi, India. 12 April 2007. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  9. "India scraps integrated guided missile programme". Chennai, India. 9 January 2008. Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  10. "Biography: Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam". Vigyan Prasar Science Portal. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  12. "Guided Threat Systems". International Electronic Countermeasures Handbook. Artech House. 2004. p. 115. ISBN 1-58053-898-3. 
  13. Asian tribune: Upgraded version of 'Aakash' test fired; By Hemanta Kumar Rout
  14. Nag anti-tank missile back in reckoning
  15. "India successfully test-fires Agni I ballistic missile". Balasore (Orissa), India. 31 August 1998. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  16. "Agni I". Bharat Rakshak – Missiles Section. Bharat Rakshak. Retrieved 19 October 2011. 
  17. "Agni-3". 19 July 2010. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  18. Express news (18 November 2011). "Youngsters behind Agni-IV success". Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  19. "India tests long-range nuclear-capable 'Agni-IV' missile". Bhubaneshwar, Orissa, India. 15 November 2011. Retrieved 15 November 2011. 
  20. "India developing 5,000 km-range Agni missile". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  21. "Missiles of the World: Agni 4/5". 19 July 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  22. T. S. Subramanian (23 July 2011). "Preparations apace for Agni V launch". Chennai, India: The Hindu. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 "Agni-VI with 10000 km range to be ready by 2014". 24 May 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  24. "India test-fires nuclear-capable Agni-IV missile". 15 November 2011. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  25. T. S., Subramanian (15 November 2011). "Agni – IV successfully test fired". Chennai, India. 
  26. "India tests nuclear-capable surface-to-surface Agni-IV missile". The Times of India. 15 November 2011. 
  27. Pandit, Rajat (4 June 2011). "With China in mind, Agni-V test scheduled for Feb 2011". Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 "DRDO Lab Develops Detonator for Nuclear Capable Agni-V Missile As It Gets Ready For Launch". 17 January 2012. 
  29. Singh, Rahul (11 June 2011). "Air chief PV Naik in favour of flexing missile power". New Delhi, India. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 Unnithan, Sandeep (20 November 2010). "The secret 'K' missile family". India. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 "India to test a submarine-launched ballistic missile". 29 December 2010. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  32. "India successfully test fires 'Shaurya' missile". 12 November 2008. 
  33. Y. Mallikarjun (3 July 2011). "India all set to test new short-range tactical missile". The Hindu. India. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  34. "Astra BVRAAM more complex than Agni missiles". Balasore. 31 August 1998. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  35. 35.0 35.1 "DRDL: Areas of Work". Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  36. Pradyumna Ballistic Missile Interceptor Scores Third Successful Test at 80 km of Altitude 6 March 2009",
  37. [1][dead link]
  38. Sandeep Unnithan (9 March 2009). "DRDO readies shield against Chinese ICBMs". India Today. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  39. "India developing anti-radar missile". 30 April 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  40. "India developing anti-satellite weapons". Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  41. "India has all the building blocks for an anti-satellite capability". Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  42. "Should India Conduct an ASAT Test Now?". Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  43. "DRDO: Historical Background". Retrieved 31 May 2012. 
  44. John Pike. "Surya – India Missile Special Weapons Delivery Systems". Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  45. "BrahMos Website". Archived from the original on 2003-10-03. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  46. "Nag missile to undergo final trial in summer: Saraswat". Chennai, India: The Hindu News Update Service. 29 January 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  47. "India plans to use laser weapons in Ballistic Missile Defence". Chennai, India: The Hindu News Update Service. 18 January 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  48. "Missile programme scrapped". Chennai, India: The Hindu News Update Service. 9 January 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  49. "India's New Missile on the Cards". Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. Retrieved 12 September 2013. 
  50. "New tech to boost missile range by 40%". The Times of India. 10 September 2008. 
  51. India all set to test new short-range tactical missile

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