Astride the Horizon: Agni-Prime’s Pioneering Flight from Odisha’s Isle

Team Udayavani, Apr 5, 2024, 11:31 AM IST

India has successfully conducted a test flight of its advanced ballistic missile, Agni-Prime, from an island off the coast of Odisha.

The Defence Ministry announced that the launch happened on the evening of April 3 and achieved all its objectives, with the performance confirmed by various sensors placed around the area.

The test was a joint effort by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), launched from APJ Abdul Kalam Island at 7 PM on April 3. Top military officials, including the Defence Staff Chief Gen Anil Chauhan, oversaw the launch.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh praised the DRDO, SFC, and the military for the missile test’s success, noting that this missile would significantly enhance the military’s capabilities.

General Chauhan and DRDO Chairman Samir V. Kamat also commended the teams involved for the successful test.

The Agni Prime (Agni P) missile is an upgraded version of the Agni series of missiles, featuring a two-stage mechanism powered by solid propellants. It has a striking distance capability between 1,000 and 2,000 kilometers. With 1.5 tons payload.It is a Surface-Surface Missile

Some Indian defense sources anticipate that the DRDO is considering the development of an anti-ship version of the Agni-P missile platform.

Each stage of the rocket employs a composite propellant, a type of fuel mixture that merges a chemical to facilitate combustion with a metal serving as the fuel source, all compacted into a paste-like substance. Aluminum is chosen as the metallic component due to its high energy density. This attribute allows it to significantly contribute to the rocket achieving a robust thrust output.

What is a Composite Propellant?

Composite propellants are a type of solid rocket propellant where the fuel and oxidizer components are mixed together to form a solid mass. This combination typically includes:

1. An oxidizer: which is a chemical that provides oxygen to enable combustion. Common oxidizers in composite propellants include ammonium perchlorate or ammonium nitrate.

2. A fuel: which reacts with the oxygen from the oxidizer to produce thrust. Aluminum is widely used as the fuel component due to its high energy density. The high energy density of aluminum means it contains a large amount of energy in a relatively small amount of mass, making it an ideal choice for producing the high thrust necessary for rocket propulsion.

3. A binder: which holds the oxidizer and fuel together in a paste-like form before it is cured into a solid. The binder often also acts as a secondary fuel source.

4. Additives: which may include plasticizers to improve the mechanical properties of the propellant, stabilizers to prolong storage life, and burning rate modifiers to control the speed at which the propellant burns.

The composite propellant is advantageous because it can be molded into specific shapes to control the burn rate and, consequently, the thrust profile over the duration of the rocket stage’s burn. This is crucial for stages that need to perform specific maneuvers or achieve precise orbits.

The use of aluminum as the fuel component in these propellants is particularly beneficial for several reasons:

  • High Energy Density: Aluminum provides a high amount of energy for its weight, which is crucial for maximizing the efficiency and performance of the rocket.
  • Stable Burn Rate: Aluminum contributes to a stable and predictable burn rate, which is vital for the precise control of the rocket’s thrust and trajectory.
  • High-Temperature Combustion: The combustion of aluminum with an oxidizer generates very high temperatures, which increases the efficiency of the reaction and thus the thrust produced.

Overall, the combination of these components in a composite propellant allows rockets to achieve the necessary thrust and performance characteristics for a wide range of missions, from launching satellites into orbit to deep space exploration.

Agni-P: Advanced Mobile Deterrence

Constructed entirely out of composite materials, the missile benefits from being lighter in weight and stronger, while also offering more design and manufacturing versatility than traditional materials.

The Agni P missile weighs 11,000 kilograms, measures 10.5 meters in length, and has a diameter of 1.15 meters, with an accuracy of less than 10 meters Circular Error Probable (CEP).

Agni Prime is designed to be housed in a canister, which greatly improves its transportability and allows for quick setup and deployment on short notice. This design feature increases the missile’s operational availability, dependability, and longevity.

In this setup, the missile and its nuclear payload are safely enclosed inside a canister that is then placed on a vehicle capable of launching it, ensuring mobility and secure transportation.

Analysts suggest that the Agni-P missile is designed mainly to deter Pakistan’s military capabilities because its range doesn’t allow it to cover the entirety of mainland China. Experts from the International Institute for Strategic Studies argue that the Agni-P is aimed at superseding older, bulkier short-range ballistic missiles like the Agni-I and Agni-II, focusing primarily on countering Pakistan.


By Girish Linganna, Defence & Aerospace Analyst
(The author is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru. He is also the Director of ADD Engineering Components, India, Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany. You can reach out to him at: [email protected])

Disclaimer: The opinions and assertions expressed in this article are solely those of the author/authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Udayavani. The publication holds no legal responsibility for the content presented.

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