The latest Agni-5 missile test has piqued the curiosity of defense watchers, based on video of its wake emitting in the night sky over eastern and northeastern India and even Myanmar and Bangladesh.
It was noted that the orbit was unusually low within Earth’s atmosphere, rather than the apparent high parabolic arch of a ballistic missile briefly entering space before re-entering Earth.
The trial, which took place on Thursday, was dubbed a “night trial” in news reports. It was launched from APJ Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha in the Bay of Bengal at 5:30 p.m.
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Agni-5 is India’s longest-range ballistic missile with a range of 5,000 kilometers and uses a three-stage solid-fuel engine. Agni-5 can be stored and launched from tanks, making it mobile on roads.
Unusual “radian” and “height”
According to the Indian Aerospace Defense News (IADN), the launch was likely a test of a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) based on its “quasi-ballistic action (and) low velocity rather than standard ballistic launch”.
in a twitter threadIADN released photos of China’s 2018 DF-ZF HGV launches in Shaanxi province and Inner Mongolia, and compared them to the Agni 5, saying they showed “the same launch signature.”
Picture from recent #Agni5 The missile test does not appear to be a standard ballistic missile test.
The low speed of the missile indicates its quasi-ballistic effect, which is usually described by a hypersonic glide vehicle rather than a standard nuclear missile launch.#IADN pic.twitter.com/xQwEuImSOG
— Indian Aerospace Defense News (IADN) (@NewsIADN) December 15, 2022
“These photos are from a recent Agni-5 missile test, which does not appear to be a standard ballistic missile test. The low velocity of the missile suggests its quasi-ballistic action, typically described by a hypersonic glide vehicle rather than a standard nuclear missile launch,” the IADB said.
The post posted video taken by locals showing the missile appearing to make a sharp turn and change direction, which is unusual in conventional ballistic missile tests.
Since DRDO successfully tested the hypersonic air-breathing scramjet technology of the Hypersonic Technology Demonstration Vehicle (HSTDV) on September 7, 2020, the possibility that it was a hypersonic test cannot be ruled out either.
DRDO has been working on hypersonic missiles since 2018.
Another comment on the social media page by defense enthusiasts speculated that the test may be designed to evaluate the performance of microelectronics and multiple independent reentry vehicle (MIRV) systems. “But why they use the low-lying trajectory remains unclear,” the commentator said.
MIRVs are propelled, possibly steerable munitions at the tip of nuclear missiles, released at their terminal stages. They fan out from the nose cone, some of which are decoys that confuse anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems with actual warheads carrying nuclear explosives.
However, the military may also equip all of its MIRVs with nuclear warheads to increase the chances of a successful attack if the military expects enemy air defenses to be able to intercept all MIRVs.
DRDO experts speak
However, Dr Prahlada, a former Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) scientist, said it did not look like a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) test, the only difference being that it was late at night or at night.
“Also, the curvature of the Earth and its position in space make objects appear farther or taller as they move down.
This is amplified even more in the video, and until the posted video is available, it will be difficult to tell if this is an HGV test or something else,” Prahlada said.
At the time of filing this report, DRDO had not commented on the test or released footage of the launch.
Some claim that DRDO uses low speed and low orbit to hide its actual range and true potential. “If they used their true potential, speed and optimal trajectory, the missiles would go farther. This means that the actual range is much greater than 5000 km. DRDO fires along the bottom line of the graph to reach the target distance of 5000 km, ’ pointed out one observer.
By “lowest line on the chart,” the comment refers to three different trajectories for ballistic missiles, all of which follow parabolic paths and exit the atmosphere before re-entering the atmosphere to land on their target.
Plotted on a chart, they become three large parabolas of varying heights and arcs, the lowest one nearly embracing and running parallel to the Earth’s curvature, possibly still inside the atmosphere—or “inside the atmosphere” in military technical parlance.