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Agni-3 test launch (cropped).jpg
Agni-III missile test fired on 21 September 2012
TypeIntermediate Range Ballistic Missile
Place of originIndia
Service history
In serviceActive[1]
Used byStrategic Forces Command
Production history
DesignerDefence Research and Development Organisation
ManufacturerBharat Dynamics Limited
Unit cost250 million (US$4 million) – 350 million (US$5 million)[2]
Mass50,000 kg[3]
Length17 m[4]
Diameter2.0 m[4]
WarheadConventional, thermobaric, strategic nuclear weapon

EngineMulti-stage solid rocket
PropellantHydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene[5]
3,000 km – 5,000 km[6]
Flight altitude> 450 km[7]
Speed5–6 km/s [8]
Ring laser gyro inertial navigation system. Optionally augmented by GPS/NAVIC satellite guidance.
Terminal: Radar scene correlation, imaging infrared, active radar homing[9]
Flex-nozzle thrust vectoring (first and second stage)[5]
Accuracy40 m CEP[9]
8 × 8 transporter erector launcher/Rail Mobile Launcher

Agni-III (IAST: Agnī "Fire" also the Vedic fire god in Hinduism) is an intermediate-range ballistic missile developed by India as the successor to Agni-II.[6] It has a range of 3,000 km-5,000 km,[10] and is capable of engaging targets deep inside neighbouring countries,[11] including Shanghai in China.[12] The missile's Circular error probable (CEP) is within 40 meters range, which made it the most sophisticated and accurate ballistic missile of its range class in the world at the time of its introduction into service.[13] In June 2011, it was reported that Agni-III has been inducted into the armed forces and is under production.[14] US Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center estimates that as of June 2017 less than 10 launchers were operationally deployed.[15]


India's Credible minimum deterrence envisages a nuclear triad of counter-strike capability which required a long range missile to provide robust second strike capability. A missile system that can be dispersed far and wide in the Indian mainland, its far flung islands or its blue water naval assets dispersed across the world's oceans. Following this necessity India developed a larger Agni-III missile, with a heavier payload and a longer range but in a compact configuration, i.e. thicker but shorter length. This development is driven by need for a more assured retaliation that can defeat emerging anti ballistic missile (ABM) defence and countermeasures. Such capability requires a compact missile that can also carry ABM counter-measure payloads along with weapons, in a configuration similar to a MIRV, albeit with state-of-the-art decoys.


Agni III was developed as the successor to Agni-II.[6] Designed by the Indian government's Defence Research and Development Organisation, Agni III is a two-stage ballistic missile that is capable of nuclear weapons delivery. It was designed and developed by the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL),[citation needed] a unit of DRDO, which was formed in September 2001 with its main objective being the development of large-sized rocket motors. ASL developed the propulsion plant for solid-fuel motors, including the infrastructure for propellant casting. The stubby two-stage solid fuel missile is compact and small enough for easy mobility and flexible deployment on various surface/sub-surface platforms.[16]

The missile is equipped with sophisticated navigation, guidance and control systems along with advanced on-board computer systems. The electronic systems are hardened for higher vibration, thermal and acoustic effects. A high performance indigenous ring laser gyro-based navigation system was flight-tested for the first time during the Agni-III trial on 7 Feb 2010.[17]

The Agni-III has two stages with an overall diameter of two meters. Initially, the first stage mass was about 32 tonnes and 7.7 m long, the second stage mass was about 10 tonnes and 3.3 m long. The missile is likely to support a wide range of warhead configurations, with a 4,500 km range and a total payload weight of 2490 kg.[6]


The Agni-III features two solid fuelled stages and with overall diameter of 2.0 meters. This diameter is compatible with a recently tested Indian sub-surface launch system, which has a 2.3 meter diameter launch tube aperture.

The first stage booster is made of advanced carbon composite materials to provide high payload fraction (mass fraction). It is 7.7 meters long, with a diameter of 2 metres. The second stage made of maraging steel and has a length of 3.3 metres. The second stage has vectoring nozzles, to provide necessary flight trajectory control.

Flight tests[edit]

Agni missile range
Agni III successfully launched from the Wheeler Island on 7 May 2008

The first test for Agni III was conducted from Abdul Kalam Island (then known as Wheeler Island) off the Bhadrak coast on 9 July 2006.[6] The launch proved to be unsuccessful, with the missile falling into the sea off the coast of Odisha, short of reaching the target. According to DRDO, the failure was due to a first stage anomaly that was caused by recirculating hot gases entering the missile-base shroud and damaging the electronic components.[18] Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee reported it as "partial success" (a trade euphemism to indicate the test generated useful data for diagnosis and correction) as the missile was air-borne for only 5 minutes instead of the expected 15 minutes.[19]

Agni-III was test fired again on 12 April 2007, from the Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha. This time, the launch was declared as a success. India's Cabinet Committee on Security announced that[20] "This test confirms the extent of India's nuclear reach and India's nuclear deterrence as the missile can accurately hit targets at distance more than 3000 km away".[21]

Already the most powerful and capable in India's missile inventory, the Agni-III is capable of carrying a variety of warheads, including nuclear warheads and can be launched from various platforms giving India intermediate range ballistic missile firepower and greatly extending India's power projection in the region.[22][23]

Agni III was test fired successfully for third time on 7 May 2008.[24] The missile was launched from Balasore, Odisha.[25] After a flight of roughly 15 minutes defence scientists confirmed that the test fire was successful and that the missile met all parameters. The missile has a velocity of 5,000 meters per second. Agni-III is a nuclear capable fully solid propellant fuelled surface-to-surface missile, and has a range of 3,500 km. A new software for navigation system fitted on the missile will increase accuracy and lethality.[26] The successful test on 7 May opened the doors for the next generation Indian ICBM Agni V with a range of 5,000–6,000 kilometres.[27]

The development test of Agni III was put off for unknown reasons in August 2009.[28]

Agni III was tested successfully for the fourth time from Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha on 7 February 2010. The missile is said to have hit the target with pin point accuracy and met all the mission objectives. Two down range ships located near the target tracked and witnessed the Missile reaching the target accurately.[29] The missile is likely to support a wide range of warhead configurations, with a 3,500 km range and a total payload weight of 2490 kg.[7] The two-stage solid fuel missile is compact and small enough for easy mobility and flexible deployment on various surface/sub-surface platforms. The test validated the nuclear triggering mechanism, meaning Agni-III is meant for strategic nuclear deterrence.[7] The test launch is part of pre-induction of the missile into the Indian Army.[30]

In August 2010, the defence minister of India announced that Agni-III is ready for induction[31] and in June 2011, it was reported that the Agni-III missile had already been inducted into the armed forces.[14]

In September 2012, it is reported that a missile group is now being raised with Agni-III missiles.[32]

On 21 September 2012, as part of regular user-training the Strategic Forces Command test fired an Agni III missile from a rail mobile launcher. The missile was randomly chosen from a production lot. All mission objectives were achieved and the missile hit the pre-designated target with a two-digit accuracy.[33]

On 23 December 2013, the missile was tested by the Strategic Forces Command of the Indian Army. The test was a success.[34]

On 16 April 2015, Agni-III was tested successfully from Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast. "The trial, carried out by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC of the Indian Army), was fully successful," ITR Director M V K V Prasad told PTI.[35]

On 27 April 2017, Agni-III was tested successfully from the launch Pad No. 4 of the Integrated Test Range at 9.12 a.m off Odisha coast. The Strategic Forces Command (SFC) carried out test with support from DRDO.[36][37]

On 30 November 2019, the maiden night trial of the Agni-III was conducted.[38] The test reportedly failed; the missile reportedly started diverging from its planned flight trajectory after traveling a distance of 115 kilometers. This caused the mission control to subsequently abort the flight. A manufacturing defect is thought to be the potential cause of the failure.[39]


  1. ^ Subramanian, T.S. (2006). "Agni-V next". Frontline, The Hindu. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  2. ^ "Technical tune to Agni test before talks". Calcutta, India: The Telegraph. 30 August 2004. Archived from the original on 11 December 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2007.
  3. ^ "India successfully test fires nuclear-capable Agni III ballistic missile". The Indian Express. PTI. 16 April 2015.
  4. ^ a b "India tests long-range nuclear-capable Agni-III missile". Yahoo News. Archived from the original on 9 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-07.
  5. ^ a b Brügge, Norbert. "India's solid-fuel ballistic missile-family "Agni"". Presentation of Space Launch Vehicles. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
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  7. ^ a b c Subramanian, T. S. (7 February 2010). "AGNI-III test-fired successfully". Chennai, India: Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  8. ^ Vishwakarma, Arun (1 July 2007). "Indian Long Range Strategic Missiles" (PDF). Lancer Publishers and Distributors. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ "Agni-3". MissileThreat. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Agni – India Missile Special Weapons Deilivery System". Federation of American Scientists. Archived from the original on 16 April 2009. Retrieved 16 May 2009.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Successful Agni-III missile tests provide India with a credible deterrent, boost for DRDO". Archived from the original on 14 February 2010. Retrieved 7 February 2010.
  14. ^ a b PTI (3 June 2011). "Sci-Tech / Science : India to test fire Agni-V by year-end". Chennai, India: The Hindu. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  15. ^ Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat (Report). Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee. June 2017. p. 25. NASIC-1031-0985-17. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  16. ^ "New kid on the nuclear block". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 18 November 2011. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  17. ^ PTI (7 February 2015). "Nuclear-capable Agni-III missile successfully tested". Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  18. ^ T.S. Subramanian. "Next objective: a 5,000-km Agni". Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 21 April 2007.
  19. ^ "Indian missile test 'was failure'". BBC. 10 July 2006.
  20. ^ "Agni test fired successfully". IBN Live. Archived from the original on 15 May 2007. Retrieved 14 May 2007.
  21. ^ "Agni iii launched successfully". Govt. of India. Retrieved 14 May 2007.
  22. ^ Arun Vishwakarma. "AGNI – Strategic Ballistic Missile". Archived from the original on 10 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-14.
  23. ^ Washington, The (22 May 2008). "India's missile power lifts off – An U.S perspective on India's missile power". Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  24. ^ "Agni-3 flight tested successfully for the third time". 7 May 2008. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  25. ^ "Livefist: Agni-III's Final Development Test This October". 9 August 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  26. ^ "Agni-III launch on May 7". Chennai, India: 5 May 2008. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  27. ^ Pandit, Rajat (8 May 2008). "Agni-III test-fired, can reach Beijing, Shanghai". The Times of India. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  28. ^ Agni-III test fire
  29. ^ "Fourth Test Flight of Long Range Missile AGNI-3 Successful". 7 February 2010. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  30. ^ Super Admin (7 February 2010). "Indian Army ready to induct long range missile Agni-3". Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  31. ^ "Agni-III ready for induction: AK Antony – Sci/Tech – DNA". 9 August 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2011.
  32. ^ Ajai Shukla (4 September 2012). "Military to buy DRDO missiles worth Rs 1 lakh cr in 10 yrs". Hyderabad, India: Business Standard.
  33. ^ Agni-III test-fired successfully
  34. ^ Agni-III test-fired successfully
  35. ^
  36. ^ "India test-fires nuclear-capable Agni III ballistic missile - The Economic Times". The Economic Times. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  37. ^ "India successfully test fires nuclear capable Agni-III missile off Odisha coast". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  38. ^ "First Night Trial of Agni-III Missile Held at Abdul Kalam Island Integrated Test Range". Press Trust of India. 30 November 2019. Retrieved 1 December 2019 – via News18.
  39. ^ "Nuclear capable Agni-III missile fails in maiden night trial". The New Indian Express. 1 December 2019. Retrieved 1 December 2019.

External links[edit]