January 29, 2014:
On January 20th India successfully tested its new Agni IV IRBM (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile). This test was in combat configuration with the missile launched from its 8x8 transporter/launcher vehicle. The Agni IV is a 17 ton, two-stage, solid fuel missile that was first tested in 2011. It has a maximum range of 4,000 kilometers and a payload of one ton. During tests it has landed with a hundred meters of its aiming point, which is satisfactory for the nuclear weapon the missile is designed to deliver. Because of the success of this test the Agni IV is expected to enter mass production later in 2014.
Agni IV is, as its name implies, part of family of missiles. India began work on the Agni series in the 1990s and this effort was accelerated after India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998. All the Agni missiles use solid fuel.
The Agni I is a 12 ton missile that was first tested in 2002. It has a maximum range of 1,200 kilometers and a payload of one ton.
The Agni II is a 16 ton missile that was first tested in 1999. It has a maximum range of 2,000 kilometers and a payload of one ton.
The Agni III is a 48 ton missile that was first tested in 2006. It has a maximum range of 3,500 kilometers and a payload of 1.5 tons.
Agni IV was originally called Agni II Prime as it is basically a replacement for the Agni II.
The Agni V is a solid fuel missile that is still under development. It is supposed to have a maximum range of 5,000 kilometers and a payload of one ton.
There is said to be an Agni version in the works that would have a range of 10,000 kilometers, which would make it an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile).
While the initial target for Agni missiles was Pakistan, in the last decade China has become the primary destination. It took a while for India to accept this shift. This wasn't easy. For example, in 2008 India halted development work on the Agni III because it was really only useful against China. Since India had been working hard to develop better economic and diplomatic ties with China, putting the Agni III on ice seemed a good idea at the time. It was also believed that shutting down the Agni III project would save a lot of money, as each Agni III built would have cost $20 million. Not a good investment for a weapon that will only antagonize a nation you are trying to develop better relationships with. This halt did not last long and now the Agni III is in service. It can hit targets throughout most of China. The Agni IV missiles will also be aimed at China.