india Agni-3

Agni 3 (Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems)
Originated From:India
Possessed By:India
Basing:Rail-mobile, possible road-based TEL
Length:16.7 m
Diameter:1.85 m
Launch Weight:48,000 kg
Payload:Single warhead, 2,000 kg
Warhead:Nuclear fusion 200-300 kT; possible MIRV version
Propulsion:2-stage solid propellant
Range:3,500-5,000 km

The Agni-3 is an intermediate-range, two-stage solid propellant ballistic missile. With a range of at least 3500-5000 km, the Agni-3 can easily reach any target within mainland China – a point not lost on the Indian or Chinese governments. This missile would seem to be a big step in India’s deterrence policy towards China. 1

Compared to its sister missile, the Agni-2, the Agni-3 is shorter, wider, and considerably heavier. Whereas the Agni-2 is 20 m long, the newer missile is only 16.7 m long. With a width of 1.85 m and a weight of 48,000 kg, the Agni-3 delivers a much heavier warhead, a much greater distance. 2 Though early reports of the Agni-3 suggested that it would borrow its second-stage motor from the Agni-2, the overall diameter and weight of its two engine stages do not match the motors employed on the Agni-2. With these new motors, the Agni-3 can outdistance its predecessor to a maximum distance of around 5,000 km. It may be able to reach as much as 6,000 km with a decreased payload and improved motors. 3 A new chromium-based nose-coating technology, announced in September 2008, could additionally improve the missile’s range by minimizing atmospheric drag. 4

The maximum payload of the Agni-3 is 2,000 kg. A nuclear fusion warhead with a yield of 200-300 kT is expected as the primary warhead for the missile, but possible upgrades could also implement MIRV technology. HE or submunition warheads could also be fitted to the missile.5

According to India’s defense authorities, the Agni-3 represents a number of firsts in the country’s missile program. Besides flying farther and carrying a heavier weight than Agni-1 or Agni-2, this missile employs a more sophisticated guidance system that allows the Agni-3 complete autonomy once in flight. 6  This new technology has been reported to have an accuracy of 100 m CEP. 7

Like its predecessors, the Agni-3 can be fired from a rail-based launcher. It is possible that a road-based TEL has been or will be developed as well, though at this time the missile has not been implemented into regular production. To date, the Agni-3 has been test-fired four times. Its first test, on July 9, 2006 was unsuccessful. All subsequent tests, on April 12, 2007, May 9, 2008, and February 7, 2010 have been successful and met testing criteria. 8  According to reports, Indian is planning a September 2012 test launch, which could lead to production and induction into the military. 9

Last Updated 9/4/2012

  1. Lennox, Duncan. “Agni 1/2/3/4/5.” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Offensive Weapons). August 13, 2011. (accessed September 12, 2012).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “New tech to boost missile range by 40%,” The Economic Times, 10 September 2008, available at (accessed September 4, 2012).
  5. Lennox, “Agni 1/2/3/4/5.”
  6. “Agni III Launched Successfully,” Press Information Bureau Government of India, Ministry of Defence, 12 April 2007, available at (accessed September 4, 2012).
  7. Lennox, “Agni 1/2/3/4/5.”
  8. “Agni-III hits target, meets all objectives,” The Economic Times, 8 February 2010, available at (accessed September 4, 2012).
  9. Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). India Preparing Trial Launch of Nuclear-Capable Agni 3 Missile. August 20, 2012. (accessed September 4, 2012).
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