Missile was used by Indians for the first time in the 18th century, during the period of Tipu Sultan in the fight against the British.
After independence, the country has embarked on several plans to develop missiles by setting up a Special Weapons Development Team in 1958, which became the Defence Research and Development Laboratories (DRDL) later on and undertook the development of first generation anti-tank missiles.
Under the license from France the Government of India had entrusted the DRDL with two projects in the 1970s. Project Valiant involved the development of a long range ballistic missile while Project Devil aimed at reverse engineering the Russian SA-2 surface-to-air missile. But both projects were considered failures and terminated in 1974 and 1980 respectively. However, by this time DRDL had developed the infrastructure and facilities to undertake the design and development of missiles.
Under the leadership of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the missile programme was revived again in 1983 as an Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), which is totally an Indian programme for the development of comprehensive range of missiles. The main aim of this was to develop a missile in five different categories simultaneously.
Intermediate range surface-to-surface missile Agni – It was first test fired in 1989 from the Interim Test Range at Chandipur in Orissa and is capable of carrying a conventional payload of 1000 kg or a nuclear warhead. It consists of one state (short range) or two stages (intermediate range). it is rail and road mobile and powered by solid and/or liquid propellants. Agni-I has range of 700-800 km while Agni-II has a range of 2000-2500 km. Agni-III is the third in the series.
Short-range surface-to-surface missile Prithvi- It was India’s first indigenously developed ballistic missile. Development of it began in 1986 and it was first test-fired on eb. 25, 1988. It has a range of upto 150-300 km. The land variant is called Prithvi while the naval operational variant of Prithvi-I and Prithvi-II class missiles are Dhanush. Both variant are used for surface targets.
The Prithiv is said to have its propulsion technology derived from the Russian SA-2 surface-to-air missile and it could carry a nuclear warhead in its role as a tactical nuclear weapon. Prithvi-I represents a class of a single stage liquid fuelled surface-to-surface missile having a maximum warhead mounting capability of 100 kg with a range of 150 km. Prithvi-II is also represents a class of single stage liquid fuelled missiles having a maximum warhead mounting capability of 1000 kg but with an extended range of 250 km. Prithvi-III represents a class of Sagarika, a two-stage surface-to-surface missiles in the developmental stages. The first stage is solid fuelled with a 16 metric tone force thrust motor and the second stage is liquid felled. The missile can carry a 1000 kg warhead to a distance of 350 km and a 500 kg warhead to a distance of 600 km and a 250 kg warhead upto 750 km. Sagarika will be a nuclear-capable cruise missile, capable of being mounted in ships or submarines.
Medium-range surface-to-air missile Akash – Akash has an intercept range of 30 km. Also it has a launch weight of 720kg, a diameter of 35 cm and a length of 5-8 meters. Akash files at a supersonic speed, reaching around 2.5 Mach. IT can reach an altitude of 18 km. A digital proximity fuse if coupled with a 55kg pre-fragmented warhead, while the safety arming and detention mechanism enables a controlled detonation sequence.
Short-range surface-to-air missile Trishul- It has a range of 9 km and is fitted with a 5.5 kg warhead. Designed to be used against low-level targets at short range, the system has been developed to defend naval vassals against missiles and also as a short range surface-to-air missile on land. The range of the missile is 12 km and is fitted with a 14 kg warhead. Its weight is 130 kg and length 3.1 meters.
Third generation anti-tank guided missile Nag- It is a all weather top attack missile with a range of 4.7 kg. The missile uses an 8 kg tandem HEAT warhead capable of defeating modern armor including ERA (Explosive Reactive Armor) and composite armor. Nag uses Imaging Infra-Red (IIR) guidance with day and night capability. Nag can be mounted on an infantry vehicle; a helicopter launched version will also be available with integration work being carried out with the HAL Dhruv. The missile has a complete fiber-glass structure and weight around 42 kg.
Air-to-air missile Astra- It is an air to air missile Beyond Range (BVR). This is the first indigenous air-to-air missile developed by India. The range of this missile is 80 km in head-on chase and 15 km in tail chase. This missile was successfully tested without control and guidance systems on May 9-12, 2003. The missile was again successfully tested on 25 March, 2007. The missile was again successfully tested on March, 2007. The missile uses an indigenously developed solid fuel propellant, though DRDO is believed to be looking at rocket/ramjet propulsion similar to that used in its AKASH SAM project.
The Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme underwent an expansion in the 1990s and an inter-continental ballistic missile Surya is reported to be developing. The project has begun in 1994 by DRDO in concert with other Indian defense agencies and the Indian space programme. Surya is the most ambitious project. The Surya I and Surya II will be classified as strategic weapons, extending the Indian nuclear deterrent force to targets deeper with in China. The Surya I will have an expected range of 10,000 km, a length of 40 m and a launch weight of 80,000 kg., while Surya II is a longer ranged variant with a range of 20,000 km.
Indian has become the fourth nation to acquire such capability and the third nation to develop it through indigenous effort.