Defence – Indian Ballistic and Cruise Missiles

In this post, we will know about the ballistic and cruise missiles of Indian defence. Indian defence follows a ‘credible minimum deterrence’ policy which comprises of two important principles: no first use of nuclear weapons and second strike capability. Second strike capability means that in the event of a nuclear strike by a enemy country, we should possess adequate response capability.

Based on this principle, India possesses a number of cruise and ballistic missiles developed indigenously and with  foreign collaboration as well.

Difference between cruise and ballistic missiles

There are some important differences between cruise and ballistic missiles. These are:

  • Ballistic missiles follow an arc-like trajectory and are launched from the land or sea
  • They usually carry a nuclear warhead and are very heavy
  • They rely on Earth’s gravity to fly down once launched
  • They have much larger range
  • Cruise missiles can also be launched from air and fly within Earth’s atmosphere
  • They have their own engines and wings to strike the target
  • They can be supersonic or sub-sonic and are highly accurate
  • They usually carry conventional warheads although some cruise missiles can also be equipped with nuclear warheads

In both cases, these missiles are guided. That is, the flight path is pre-determined and very small alterations in flight are possible, if at all.

Indian Ballistic and Cruise Missiles

Agni Missiles

These are long-range ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. They are classified into three types: Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM).

NameTypeStage(s)Range (Km)
Agni IMRBMOne700-1200
Agni IIIRBMTwo2000-2500
Agni IIIIRBMTwo3000-5000
Agni IVIRBMTwo2500-3700
Agni VICBMThree5000-8000
Agni VIICBMThree10000-12000

The stages refer to the missile engine. Missiles stages can be solid or liquid fuelled.

Agni V and VI are capable of striking targets in other continents and cover all parts of China as well. Agni V is a road-mobile missile and is in testing phase while Agni VI is still in development stage.

Prithvi Missiles

Prithvi Missiles are tactical surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM)

NameTypeStage(s)Range (Km)
Prithvi ISRBMOne150
Prithvi IISRBMTwo150-350
Prithvi IIISRBMTwo350-650

Dhanush– Dhanush is reportedly a naval version of Prithvi which can be launched from ships. Dhanush can fire modified versions of Prithvi-II or Prithvi-III.

Aakash Missile

Aakash is a medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile defence system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories Board and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). The missile system can target aircraft up to 30 km away, at altitudes up to 18,000 m.

Trishul Missile

Trishul is a short range surface-to-air missile. The range of the missile is 12 km and is fitted with a 15 kg warhead. The weight of the missile is 130 kg.

Nag Missile

Nag is India’s third generation “Fire-and-forget” anti-tank missile. It is an all weather, top attack missile with a range of 3 to 7 km. Nag uses Imaging Infra-Red (IIR) guidance with day and night capability. It 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.

A variant of NAG Missile to be launched from Helicopter is being developed under the Project named HELINA (HELIcopter launched NAg). It will be structurally different from the Nag missile.

K Missile Series

The K family of missiles is a series of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) developed by India to boost its second-strike capabilities and thus the nuclear deterrence. Information about this family of missiles has mostly been kept classified.

The three missiles current under development/testing under this series are K-15, K-4, and K-5. These missiles are intended to be armed with Arihant-class submarines.

Shaurya Missile

The Shaurya missile is a short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile developed for use by the Indian Army. Capable of hypersonic speeds, it has a range of 600 km and is capable of carrying a payload of one-tonne conventional or nuclear warhead.

BrahMos Missile

The BrahMos is a short range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. It is a joint venture between the Russia and India who have together formed BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited.

It is the world’s fastest cruise missile in operation. The missile travels at speeds of Mach 2.8 to 3.0 and has a maximum range of 290 km.

BrahMos missiles come in three variants: surface-launched, air-launched and submarine as well as ship launched. BrahMos II, currently under development, will be a Hypersonic cruise missile capable of flying at a speed greater than 5 Mach.

Nirbhay Missile

Nirbhay is an all-weather low-cost long-range nuclear warhead capable cruise missile with stealth and high accuracy. The missile has a range of more than 1000 km. It weighs about one tonne and has a length of 6 metres. It carries a ring laser gyroscope for high-accuracy navigation and a radio altimeter for the height determination. It is capable of being launched from multiple platforms on land, sea and air and will be inducted into Indian Navy, Army, and Air Force. In particular, Nirbhay is being adapted for the Indo/Russian Su-30MKI.

Astra Missile

Astra is an active radar homing beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM). Astra is designed to be capable of engaging targets at varying range and altitudes allowing for engagement of both short-range targets (up to 20 km) and long-range targets (up to 80 km) using alternative propulsion modes.

It is 3.8 metres long and is narrower in front of the wings. The propellant used is HTPB (solid-fuel). The warhead is a 15 kg HE (high-explosive) which is activated by a proximity fuse. The missile’s maximum speed is Mach 4 and can attain maximum altitude of 20 km.

The maximum range of Astra is 110 km in head-on chase and 20 km in tail chase. The missile could be launched from different altitudes – it can cover 110 km when launched from an altitude of 15 km, 44 km when fired from an altitude of eight km and 21 km when the altitude is sea-level . The missile can reportedly undertake 40 g turns close to sea level, when attacking a maneuvering target. It will have an active homing range of 25 km.

I hope you found this compilation of Indian cruise and ballistic missiles useful. The article will be updated as and when new developments take place. Your feedback in the comments below is most welcome.

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  1. Hello Sir,
    This was a really a nice report to study and know something really great about our defence power. And seriously its good to have link with you.

    With Regards,
    Shashank Singh

  2. sir
    i am engineering graduate of 2014 passout i am very much confused how to start prep. as i do not know anything except exam pattern so plzzzzzzzzzzzzz help me


  3. I am new aspirant of ssb (service selection board)not oas
    But there are some similarities betwenn them.
    I am planning to prepair tilopices for lecture for thee minutes’and group deissvussion…
    Please help me

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