Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s Legacy: The Missiles That Propelled India’s Technological Ascent

In this article, we explore the indelible legacy of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, often referred to as the “Missile Man of India,” and his remarkable contributions to the creation and advancement of India’s missile technology.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was a prominent Indian scientist and politician who served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007 and was widely regarded as the “People’s President” for his down-to-earth and inspirational personality.

Before his presidency, Dr. Kalam made significant contributions to India’s defence and space programs. He played a key role in the development of ballistic missile technology and launch vehicles, earning him the nickname “Missile Man of India.” Dr. Kalam was associated with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), where he made substantial advancements in missile technology.

The Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) was a significant initiative that aimed at developing a variety of missiles simultaneously, rather than a sequential approach.

As the Chief Executive of IGMDP, Dr. Kalam, along with Dr. V S Arunachalam and the support of Defence Minister R. Venkataraman, led the program with great success. The program focused on the development of different types of missiles to enhance India’s defence capabilities. Some of the notable missiles developed under IGMDP include:

Agni: Agni is an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) with different variants. It can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads. The Agni series has played a crucial role in strengthening India’s strategic deterrence.

Prithvi: Prithvi is a tactical surface-to-surface missile designed for short-range targets. It has been developed in multiple versions, including both liquid and solid-fueled variants. Prithvi missiles contribute to India’s defence preparedness.

Dr. Kalam’s leadership and technical expertise were instrumental in the success of the IGMDP, and the program significantly bolstered India’s indigenous missile development capabilities. His contributions to the defence and space sectors continue to be celebrated, and he remains an inspirational figure for scientists, engineers, and the youth in India.


Agni Missile

The Agni missile series, developed as part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), represents a family of surface-to-surface ballistic missiles in India. Named after the Sanskrit word for “Fire,” Agni missiles cover a range from medium to intercontinental and possess nuclear weapons capabilities. The program commenced with the successful testing of Agni-I in 1989. Acknowledging its strategic importance, the Agni missile program was separated from the IGMDP, becoming a standalone initiative with dedicated funding in India’s defence budget. The missiles are characterized by incremental advancements, with each variant offering improvement in range, accuracy, and payload capacity. The Agni series plays a vital role in India’s defence strategy, symbolizing the country’s commitment to self-sufficiency in missile technology and bolstering its national security.

The Agni missile program began with a two-stage technology demonstrator, featuring a solid-fuel first stage, which underwent its initial test at the Interim Test Range in Chandipur in 1989. This demonstrator, capable of carrying a conventional payload of 1,000 kg or a nuclear warhead, evolved into the solid-fuel Agni-1 and Agni-2 missiles. The Agni-2, a two-stage missile with a 2000 km range, was first tested in 1999. Subsequently, the first stage of this system was utilized to develop the Agni-1, a single-stage missile with a range of 700–900 km, first tested in January 2002.

The Agni-1 missile, weighing 12 tonnes and measuring 15 meters in length, is capable of carrying a 1,000 kg conventional payload or a nuclear warhead at a speed of 2.5 km/s. It is road and rail mobile, powered by solid propellants, and used by the Strategic Force Command (SFC) of the Indian Army. The missile is known for its versatility, being able to carry a special weapons load, extending its range to 1200 km.

The Agni-1’s development emphasized simplicity, cost-effectiveness, accuracy, and mobility in comparison to its counterpart, the Agni-II. Notably, Agni-1’s mobility and adaptability make it a valuable asset for the Strategic Forces Command. The missile underwent successful tests, including a night trial exercise in April 2014, further demonstrating its operational capabilities and reliability The program has followed an evolutionary trajectory, marked by successive variants such as Agni-II, Agni-III, Agni-IV, and Agni-V, with its various iterations, reflects India’s commitment to advancing its missile technology and bolstering its strategic defence capabilities.


Prithvi Missile

The Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP), initiated by the Government of India in 1983, aimed to achieve self-sufficiency in the development and production of a diverse range of missiles, including ballistic missiles and surface-to-air missiles. Prithvi, the first missile developed under this program, marked a significant step in India’s pursuit of indigenous missile technology. The program, led by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), was driven by the goal of enhancing the country’s strategic capabilities.

Under the umbrella of IGMDP, DRDO undertook efforts to build a surface-to-air missile under Project Devil. Variants of the missiles developed in this program utilized either liquid fuels or a combination of liquid and solid fuels, showcasing the flexibility and adaptability of the missile technology.

The Prithvi missile project resulted in three main variants designed for specific branches of the Indian Armed Forces. Each variant was optimized for the specific operational requirements of the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, and the Indian Navy, showcasing the versatility of the Prithvi missile system. These missiles were equipped with different ranges and payload capacities to suit the needs of their respective branches.

Prithvi I (SS-150) – Army Version:

The Prithvi I, designed for the Indian Army, had a range of 150 km and a payload capacity of 1,000 kg. It was tailored to meet the Army’s tactical and strategic needs, providing a balance between range and payload capacity.

Prithvi II (SS-250) – Air Force Version:

The Prithvi II, intended for the Indian Air Force, featured an increased range of 350 km but a reduced payload capacity of 500 kg. This variant aimed to address the Air Force’s requirements for medium-range precision strikes.

Prithvi III (SS-350) – Naval Version:

The Prithvi III, developed for the Indian Navy, shared the same range as the Prithvi II (350 km) but had a payload capacity of 1,000 kg. This naval variant was likely configured to meet the specific needs of maritime operations.

The development of these variants underscored India’s efforts to create a versatile and comprehensive missile system capable of addressing diverse defence needs across its armed forces. The Prithvi missile series has played a significant role in enhancing India’s national defence posture.