India Missile Milestones: 1947-2012

1947: Dr. Vikram Sarabhai establishes the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), which will later become a national center for space research, supported primarily by India’s Department of Space.

1962: The Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), established one year earlier as an extension of the Special Weapon Development Team (SWDT), is moved to Hyderabad to work on missile design and development.

1962: The Indian Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR) is established under the auspices of the Department of Atomic Energy.

1963: INCOSPAR establishes the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS).

November 1963: A U.S.-produced, solid-propellant Nike-Apache rocket is launched from Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station. The launch is part of an international effort under the United Nations. It is later followed by 350 U.S. French, Soviet and British rockets launched between 1963 and 1975.

1964: The Centre National d’ Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) conclude a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for CNES to supply four Centaure rockets with payloads for vapor cloud experiments. For its part, DAE will manufacture in India, under license, the Belier and Centaure types of sounding rockets.

1965: India establishes the Space and Technology Center (SSTC) in Thumba.

1967: The Satellite Telecommunication Earth Center is established in Ahmedabad.

1967: India launches its first sounding rocket, Rohini-75.

1969: The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is formed under the Department of Atomic Energy.

1970: India and the Soviet Union sign a MoU on Collaboration in the Organization of Rocket Sounding of the Atmosphere by Soviet Meteorological Rockets at Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station.

1972-1982: DRDL establishes missile-related infrastructure, including aerodynamic, structural and environmental test facilities, liquid and solid propulsion facilities, fabrication engineering facilities, control, guidance, FRP, and computer facilities.

June 1972: The Space Commission and Department of Space are established and ISRO is brought under the Department of Space.

1975: India launches its first satellite, Aryabhata.

1977: India and France sign a Cooperation Agreement in the Field of Space Affairs.

1979: Bharat Dynamics Ltd. becomes India’s guided missile headquarters.

March 1979: A Centaure-2 type rocket is launched from Thumba, as part of an agreement and program begun in 1974. The rocket carries Bulgarian and Indian equipment for exploration and measurement in space of proton and electron fluxes.

1980: India conducts the second experimental launch of its SLV-3 after its failed initial launch in 1979, and succeeds in placing the Rohini satellite into orbit.

1982: The Vikram Sarabhai Space Center (VSSC) successfully launches a Centaure rocket under the joint cooperation of India, West Germany, and Austria.

1983: India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) begins, with more than 60 public and private organizations involved.

September-October 1984: A senior Indian delegation led by the Deputy Minister for Electronics, Dr. Sanjeevi Rao, visits the Soviet Union to purchase high-powered computers for India’s defense and nuclear industry. The Soviet Union agrees to supply its latest-generation “Elbrus” computer system to India after 1986.

1986: India’s Scientific Advisor to the Defense Minister Dr. V.S. Arunachalam announces that scientists at DRDL have successfully developed and tested a high-thrust, liquid-fueled rocket engine that generates a thrust of 30 tons and is capable of lifting a payload to a height of 600 km into space.

February 1988: India conducts the first test flight of its surface-to-surface Prithvi ballistic missile, under a program headed by the DRDL.

March 1988: India launches its first operational remote sensing satellite, IRS-1A.

April 1988: ISRO signs a cooperation agreement with the European Space Agency.

1989: India conducts a test launch of its first medium-range ballistic missile, called the Agni. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi states “The Agni is an R&D vehicle, not a weapons system. However, the technologies proved in Agni are deeply significant for evolving national security options.”

1991: ISRO and Russia’s Glavkosmos reach an agreement for the supply of engines and cryogenic technologies to India. Under U.S. pressure and sanctions imposed on ISRO in 1992, the agreement will be limited to the sale of seven KhimMach KVD-1 engines, each of which produces 7.5 metric tons of thrust.

1992: India acquires the ability to manufacture liquid hydrogen.

May 1992: India conducts a successful test of the third-stage motor for its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), ignited under simulated high-altitude conditions. The PSLV is a four stage vehicle that uses solid and liquid propulsion alternately.

May 1992: India stages its first successful launch of the four-stage ASLV, carrying its SROSS-C satellite into orbit, following two failed attempts in 1987 and 1988.

1994: The periodical Flight International reports that India’s Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) has for the past two years been engaged in designing a ramjet-powered, submarine-launched missile dubbed the Sagarika.

1995-1996: India suspends development of the Agni missile project.

January 1996: India conducts the first test flight of the Prithvi-II surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a range of between 250 km-350 km, far enough to reach Islamabad.

March 1996: India successfully conducts its third and final developmental launch of the four-stage PSLV, deploying a 1-ton Indian satellite into 500-mile polar orbit.

May 1997: India completes development of two variants of the Prithvi ballistic missile. A 150-kilometer range version with a heavier warhead is ready for introduction into the Army, while the 250-kilometer version with a lighter warhead destined for the air force is ready for user trials.

June 1997: Fewer than a dozen Prithvi missiles are moved close to the Pakistani border.

August 1997: The Agni missile program is revived in response to Pakistan’s test of the Hatf-III missile in July.

September 1997: India conducts the first operational launch of its PSLV-C1, deploying a 1200-kilogram Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS-1D) into orbit. In reaching 817 km circular polar sun-synchronous orbit, the PSLV was powered by four stages of alternating solid and liquid propellant.

1998: India conducts five underground nuclear tests at Pokhran, ranging in yield from less than 1 kiloton to about 45 kilotons. Defense Minister George Fernandes reportedly says that India will “inevitably” arm itself with nuclear warheads. The United States proceeds to implement sanctions, in place by November 1998, on a large number of research, development, and production entities relating to space and missile technology.

February 1999: Indian Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif meet in Lahore, Pakistan. They agree to exchange strategic information about their nuclear arsenals, to give each other advance notice of ballistic missile tests, and to increase efforts to resolve the Kashmir issue.

April 1999: India conducts its first test of the nuclear-capable Agni-II missile. The two-stage solid fuel missile, which can carry a 1,000 kg payload, was successfully fired to a range of 2,000 kilometers.

May 1999: India launches a PSLV and successfully deploys an Indian remote sensing satellite and two other payloads.

July 1999: India successfully tests the Nishant, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to conduct aerial reconnaissance of battlefields.

October 1999: Scientists from the DRDO announce they are developing the Surya, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a range exceeding 5,000 kilometers.

April 2000: India tests the medium-range Dhanush missile, a naval version of the Prithvi. It has a range of 350 km and is nuclear-capable.

August 2000: India’s Agni-II missile reportedly reaches the operational stage. India’s Defense Minister, George Fernandes, states that re-entry, guidance, and maneuverability have been tested.

February 2001: Dr. Vasudev Aatre, head of India’s DRDO and scientific adviser to the Indian Minister of Defense, announces that India is developing the Agni-III intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). The Agni-III is anticipated to have a range of 3,500 km, improving upon the “range and capability” of the 2,100 km-range Agni-II.

March 2001: India’s Defense Minister, George Fernandes, announces that the Agni-II ballistic missile is operational and is ready for mass production after its second successful test launch in January. The 2,500 km range missile may be launched from a static launch pad or mobile launcher and offers India a nuclear second-strike capability.

March 2001: The periodical Defense News reports that India and Russia’s Central Scientific and Research Institute of Automatics and Hydraulics (TsNIIAG) are negotiating the sale of a variant of an electro-optical guided missile warhead originally developed for Scud-B ballistic missiles, which could drastically improve the accuracy of India’s ballistic missiles.

March 2001: India aborts the first attempt to launch its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), when computers detect that one of its four liquid-fueled strap-on booster engines is not generating the required 90 percent thrust.

April 2001: After tracing the March 2001 malfunction to a defective oxidizer line, India’s GSLV successfully launches, setting the 3,000 lb experimental GSAT-1 communication satellite into orbit. This was the first successful launch of the GSLV-Mark I and Mark II series. GSLV-Mark I and II are three stage vehicles with a combination of liquid and solid propellants. They are 49 meters tall, weigh 414 tons at the time of lift off, and have a maximum diameter of 3.4 m at the payload fairing. They can place satellites weighing between 2000-2500 kg into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

June 2001: According to the periodical Defense News, India successfully launches the PJ-10, also known as the BrahMos cruise missile, developed by DRDO and Russia’s NPO Mashinostryenia (NPOM) under a secret 1998 Indo-Russian accord. The missile has a range of 280 kilometers and may be fired from Indian and Russian mobile launchers, ships, submarines and aircraft.

July 2001: India and France reportedly sign a MoU to co-develop and co-produce battlefield surveillance radars and ballistic missiles, and for India to domestically build Scorpene submarines.

August 2001: According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, the Indian Army is to create a second missile regiment, the Strategic Rocket Regiment, to induct the Agni-II intermediate-range ballistic missile.

September 2001: U.S. President George Bush lifts sanctions against India and Pakistan imposed under the Arms Export Control Act.

December 2001: An unclassified summary of the U.S. National Intelligence Council’s (NIC) National Intelligence Estimate claims most components required for an ICBM are found in India’s indigenous space program. India could “convert its polar space launch vehicle into an ICBM within a year or two of a decision to do so.” However, the report cautions that while India is striving for self-sufficiency, it still relies “heavily” on foreign assistance. The NIC also states that India will probably not deploy its Sagarika submarine-launched ballistic missile until 2010 or later.

December 2001: India successfully test-fires a 250 km extended-range version of the Prithvi missile, developed for the Indian Air Force. The indigenously developed surface-to-surface missile is one of the five missiles being developed under the IGMDP. The earlier version of the Prithvi is already in service with India’s Army.

March 2002: India’s Ministry of Defense announces that the Agni-II ballistic missile has entered into production phase and will soon be inducted into the Army.

March 2002: Scientists at India’s LPSC successfully fire an upper-stage cryogenic engine for 12 minutes, the duration it will fire during actual flight. On the same day, ISRO successfully tests an improved variant of the two-meter diameter solid-propellant motor that powers the third stage of the PSLV. Improvements include “optimization of the motor case and nozzle and increased propellant loading.”

April 2002: Jane’s Defence Weekly reports that, according to U.S. intelligence sources and contrary to the claims of Indian officials, the first test of a single-stage variant of the Agni was a failure. The missile flew its anticipated range of 700 km, but the warhead failed to separate.

June 2002: The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in its Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions states that India “still lacks engineering or production expertise in some key missile technologies.” The report adds that during 2001 Russia and Western Europe remained the main sources of missile-related and dual-use technology to fill these gaps.

July 2002: According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, Indian defense officials claim that India has acquired two Green Pine radar systems from Israel, but say they have had little success in developing a missile defense capability against a possible Pakistani attack.

December 2002: The CIA in its Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions states that India was among the countries supplying assistance to Libya’s ballistic missile program.

January 2003: India has allocated $1 billion to the DRDO for the development of hypersonic missile systems, powered by an indigenously developed cryogenic engine fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

January 2003: The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approves the creation of a Strategic Forces Command (SFC) to manage and administer all nuclear and strategic forces. The Nuclear Command Authority (NCA), comprised of a Political Council and an Executive Council, will be responsible for India’s nuclear arsenal.

January 2003: India reportedly places under its SFC two operational missile groups of the Indian Army, which possess the 150-250 km-range Prithvi and the 2,500 km-range Agni nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

May 2003: India conducts the second launch of its GSLV, lifting a 1,800 kg experimental communications satellite. Unlike the first flight, when the GSLV’s Russian-made cryogenic upper stage burned out four seconds too soon, this launch occurred without incident. ISRO announces that once declared operational, the GSLV will “make the Indian space program a self reliant one.” This was part of the GSLV-Mark I and Mark II series.

May 2003: The Indian periodical Vayu announces that with the lifting of “restrictions imposed by collaborators,” India’s Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) has been cleared for missile exports. BDL manufactures a variety of missiles including the Prithvi-I and Prithvi-II surface-to-surface missiles.

August 2003: R. N. Agarwal, the former Director of the Agni missile project and currently the Director of the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), states that the carbon composite content of the new Agni variants will be increased from 35 to 80 percent making them lighter and able travel longer distances. Agarwal says that the Agni’s re-entry heat shield is entirely made up of carbon composite.

October 2003: India clears the short-range Agni-I and medium-range Agni-II surface-to-surface missiles for the Army.

December 2003: Indian Defense sources indicate that the BrahMos cruise missile has been configured for launch from submarines. Submarine-to-surface launch is one of the four BrahMos designs, which are anticipated to include air-to-surface, ship-to-surface, and surface-to-surface. The missile was launched successfully from a surface ship and travelled 290 km to its target.

January 2004: India and the United States agree under the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership with India (NSSP) to expand cooperation in civilian nuclear programs, civilian space programs, and high-technology trade, including expanded dialogue on missile defense. This agreement initiates three major steps: removal of ISRO from the Department of Commerce Entity List, removal of export license requirements for items subject to Export Administration Regulations EAR99, and establishment of a presumption of approval for all items not controlled for nuclear proliferation reasons.

March 2004: India successfully test-fires an “improved” version of its Prithvi-II surface-to-surface ballistic missile with an extended-range of 250 km and “much higher accuracy,” according to a defense ministry official.

September 2004: India conducts the first operational flight of its GSLV, lifting a 1,950 kg spacecraft. This was part of the GSLV-Mark I and II series.

October 2004: India conducts a launch of its single-stage, Prithvi-III missile.

November 2004: India successfully test-fires the 350 km-range Dhanush missile, marking the induction of the system into the Navy.

December 2004: The Russian Federal Space Agency says that it will continue cooperation with India in the development of an oxygen-hydrogen booster for space rockets.

December 2004: India and Russia sign 10 agreements on space, defense, and aviation, including an agreement to jointly cooperate on satellite manufacture and launch under the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). Russia’s Federal Space Agency head, Anatoly Perminov, states that India’s military use of the GLONASS system, which could help improve the accuracy of Indian missiles, has not been ruled out.

February 2005: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam states before Parliament that the BrahMos missile “has been successfully tested … and is ready for induction” into India’s military.

May 2005: ISRO’s four-stage solid and liquid propellant PSLV-C6 successfully propelled two satellites into polar sun synchronous orbit. The Spacecraft Control Centre of ISTRAC at Bangalore will continuously monitor the CARTOSAT-1, which is a cartographic satellite mounted with two cameras with 2.5 meter spatial resolution and 30 km coverage, and the HAMSAT, which is a micro-satellite intended for radio transmission.

May 2005: India’s Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, passes the Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Bill, which bans proliferation of mass destruction weapon and missile technology.

May 2005: India has reportedly added the short-range Agni-I and intermediate-range Agni-II to its Strategic Forces Command arsenal.

May 2005: Agni program director, Dr. R. N. Agarwal says that the Agni-III, India’s long-range ballistic missile designed to be capable of hitting targets 3,000 to 3,500 km away, will be ready for flight testing by the end of 2005.

June 2005: The Weapons of Mass Destruction and Their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Bill receives presidential assent.

June 2005: India’s VSSC, which is run by ISRO, has begun work on its first hypersonic wind tunnel (HWT).

July 2005: A joint venture between Russia’s Mashinostroenie Scientific Industrial Association and India’s DRDO has begun mass production of the BrahMos cruise missile. The Indian Navy has placed the first order for the missile, which is also anticipated to be fielded by the Russian Navy. The baseline version is an anti-ship missile, which also may be fired from air platforms.

August 2005: India’s Defense Secretary Yogendera Narain states that India has acquired a Green Pine radar from Israel for “advanced research,” after three to four years of discussions.

August 2005: The U.S. Department of Commerce removes from the Entity List ISRO subordinates: ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC), ISRO Intertial Systems Unit (IISU), and Space Applications Center.

October 2005: India and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretaries sign a formalized agreement on notification at least 72 hours ahead of ballistic missile tests. Contained within the agreement is a bilateral pledge not to set up any missile test launch site within 40 km of the Line of Control or the international border.

January 2006: ISRO successfully tests a prototype of the Supersonic Combustion Ramjet (SCRAMJET) engine at VSSC at Thiruvananthapuram. SCRAMJET is an air- breathing rocket system which uses the atmospheric oxygen from its surroundings to burn the stored on-board fuel to produce forward thrust.

July 2006: India reportedly conducts an unsuccessful test of its nuclear-capable Agni-III ballistic missile from the Wheeler Island facility off the coast of Orissa. The missile crashed into the Bay of Bengal, falling 1,000 km short of its target.

July 2006: India conducts the second operational flight of the GSLV (GSLV-F02) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, but its satellite fails to reach orbit. This was part of the GSLV-Mark I and II series.

November 2006: The BrahMos cruise missile is inducted into the Indian Defense forces.

January 2007: ISRO successfully launches two Indian satellites, the Cartosat-2 and Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1), along with an Indonesian satellite and an Argentinian satellite, using its PSLV-C7. The combined payload of the four satellites is 1,292 kg.

April 2007: India successfully test-fires the nuclear-capable Agni-III ballistic missile from Wheeler Island. This was its first successful test.

July 2007: According to the Calcutta Telegraph, Advanced Systems Laboratories, a DRDO lab, is developing a new cruise missile named the Nirbhay (the fearless). The Nirbhay is expected to have the capability to be launched from land-based, sea-based, and air-based platforms.

July 2007: India reveals that it has successfully tested the Sagarika submarine launched cruise missile (SLCM). According to DRDO sources, the Sagarika has a range of 1,000 km and has been accepted for induction by the Indian navy.

March 2008: Parthasarathy Sudarshan, the owner of Cirrus Electronics, pleads guilty to illegally exporting 500 controlled microprocessors and other electronic components from the United States to Indian government entities involved in India’s strategic weapons programs. Recipients included VSSC and Bharat Dynamics Ltd., two Indian entities involved in ballistic missile production, and the Aeronautical Development Establishment.

May 2008: India successfully tests the Prithvi-II ballistic missile from ITR at Chandipur as part of an army training exercise. The missile is launched with an improved inertial navigation system.

September 2008: Siddabasappa Suresh, an Indian national, and Rajaram Engineering Corporation, an Indian corporation, are charged in a U.S. court for the illegal export of over 100 controlled goods from the United States to Indian government entities involved with India’s ballistic missile program from 2001-2003. The exports have an estimated value of $136,000. Included in the indictment are six shipments to VSSC of instruments used in the development of missile delivery systems.

September 2008: India and Russia agree to begin joint development of a follow-on to the BrahMos cruise missile, the BrahMos-II. The BrahMos- II will be a hypersonic missile able to fly at speeds of over Mach 5.

October 2008: The Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft is successfully launched from Shriharikota using the PSLV-C11.

November 2008: India successfully tests the nuclear-capable surface-to-surface Shourya missile from ITR. The Shourya is a two-stage solid propellant missile with a range of 700 km. It is 10 meters long with a 74 cm diameter, weighs 6.2 tons, and is road-mobile. This was its first successful test.

December 2008: India successfully tests the BrahMos cruise missile from a naval warship in the Bay of Bengal. This was the first time that the BrahMos was launched from a sea-based universal vertical launcher.

March 2009: India successfully conducts two tests of the BrahMos Block-II cruise missile, both from a mobile launcher at the Pokhran ranges. The new version is equipped with a homing device for greater accuracy. With these successes the BrahMos Block-II is declared ready for induction.

April 2009: According to Agence France Presse, India successfully tests an improved version of the Prithvi-II ballistic missile from ITR at Chandipur.

November 2009: India conducts a night-time test of the Agni-II ballistic missile from ITR on Wheeler Island. The test fails when the missile falters just before second stage separation and deviates from the intended trajectory.

February 2010: India successfully tests the Agni-III ballistic missile from Wheeler Island in the Bay of Bengal. With this fourth successful test, the Agni-III is declared to be ready for induction into the Indian armed forces.

March 2010: India successfully test-fires a vertically launched version of the BrahMos cruise missile. The BrahMos is cleared for induction into the Indian Air Force (IAF).

March 2010: An Advanced Technology Vehicle (ATV-D01) developed by ISRO and equipped with a scramjet engine combustor module is successfully launched from SDSC, SHAR.

April 2010: The GSLV-D3 is launched with the GSAT-4 satellite on board, but does not reach orbit as a result of a failure in the vehicle’s cryogenic stage.

August 2010: The DRDO announces that Russian-built Global Navigation Satellite System (Glonass) receivers have successfully been used to enhance the accuracy of the BrahMos cruise missile.

December 2010: India successfully tests an upgraded BrahMos cruise missile, the Block III, from ITR at Chandipur. The upgraded version is equipped with improved guidance and upgraded software. This was the first successful test of the BrahMos Block III.

December 2010: According to the Hindu, India conducts an unsuccessful test of the Agni-II Prime (Agni-II P) ballistic missile from ITR at Wheeler Island. The missile deviated from its path soon after lift-off and crashed into the sea. The Agni-II P reportedly has a range of 3,000 km, up from the 2,000 km range of the Agni-II.

January 2011: The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) removes nine entities from its Entity List that are connected with India’s space and missile programs. The entities are Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), Defence Research and Development Lab (DRDL), Missile Research and Development Complex, Solid State Physics Laboratory, Liquid Propulsion Systems Center, Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant (SPROB), SHAR, and VSSC.

March 2011: According to the Press Trust of India, Indian Defence Minister A. K. Antony announces that India is developing a variant of the Agni missile with a range of 5,000 km known as the Agni-V.

July 2011: India successfully tests its newest surface-to-surface missile, the Prahaar, from a road mobile launcher at ITR at Chandipur. The Prahaar is a tactical missile with a range of 150 km. It is 7.3 meters long and has a diameter of 420 mm, and can carry a payload of up to 200 kg. This was the Prahaar’s first test.

November 2011: India successfully tests the Agni-IV missile from Wheeler Island. The Agni-IV is a two-stage solid-fuel missile with a range of 4,000 km. This was its first successful test. It was previously known as the Agni-II Prime.

March 2012: India successfully tests the nuclear-capable K-15 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from an underwater launching platform off the Visakhapatnam coast. The K-15 has a range of 700 km and can carry a payload of up to 500 kg.

April 2012: India successfully tests the Agni-V ballistic missile from Wheeler Island. The Agni-V is a three-stage missile equipped with a ring laser gyro based inertial navigation system (RINS) and a micro navigation system (MINS). It has a range of 5,000 km. This was the Agni-V’s first test.

July 2012: India conducts an unsuccessful test of the BrahMos cruise missile. This was a developmental test with new components and subsystems produced in India in place of Russian parts.

September 2012: ISRO successfully launches French and Japanese satellites from Shriharikota using the PSLV-C21. This was India’s 100th space mission.

October 2012: India successfully tests the Prithvi-II ballistic missile from the test range at Chandipur. With this test India has tested all variants of the Prithvi and Agni missiles in operational conditions.