Indian Missiles

Last Updated: May 2023 (Indian Missiles)

Indian Missiles

This article deals with the ‘Indian Missiles.’ This is part of our series on ‘Science and Technology’ which is an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.

Classification of Missiles

Missiles can be classified in a number of ways

1. Type 

  • Cruise Missile: It is an unmanned self-propelled (till the time of impact) guided vehicle and aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path. 
  • Ballistic Missile: It is propelled for the initial stage and later works under the influence of gravity.

2. Launch Mode

  • Surface-to-Surface Missile
  • Surface-to-Air Missile
  • Surface (Coast)-to-Sea Missile
  • Air-to-Air Missile
  • Air-to-Surface Missile
  • Sea-to-Sea Missile
  • Sea-to-Surface (Coast) Missile
  • Anti-Tank Missile

3. Range

  • Tactical Missiles: 150 to 300 Km
  • Short Range Missile: 300 to 1000 km 
  • Medium Range Missile: 1000-3500 km 
  • Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile: 3500-5500 km
  • Intercontinental Ballistic Missile  : >5500 km

4. Propulsion System

Missiles can have the following type of propulsion systems

  • Solid Propulsion: Uses solid fuel.
  • Liquid Propulsion: Uses liquid fuel.
  • Hybrid Propulsion: Uses a mixture of fuels.
  • Cryogenic: Uses gaseous fuels solidified at extremely low temperatures.

5. Warhead

5.1 Conventional Warhead

  • Conventional warheads are filled with chemical explosives. 
  • It relies on the detonation of the explosive and the resulting metal casing fragmentation as kill mechanisms.

5.2 Strategic Warhead

  • Radioactive materials are present, and when triggered, they exhibit tremendous radioactivity that can wipe out cities.
  • They are generally designed for mass annihilation.

6. Guidance Systems

Guided Missile

  • Guided missiles can manoeuvre within a flight. They are guided by the sensors fitted in them. E.g., infrared sensor. 
  • They are primarily designed to hit and destroy heavily-armoured tanks & other armoured fighting vehicles. 
  • They can be launched from aircraft, helicopters, tanks, and shoulder-mounted launchers.

Type of guidance systems

  1. Wire Guidance
  2. Command Guidance
  3. Terrain Comparison Guidance
  4. Terrestrial Guidance
  5. Inertial Guidance
  6. Beam Rider Guidance
  7. Laser Guidance
  8. RF and GPS Reference

Note: India’s Missile testing facility is situated at Chandipur (Wheeler Island/Abdul Kalam Island), Odisha (Bay of Bengal) 

On the basis of type

1. Cruise Missile

What are Cruise Missiles?

  • A cruise missile is
    1. self-propelled 
    2. unmanned
    3. guided vehicle
  • It sustains flight through aerodynamic lift for most of its flight path. 
  • Its primary mission is to place ordnance or special payload on a target.
  • Cruise missiles fly within the Earth’s atmosphere. 
  • It sustains the flight using Jet Engine Technology. 
  • Cruise Missile can have the varying speed or ability to penetrate the enemy’s defences.

Parts of Cruise Missiles

Cruise Missiles have the following components

  1. Guidance system: This guides the missile during its flight.
  2. Payload: Conventional or strategic warhead which missile intends to deliver. 
  3. Propulsion System: Engine (usually Jet Engine) which propels the missile.

Classification of Cruise Missiles

1. Subsonic Cruise Missile

  • Subsonic Cruise Missiles fly at a speed lesser than the speed of sound (around 0.8 Mach). 
  • E.g., Nirbhay of India, Harpoon & Tomahawk of USA and Exocet of France.

2. Supersonic Cruise Missile

  • Supersonic Cruise Missiles travel at a speed of around 2-3 Mach, i.e. it travels a kilometre approximately in a second. 
  • Its lethal capabilities are further improved due to the combined effect of supersonic speed and mass of warhead, which provides enormous kinetic energy.
  • BRAHMOS (a joint venture of India & Russia) is the only known versatile supersonic cruise missile system in service globally. 

3. Hypersonic Cruise Missile

  • Hypersonic Cruise Missiles travel at speeds higher than 5 Mach. 
  • Countries, including India, are working on manufacturing this class of missiles. Examples include Brahmos- II. In 2023, India tested its HYPERSONIC TECHNOLOGY DEMONSTRATOR VEHICLE (HSTDV), which uses Scramjet Engine to reach Hypersonic Speeds.
  • China has recently tested Hypersonic Cruise Missiles. 

2. Ballistic Missiles

What are Ballistic Missiles?

  • Ballistic Missiles have ballistic trajectories, i.e. they are guided only during the relatively brief period of the initially powered phase of flight & the rest of the course is determined by the law of orbital mechanics & ballistics. 
Indian Missiles
  • They are categorized according to their range & carry a huge payload. 
  • They can be launched from various platforms such as ships and land-based facilities. 
  • For example, Prithvi I, Prithvi II, Agni I, Agni II and Dhanush ballistic missiles. 

Side Topic: Anti Ballistic Missiles

  • They are used to neutralise ballistic missiles. 
  • They are missiles for missile defence. 

Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP)

  • Dr A P J Abdul Kalam conceived IGMDP to enable India to attain self-sufficiency in missile technology. 
  • Keeping in mind the defence forces’ requirements, the team recommended developing five missile systems. 
  • IGMDP finally got approval from the Government of India in 1983

What was the need for IGMDP?

  • It has the advantage of delivering a higher payload beyond the range of the combat aircraft. 
  • These are one-way devices. Hence, there is no danger of loss as associated with loss of combat aircraft & their crew. 
  • These missiles travel at a very high speed that makes interception difficult.  
  • DRDO ended IGMDP on 8 January 2008 after making India self-reliant in Missile Technology. Presently, the Agni Missile Development Program to develop new versions of Agni is running as a separate program. 

The missiles developed under the program are

P Prithvi Short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile
A Agni Intermediate-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile 
T Trishul Short-range low-level surface-to-air missile 
N Nag Third generation anti-tank missile 
A Akash  Medium-range surface-to-air missile

1. Prithvi 

  • It was the first missile developed under IGMP and was inducted into the Indian Army in 1994.
  • Prithvi is a surface to surface missile. 
  • It has a short range of 150-350 km. (Range increases as number increases: Prithvi I=150, II=250 and III=350kms.)
  • Its naval version is known as Dhanush. Dhanush can be launched from Navy ships.

1.1 Prithvi 1

Name SS150
Range 150km
Used by Army
Payload 1000kg

Update: Prithvi 1 will be replaced by Prahar Missile, developed by DRDO. It has a range of 150 Km. It is extremely precise and is fitted with modern navigation, guidance and actuation systems.  

1.2 Prithvi II

Name SS250
Range 250 Km
Used by Air Force
Payload 300 Kg

1.3 Prithvi III

Name SS 350
Range 350 Km
Used by Navy
Payload 1000  Kg

1.4 Sagarika/ K-15

Name K-15.
Speciality Nuclear capable submarine variant of  Prithvi missile.
Range 250-350 KM
Engine It has 2 stage engine, and both the engines are solid fuelled
1. First Stage: Underwater booster that powers the missile to 5 Km above the surface of the ocean. 
2. Second Stage: Propels the missile above the water.

1.5 Dhanush

Speciality Ship launched version of Prithvi.
Range Initially, 150 km but later increased to 350 km.
Payload 500-1000 kg

1.6 Pradyuman

  • Prithvi Air Defence Missile/Anti Ballistic Missile is named Pradyuman Ballistic Missile Interceptor. 
  • It can intercept the ballistic missiles of 300 to 2000 km class up to the altitude of 80 Km.
  • DRDO is working to enhance it to intercepts till 5000+ km range & engaging them at an altitude of 150 km.

2. Agni

  • It is the intermediate & long range Surface to Surface Ballistic Missile built by DRDO. 
  • These are capable of delivering nuclear warheads. 

2.1 Agni-1

  • Range: 700 -900 Kms
  • Max speed: Mach 12
  • It was the first missile in the family of Agni Missiles.
  • It bridges the gap between Prithvi & Agni 2. 

Agni Prime

  • It is the advanced version of Agni-1. 
  • It was test-fired successfully in June 2021.
  • Range: 1000 to 1500 Km 
  • Payload: 1,000 Kg
  • It has advanced features like
    1. High Agility
    2. Road Mobility
    3. Cannisterisation i.e. can be transported in canisters
    4. Lighter and sleeker than Agni-1

2.2 Agni-2

  • Range: 2000 km  
  • Max speed: Mach 13
  • It can carry a nuclear warhead.  
  • It is also provided with GPS to hit targets accurately. 

2.3 Agni-3

  • Range: 3000 km
  • It is the most accurate missile in this class.

2.4 Agni-4

  • Twenty meters tall and has two stages solid-fuel engine.
  • It can carry nuclear weapons
  • Range: 4000 km
  • It has heat shields. Hence, the missile can withstand above 4000°C temperature when it re-enters the earth’s atmosphere.

2.5 Agni-5

  • Agni-5 was inducted into the elite Strategic Forces Command in 2018.  
  • It has a design similar to that of Agni-3 with an extra stage.    
  • Range: Above 5000 (but Chinese experts say that Agni’s range is 8000 km and India is misguiding the world).
  • Max speed: Mach 24
  • It has MIRV capability (MIRV = Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicle . MIRV means one missile can carry several warheads, each for different targets).
  • Newspapers say it to be Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile(ICBM) (but according to definition, ICBM has a range greater than 5500 Km). 
  • It can be launched from canister & is road-mobile. Cannisterization makes this missile very agile and increases the shelf life of the missile by protecting it from the harsh climate.

Strategic Importance of Agni-5

  • It has brought areas as far as Beijing within the striking capability of New Delhi. Hence, it will act as a deterrent
  • Possibility as Anti-Satellite Missile: It can be converted to Anti Satellite Missile with certain modifications. 

2.6 Agni VI

  • It is an ICBM. But it is speculated to be in very rudimentary stages of development, albeit never formally acknowledged by DRDO.
  • It can be launched from submarine and land.
  • It has a range of (approx.) 6,000 Km along with MIRV capabilities. 
  • There are some speculations that this missile has already been christened as Surya. 

Side Topic – ICBM

  • ICBMs have a range of more than 5500 km. 
  • It can carry both conventional & nuclear warheads. 
  • Russia has the largest number of ICBMs (only five countries have them, i.e. 5 Permanent members of the Security Council). 

3. Trishul

  • It is a ‘Short-range Surface to Air Missile’ (SAM).
  • It has a range of 9 Km.
  • It can be fitted with a 5.5 Kg warhead. 
  • Trishul is Radar guided missile.
  • It is developed for two purposes.
    1. To defend naval vessels against missiles.
    2. As a short-range surface to air missile.
  • But Trishul missiles have faced persistent problems. Hence, the Trishul missile is planned to be replaced by the Maitri Missile, a blend of French Mica Missile and DRDO’s Trishul.

4. Nag

  • It is a ‘Third generation Anti Tank missile’. 
  • Range = 3 to 7 km
  • Payload = 42 kg 
  • It is an all-weather, top attack missile with fire and forgets capability.  

It has various versions such as helicopter or rooftop or tank mounted.

HeliNa Helicopter Version of Nag.
SANT SANT = Standoff Anti-Tank Missile
It is a ‘fourth generation’ upgraded version of the HeliNa missile with an advanced node-mounted seeker.
NAMICA Nag Missile Carrier or NAMICA is an amphibious and armoured le carrier designed for Nag Missile.

5. Akash

  • It is a ‘Surface to Air Missile‘ (SAM).
  • It can target aircraft up to 25 km away (Medium Range), at altitudes up to 18Km.
  • Its launch weight is 720 kg.  
  • It can achieve a speed of 2.5 Mach.
  • It has an integrated ramjet propulsion system.
  • A self-destruction device is also integrated into it.  
  • It uses RAM jet propulsion while the booster stage is solid fuelled. 
  • Akash flies at supersonic speed, reaching around Mach 2.5.
  • It can destroy many targets at once, using the Rajendra radar system. Since Rajendra Radar completely guides it without any active guidance system, it allows greater capability against jamming as aircraft self-protection jammer has to work against high power radar.
  • It can be launched from static platforms and mobile platforms such as tanks and armoured missile carriers.
  • It was inducted into Indian Armed Forces in 2014. 
  • In 2020, the Indian Government decided that Akash Missile could be exported to friendly foreign countries.  
Akash Missile

Side Topic: Akash-NG

  • Akash-NG = Akash New Generation
  • It is a new generation of Surface to Air missiles.
  • It is meant for use by the Indian Air Force to intercept high manoeuvring low RCS (Radar Cross Section) aerial threats.

Guided Missiles outside IGMDP & in news

1. K Series

  • K series is explicitly developed for submarines. 
  • These missiles are dedicated to Abdul Kalam (K stands for Kalam).

Missiles of the K series include 


  • It is also known as Sagarika.
  • It is a submarine variant of the Prithvi Missile.  


  • K-4 is a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM).
  • It will arm the Arihant-class submarines. 
  • Range: 3,500 Km
  • Note: K-4 was developed to overcome the difficulty of fitting AGNI-III in equipping INS Arihant.


  • K-5 is equivalent to Agni-5 for Submarines. 
  • It is in developing stages. 
K Series Submarine Launched Missiles

2. Barak -8 / LRSAM

  • It is a Surface to Air Missile. It is also known as LRSAM (Long Range Surface to Air Missile). 
  • It is a Joint Venture of DRDO & Israel Aerospace Industries.
  • Speed: 2 Mach 
  • Range: 90 KM (80-100 Km) 
  • Flight Ceiling (max height achieved) = 16 Km
  • It will also be installed on INS Vikramaditya.
Long Range Surface to Air 
Missile (LRSAM) 
Joint Venture of DRDO & 
Israel Aerospace Industries 
= 90 KM (80-100 KM) 
= 2 Mach 


  • MRSAM = Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile
  • DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries have developed it. 
  • It has naval and army versions. 
  • It has a range of more than 50 km.
  • It can reach up to the speed of 2 Mach.
  • It can target multiple targets simultaneously. 


  • QRSAM = Quick Reaction Surface-to-Air missiles 
  • It is being developed to replace Akash Missiles. 
  • Range: 25-30 Km
  • It has the ability to strike low flying targets.
  • It can hit multiple targets. 


  • VL-SRSM = Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile 
  • It is designed specifically for Indian Naval warships.
  • It has been developed jointly by DRDO.
  • Range: 40 Km
  • It can hit multiple targets.

6. Astra

  • Astra is an ‘Air to Air missile’ to destroy enemy aircraft.
  • It is developed by DRDO
  • It can be integrated into Su-30 MKI, Mirage 2000, LCA, MIG 29 etc. 
  • It has Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air to air capability with a 25 to 40 km strike range.  
  • Speed = up to 4 Mach. 
Astra Missile

7. Naval Anti-Ship Missile (Short Range) or NASM-SR

  • Manufactured by DRDO.
  • It has range of 55 km and can go up to the altitude of 3 km.
  • It can carry 100 kg and can travel at speed of 0.8 Mach.

8. Python-5

  • Python-5 is an Air-to-Air Missile of Israeli origin.
  • It has a range of 20 to 50 km and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) capabilities.
  • It has been integrated into Tejas fighter aircraft.

9. Popeye

  • Popeye is an Air-to-Surface missile and can be easily integrated into fighter aircraft. 
  • Range: 80 km
  • India has procured it from Israel.
  • It can carry nuclear warheads.

10. Rudram

  • Rudram is an Anti-Radiation Missile indigenously developed by DRDO. 
  • It will be installed on Sukhoi aircraft and used to destroy enemy radars by detecting the radio signals coming from those radars.
  • With this, IAF can perform SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defence) operations deep into enemy territory to destroy enemy air defence setup.

11. Shaurya

  • Shaurya is a hypersonic missile with nuclear capabilities. 
  • Range: 1,000 Km
  • Shaurya has a canister based system, giving it extra mobility. 
  • Shaurya is a land-based parallel of the submarine-launched K-15 missile.

12. Pralay

  • Pralay is a Surface to Surface missile indigenously developed by DRDO.
  • It is India’s first quasi-ballistic missile.
  • Range: 150-500 km.
  • It can carry a warhead weighing between 350-700 kg.
  • It is equipped with state-of-the-art navigation mechanisms. 

13. Spike Missiles

  • Spike Missiles are Anti-Tank Missiles from Israel. 
  • It is made in India in plant setup in Hyderabad with Kalyani Group holding 51% and Rafael Aerospace (of Israel) holding 49% stake.

14. Amogha -I

  • It is an indigenously developed ‘second generation‘ ‘anti-tank’ guided missile. 
  • Range: 2.8 km  
  • It is developed by Bharat Heavy Dynamics Limited (BDL).

15. Dhruvastra

  • Dhruvastra is an Anti-Tank Guided Missile indigenously developed by DRDO.
  • It comes in two variants i.e.
    1. Helicopter launched: It will be integrated into helicopters.
    2. Tank launched: It will be integrated into Arjun Tanks.

16. Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) 

  • Developed indigenously by DRDO.
  • MPATGM is a low-weight anti-tank missile with fire & forget capability which can be launched from a man-portable launcher integrated with thermal sight.

16. SANT (Stand-Off Anti-Tank) Missile

  • Helicopter launched Anti-Tank Missile indigenously developed by DRDO. 
  • Range: 10 km

Cruise Missiles of India

1. Brahmos

  • It is a joint venture of DRDO & Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia  – BrahMos Aerospace Private Ltd.
  • It is named after two rivers, i.e. Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.
  • Brahmos is essentially an anti-ship missile. 
  • Brahmos is unique because it is the only Supersonic cruise missile worldwide (with a speed close to 3 Mach).
  • It has a range of 290 km. 
  • It can carry a payload of 300kg.
  • Advanced avionics with ‘fire and forget’ capability.
  • Other specifications include internal guidance, high speed, stealth properties, advanced jamming protection.  
  • It can be installed on ships, submarines, aircraft and ground vehicles. 
  • BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited (BAPL) is making BrahMos II with hypersonic capabilities speed up to Mach 8.
  • In 2022, the Philippines bought BrahMos missiles from India.

In 2016, India became a Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) member. Subsequently, India and Russia planned to jointly develop a new generation of Brahmos missiles with a 600 km-plus range. Earlier, its range was restricted to sub-300 km. (note: MTCR applies on missiles with a range of more than 300 km).


2. Nirbhay

  • It is a ‘Surface to Surface cruise missile’. 
  • Speed: 0.7 Mach. 
  • Range = 800 km. 
  • Nirbhay is India’s first long-range subsonic cruise missile.
  • It is almost similar to the American Tomahawk missile. 
  • DRDO designed Nirbhaya from a pilotless Lakshya drone (0.68 Mach speed).  
  • It is a loitering missile as Nirbhay can circle over an area for many minutes and pick out the target.
  • It can avoid detection by flying at a very low altitude.  
  • 80% of Nirbhay parts are built in India.

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