India tests intermediate range nuclear capable missile
Apr 12, 2007 - 11:12:56 PM
New Delhi, April 12 - Indian scientists successfully tested a fire-and-forget Agni-III Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile - Thursday.
Fired from the Wheeler Island in the Bay of Bengal on India's eastern coast, the missile reached its designated target in 15 minutes in the Indian Ocean, proving the success of the Made-in-India propulsion and guidance systems, Ministry of Defence - spokesman Sitanshu Kar told IANS.
He did not say how far the dummy target was but indications are that it was around 3,000-km away, and the impact of the missile's kinetic energy and the explosion of the single, conventional warhead had the desired result.
'It was a textbook launch with precision hit,' Kar said adding that ground control did not guide the missile although stations along India's eastern coast, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and two naval ships monitored the flight path.
Details are likely to be made public after the test parameters are assessed and a report of the newly acquired capability is submitted to the government.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju, Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt and Defence Research and Development Organisation - head M. Natarajan congratulated the team of scientists behind the test.
The test was 'an impressive illustration of the indigenous capacity developed by our scientists and technologists in mastering strategic high technologies essential for maintaining the nation's defence and security', the prime minister said in his message.
Antony said the 'Agni-III test has confirmed India's strategic capability for a minimum credible deterrence'.
Defence sources told IANS that Indian scientists were working on putting multiple warheads on the missile.
There is a substantial use of lightweight carbon composite materials in the two-stage Agni-III, but after some more tests and further development, its weight would be reduced to give it multiple warhead capability.
The 16-metre Agni-III weighed 48 tonnes and carried a warhead of 1.5 tonnes.
An IRBM is a missile with 3,000 to 5,000 km range, while missiles with longer reach are designated Inter Continental Ballistic Missile -. There are nearly a dozen types of IRBMs in the world, including with North Korea and China, who shared their technology with Pakistan and Iran as well.
The missile can be launched from various platforms, including from submarines if their size is compatible. As India is already working on submarine-launched BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, it should not be a very difficult task to achieve submarine-launched IRBM capability.
Thursday's test, however, was conducted from a specially-built, mobile railway pad, indicating that it would be deployed in numbers from east to west to ensure secondary strike capability as part of the country's No-First-Use-But-Massive-Retaliation policy.
'The trajectory of Agni-III was computed by the onboard computer system based on the launch and target coordinates. During the flight, the missile had no communication with the ground systems and was fully 'intelligent' to reach its designated target,' a defence ministry statement said.
'The entire flight of approximately 15 minutes validated all mission objectives, primarily to establish the performance of the two-stage propulsion system and the flexible nozzle control system developed by DRDO scientists for the very first time,' it said.
Speaking after the launch, Natarajan made a specific reference to the high degree of self-reliance achieved with Agni-III as most of its sub-systems have been developed within the country.
Referring to the failure of the previous Agni-III test, he said: 'With this success, the design team is happy that the problems faced in the previous attempt on July 9 last year have been fully understood and solved.'
According to mission director Avinash Chander, Thursday's test had proven many of the technologies developed by DRDO.
These included the flexible nozzle controls of the rocket motor during the powered phase, the specially developed composite propellant for the rocket, guidance and control systems with inbuilt fault tolerant avionics, and the withstanding of the severe aero-thermal environment experienced during the re-entry phase, as also coordinated mission management.
Agni means fire in Hindi. Two shorter-range versions of namesake missiles are already in deployment.
Agni-III is the most advanced of the Agni series of missiles. It carries fuel both for propulsion and mid-course corrections if required to fine-tune itself with pre-programmed target coordinates.
Agni-I is a 750-800 km short-range missile while Agni-II has a range of more than 1,500 km.
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