India's missile defence system is set to get a big boost as it is developing capability to intercept enemy missiles fired from a distance of up to 5,000 km, in effect tackling any possible threat from countries such as China.
The capability is being developed by DRDO as part of the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) shield, whose first phase is ready for deployment possibly in Delhi.
Development of the first phase of the BMD programme has been completed, DRDO chief Avinash Chander told PTI in an interview.
Under this, the BMD shield can tackle enemy missiles fired at from ranges up to 2,000 km.
Taking this forward, the DRDO is enhancing the capability of BMD in phase-II to deal with threat from missiles of longer range of up to 5,000 km.
"We are planning to soon carry out the first trial of the phase-II of the programme under which we will test our capability to destroy an incoming ballistic missile fired at us from 5,000 km range," said Chander, who took over charge earlier this month.
"Such a capability meets our immediate threat perception," he said when asked if it would cover the threat of such missiles being fired from countries such as China.
Under the phase II of the programme, all the components of such a missile shield including the radar and interceptor missiles would be new and will have extended ranges, the DRDO chief said.
"The phase II missiles would be totally different from phase-I. In this programme, you need to travel more and intercept further away," Chander said.
While giving details of the programme, he said the phase-I of the shield is ready for deployment.
Asked which city would be the first to be protected by the missile shield, he said, "The first choice for such a deployment would be the capital, New Delhi, as it is the heart of the country."
For deployment, the government will have to give necessary directions after which the components would be put in place.
Chander said DRDO is planning to have a new missile testing range in the Andamans for carrying out the test-firing of systems such as the long-range BMD. This, however, will need various clearances, including from the Environment Ministry.
"We are going to develop missiles with intercept range of 5,000 kms... We are looking for ranges in places such as the Andamans," he said.
The DRDO chief said the organisation was making a proposal for getting clearances from the Environment Ministry for setting up its base there.
"We need to have entire country's support for having the missile range. It is not just a DRDO effort for itself, it is a DRDO effort for the country," he said when asked if he was sure about getting clearances from the Environment Ministry which did not approve the setting up of a radar in the Island territory to save a rare species of bird there.
Chander said having a firing range in the Andamans was important as "we need to have separation distance between two missile units stations so that I can fire a missile from Balasore and intercept it (missile) in Andaman and Nicobar."