India's indegenous 5,000-km range Agni-V nuclear-capable missile that can hit targets in northernmost China is ready for test-firing, Defence Minister AK Antony said in Hyderabad on Friday but declined to state when this would happen.
The missile was developed following the denial of technology to India. "The denial has only given us an opportunity to develop a 5,000-km range missile," Antony said.
The minister was speaking after laying foundation stone for expansion of the Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited (Midhani) defence public sector company.
He said Indian scientists working in many critical areas have proved that India can overcome sanctions and denials. "When we face denial, we should take it us a God-sent opportunity and a challenge," he told the scientists present on the occassion.
Later, in a chat with reporters, Antony declined to give any date for the test-firing of the Agni-V, India's only inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Allaying apprehensions that the defence sector would lose able hands with the retirement of present generation of scientists, the defence Minister assured that new blood would be injected. "More new scientists, officers and workers will come into the defence sector," he said.
Antony promised all support to develop Midhani as a world-class company. He advised the company to go beyond its goal of achieving a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore. "The sky is the limit. You have a major role to play in meeting the requirements of ISRO, AEC and new areas in defence," he said.
While talking to reporters, he said there was a need to encourage more private sector participation in defence production.
He said India's policy on defence production was evolving. "It is a continuous process," he said.
He pointed out that there was a time when India used to import everything but this had now come down and the country had also permitted 100 per cent private sector participation in defence production.
Antony said the country now allowed 26 per cent FDI in defence production and also had an offset clause to help Indian industry.
Under the clause, foreign companies that bag an Indian defence contract worth over Rs.300 crore have to plough 30 per cent of the value back into the country by way of purchase of local components, services or investments.
Antony also inaugurated an indigenously-built electro-slag refining (ESR) furnace.
He noted that Midhani which started commercial production in 1983 with a modest turnover of Rs 8 crore, had now reached Rs.370 crore. The expansion, with an investment of Rs.400 crore to Rs.600 crore in three phases is expected to increase the turnover to Rs.1000 crore in five years.
Midhani Chairman and Managing Director Narayana Rao said the company, which was set up for self-reliance in critical defence material, has been supporting programmes in the space, defence, aeronautics and atomic energy sectors.