The nuclear capable intermediate range ballistic missile Agni-III, with a range of more than 3,000 kilometres, was test-fired successfully from Wheeler Island off Orissa’s coast in the Bay of Bengal on Wednesday.
“The test is a complete success and has met all its mission objectives,” said Avinash Chander, programme director of the Agni missile system. “The missile is now ready for induction.”
Agni-III took off from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Wheeler Island at 9.56 a.m. and reached its pre-designated target in 800 seconds.
It achieved a peak height of 350 kilometre, travelling at a speed of more than 4,000 metres per second. Two Indian naval ships anchored near the splashdown point of the test missile confirmed its impact, Defence Research & Development Organisation sources said.
Defence Minister A.K. Anthony and a host of senior defence personnel and DRDO scientists witnessed the launch.
The missile, which can carry both conventional and nuclear payloads of up to 1.5 tonnes, is powered by a two-stage solid propellant system. It is 16 metres long, with a diameter of two meters, and a launch weight of 48 tonnes.
Agni-III is the result of eight years of research by the DRDO. “It is built with nearly 95-98 per cent indigenous technology,” Major General (Retd) R.K. Sahu, who was mission director for all missile systems at the ITR from 1999-2004, told the Hindustan Times.
Agni-III is being seen by security analysts as a deterrent to China’s growing power in the region. “Its range enables it to reach anywhere in Asia, from Japan to Israel. All of China will be within its range,” said a senior Defence
“In principle, the Agni-III is an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM). But today’s test has brought the country closer towards developing an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM),” said Major General Sahu.
The DRDO has already begun an ICBM project whose missile has been named Surya. But its details remain wrapped in secrecy.
This is the third test of the Agni-III and the second successful one. It was test-fired for the first time on July 9, 2006, but due to a snag at the separation stage, it plunged into the sea soon after its launch. The failure was attributed to the missile’s second stage, which failed to ignite.
On April 12, 2007, however, the Agni-III was successfully test-fired from the same venue, Wheeler Island.
With inputs from Drimi Chaudhuri, Kolkata.