India's air-defence capability achieved a new milestone on Monday when two Prithvi-II missiles, launched from two different test ranges, struck each other and crashed into the Bay of Bengal off the Orissa coast. This was the first interception test done by the DRDO using two 'live' missiles.
The target Prithvi-II missile was first fired from the launch complex No-3 (LC-3) of the shore-based Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Chandipur at 10.15 am. A thunderous applause followed as the countdown ended and the missile soared into the sky after a perfect lift-off.
After a gap of 60 seconds, another missile was fired from LC-4 located on Inner Wheeler Island off the Bhadrak coast, 72 kms south of the Chandipur ITR. The second missile was meant to intercept the first one.
DRDO scientists tracked the trajectory of both the missiles using different telemetry stations, sophisticated radars and electro-optico telescopes.
"The post-flight analyses of both the missiles proved that all the mission objectives have been achieved," said a DRDO official. The nuclear-capable Prithvi-II missile has a range of 250 kms and can carry a 550-kg payload.
The missiles tests, which were scheduled for Sunday, were deferred till Monday due to technical glitches. After the failure of the Agni-III missile in July this year, the success of the co-ordinated Prithvi-II tests is just what the DRDO wanted.
With Monday's successful tests, the Prithvi-II surface-to-surface missiles can be deployed to guard the metros against air attacks. It can also be deployed near sensitive installations and the border. The nuclear capable Prithvi-II missile has a range of 250-kms and can carry a 550-kg payload.
As the post-flight and telemetry data of both the missiles are still being analysed by DRDO scientists, the exact timing of the interception and the distance from the coast where the missiles collided and plunged into the sea could not be conclusively known.
According to sources, both the missiles intercepted and "appear to have plunged into the sea 70-kms away from the Orissa coast". Sources refused to reveal the interception time programmed for both the missiles.
People living within a 2-kms radius of the ITR were evacuated to two temporary shelters on Monday morning. Authorities moved out 660 families—2,255 adults and 619 children—to temporary shelters.