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Agni-III ballistic missile ready for launch

India's most powerful nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range of about 3,500 km is ready to be launched.

india Updated: Feb 03, 2006 15:55 IST

India's most powerful nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range of about 3,500 km is ready to be launched.

A decision on its first test will have to be taken by the Government, the country's top defence scientist said on Friday.

Referring to the Agni-III missile, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief M Natarajan said: "We have done all the technical tasks for a project of this nature."

"But when it will be fired, how it will be fired, and where it will be fired is a decision that has to be taken at a higher level," Natarajan said at the Defexpo 2006 arms fair.

Two other versions of the indigenously developed Agni missile - one with a range of 700 km and the other with a range of 2,500 km - have already entered service with the Indian armed forces.

It is believed the DRDO had completed preparations for firing the Agni-III - which is expected to have a range of about 3,500 km - almost a year ago and has been awaiting the green light from the political establishment to test it.

The Agni-III will be capable of carrying a one-tonne conventional or nuclear warhead. It will be propelled by solid fuels, facilitating swifter deployment compared to missiles using a mix of solid and liquid fuels.

DRDO has developed extensive expertise in launching long-range missiles from mobile and railway launchers. This allows the missiles to be scattered all over India before being moved to a launch site by road or rail.

Defence experts said it was unlikely that India would test the missile ahead of US President George W Bush's visit to India next month, in view of the political sensitivities involved with the issue.

The Agni series of ballistic missiles are the most advanced projectiles developed under India's integrated guided missile development programme that began in 1983.

Natarajan, who is also scientific advisor to the defence minister, said: "We wanted to be at a position where technically we can feel confident, and we have reached that."

The DRDO chief also disclosed that his organisation was involved in giving final shape to a low-cost but effective missile defence system.

"It is not possible to give details but progress has been satisfactory with its components," he said.

Certain technologies for the system meant to protect major cities and vital installations from enemy missile attacks had been developed through the indigenous missile programme and DRDO's work on advanced sensors, Natarajan said.

"We have to see how to build on these technologies and once we reach a threshold level, we can conceptualise the missile defence system," he said.

"The Akash missile programme has achieved success and the (missile defence system) will be a multiplication of the capabilities of the Akash."

First Published: Feb 03, 2006 15:55 IST