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Agni III test could mean 5,500-km leap

The missile will put India’s credible minimum deterrence on a firm footing as no missile has the range to strike targets deep inside China, reports Rahul Singh.
Hindustan Times | By Rahul Singh, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 02, 2008 03:18 AM IST

After test-firing its first ever submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will be conducting the third test of the 3,000-km range Agni-III missile in April.

The missile’s maiden launch in July 2006 had failed but the organisation claimed success when it was test-fired again last April. Work on Agni-III began about six years ago.

The missile would put India’s credible minimum deterrence on a firm footing as no missile in the Indian arsenal has the range to strike targets deep inside China.

Agni’s earlier variants, the 700-km Pakistan-specific Agni-I and the 2,000-km range Agni-II have been inducted into the armed forces. A DRDO official confirmed on Tuesday, “We are seeking final clearances. Agni-III’s third launch will be conducted this month.”

DRDO officials say with Agni-III, they have the building blocks to develop an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) that can hit targets more than 5,500 km away.

Agni-III’s induction could take up to two more years as the DRDO plans to conduct at least two more tests to validate the missile before declaring it safe for the armed forces. DRDO officials said most of the sub-systems on Agni-III have been developed in-house with the help of 258 private units and 20 laboratories to cut production delays.

The first test failed because a critical control system malfunctioned due to a rise in temperature inside the base shroud that led to re-circulation of hot gases. Scientists used a thermal barrier at the base for the second test to prevent entry of hot gases.

In February, India moved closer to completing its nuclear triad with the DRDO successfully test-firing the country’s first-ever SLBM, codenamed K-15. The 700-km SLBM would ultimately be mounted on the long-awaited advance technology vehicle (ATV), India's nuclear submarine programme, which would begin sea trials next year.

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