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India to conduct test of Agni-III
Taking a major leap in missile technology, India on Thursday successfully test-fired its most powerful nuclear capable intermediate range ballistic missile Agni-III from the Interim Test Range at the Wheeler's Island in the Bay of Bengal off the Orissa coast.
The indigenously developed two-stage, all-solid fuel, 16-meter-long missile weighing 48 tonnes blasted off at 10.52 am from a fixed platform with the help of an auto launcher in the launch complex-4 of the ITR, located about 72 km from Balasore, defence officials said.
The surface-to-surface missile with a strike range of over 3,000 km and capacity to carry a payload of 1.5 tonnes has the capability to reach even remote Chinese mainland cities of Shanghai and Beijing.
India thus joins a select group of nations to field missiles of inter-continental reach.
"The entire flight path of 15 minutes duration validated all mission objectives," a defence ministry spokesman said.
In the successful Agni III test, the spokesman said Indian scientists had for the first time also validated frontline technology of flex nozzle control system for rocket guidance, specially developed composite propellants and guidance and control with fault tolerant avionics.
The sleek missile vertically roared into the clear sky leaving behind a thick column of white and yellow smoke, eyewitness accounts said.
Fitted with an on-board computer, the missile went up to a distance of 90 km vertically crossing the atmosphere and re-entered into the earth targeting the pre-determined impact point near Car Nicobar island, officials said.
The missile was tracked from ground stations at Dhamra, ITR Balasore, Port Blair and naval warships in the Indian Ocean.
With the successful test-fire, Agni-III is the missile with the longest reach in South Asia and more powerful than any missile in Pakistan's arsenal. However, China has missiles with a longer reach.
After three postponements, Agni III was first test fired on July 9, 2006, but the missile failed to meet its mission objectives due to cascaded failure of booster flex nozzle controller.
Initially, Indian scientists had planned only three tests, before its induction in 2008. However, DRDO sources said with the failure of maiden test flight, more tests would now be required to prove its robustness.
Though DRDO officials are tightlipped, well informed sources said that Agni III costs about 1/6th of similar missiles developed by western countries.
Amongst the range of Agni missiles, Agni III is the country's first solid fuel missile that is compact and small enough for easy mobility and can be easily packaged for deployment on variety of surface and sub-surface platforms.
The missile, DRDO scentists say will support a wide range of warhead configurations with total playload mass ranging from 600 kg to 1,800 kg.
Due to its high accuracy, the missile is usable in smaller sub-nuclear conflicts, a trend now seen in American long-range missiles.
Agni III, DRDO sources said is likely to serve as a base missile for development of the underwater launched version of the Agni missiles, miniaturised to be carried in future Indian submarines.
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