In a bid to induct its first long-range ‘China-specific’ missile in the armed forces, India is contemplating a fresh test-firing of 3,500-km range nuclear-capable Agni-III missile from a defence base off the Odisha coast.
Defence sources said preparation for the launching of the country’s most potent missile, Agni-III, has already begun at the Wheeler Island. The missile is expected to be flight-tested anytime in the first week of September.
The test follows the successful user trials of two Agni variant missiles __ Agni-I and Agni-II __ by the Indian Army. Both the ‘Pakistan- specific’ missiles have already been inducted in the armed forces.
While this will be the fifth experimental trial of Agni-III missile, its success would pave the way for its induction and propel the DRDO to go for user trials in the limited stock production (LSP) series.
“If the missile meets all mission parameters, the DRDO would definitely go for its induction by the end of this year,” a defence scientist said.
The test is significant for the DRDO, which is plagued by cost and time over-runs of many indigenous projects. The missile had crashed into the Bay of Bengal just seconds after its blast-off from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) during its maiden test in 2006.
Programme director of Agni missiles and Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems) Avinash Chander told ‘The Express’ that the missile was planned for a fresh test, but the exact date of trial had not been fixed.
“The developmental flights of two more Agni variant missiles are also on the cards,” he said.
Agni-III, which has a velocity of 5 km per second, is a short and stubby, two-stage missile that weighs 48.3 tonnes and is 16.7 metres tall with an overall diameter of 1.8 metres. It can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads weighing around 1.5 tonnes. It is propelled by solid fuels, facilitating swifter deployment compared to missiles using a mix of solid and liquid fuels.
The first test of the missile on July 9, 2006 was a failure though its second trial on April 12, 2007 and third on May 7, 2008 were successful. While its proposed trial in 2009 was put off for unknown reasons, the weapon’s fourth test on February 7, 2010 was a copybook success.
“Though it is said to be ready for induction, it will still require one or two more tests before it can go for limited series production trials by the armed forces. However, two years more will be required for its operational deployment,” a defence analyst said.