Stage is all set for the second user trial of nuclear capable Agni-III missile in full operational configuration. The indigenously developed surface-to-surface ballistic missile is likely to be test fired by the user (Indian Army) from a defence base off the Odisha coast on Monday.
Initially scheduled for December 18, the test was deferred and rescheduled for Monday as the downrange ships carrying tracking equipment could not sail out to the possible point of impact due to tropical cyclone Madi formed over west-central Bay of Bengal on December 10.
Defence sources said the personnel of strategic forces command (SFC) of the Army would carry out the test while DRDO would provide logistic supports. If everything goes according to the programme, the missile will be launched post noon.
Meanwhile, preparation for the scheduled test from the Wheeler Island, a test facility of the integrated test range (ITR), has reached final stage. A defence official said range integration has been completed and the missile integrated with the launcher.
“We are ready for the launch. The missile will be made vertical in the morning and fired with a dummy payload in a real time situation. Its first user trial on September 21 last year was a copy book success. We are expecting the same result this time too,” said the official.
The missile which has been used for the test was picked up randomly from the assembly line after production.
The aim of the test will be to achieve single digit accuracy reaching close to zero circular error probability (CEP). This test will reconfirm the technical parameters set for the user and its readiness to handle the weapon during the time of crisis.
The mission is however significant for DRDO, which is plagued with cost and time over-runs of many indigenous projects. Agni-III is a short and stubby, two-stage missile that weighs 48.3 tonnes and is 16.7-metre tall with an overall diameter of 1.8 metres.
The missile that flies at a velocity of 5 km per second can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads weighing around 1.5 tonnes. It is propelled by solid fuel, facilitating swifter deployment compared to missiles using a mix of solid and liquid fuel.
The first test of the missile on July 9, 2006 was a failure though its second, third, fourth developmental trials in 2007, 2008 and 2010 were successful. Meanwhile, India has successfully test fired its longest range missile Agni-V which can destroy the target at a distance of 5000 km.
The Agni series of missiles is part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) launched in 1983.