Agni-III ballistic missile test fired successfully
Balasore, April 12 (PTI): India today successfully test fired its nuclear capable 3,000 km intermediate range ballistic missile Agni-III from the Interim Test Range (ITR) at the Wheeler's Island in the Bay of Bengal off the Orissa coast.
The indigenously developed surface-to-surface missile, 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 here, defence sources said.
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 was designed to go up to a distance of 90 km vertically crossing the atmosphere and re-enter into the earth targetting the predetermined impact point near Car Nicobar Island, the sources said.
If successfully test-fired, Agni-III will become 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 than Agni-III.
Three sophisticated radars, six electro-optical tracking systems and three telemetric data stations, located in the mainland were engaged to monitor the entire trajectory of the missile.
With an improved guidance system, this latest variant of the Agni series of missiles, Agni-III had a diameter of 1.8 metres and length of 16 metres.
The missile, which weighed about 48 tonnes, was meant to support a wide range of warhead configurations with a total payload ranging between 600 kg and 1.8 tonne and featured decoys and other anti-ballistic counter measures, the sources said.
This is Agni-III's second trial, the earlier experiment on July 9, 2006 having gone awry.
DRDO scientists said the fault detected in the first test trial of the Agni-III missile had been addressed.
Agni-III's earlier test launch had failed as the second stage booster of the missile failed to separate plunging it into the Bay of Bengal just seconds after take-off.
The scientists had traced the flaw to a defective shield which was unable to withstand the heat generated due to friction during the flight.
They had devised a flexible heat shield for the missile without changing its other parameters.
The 16-metre Agni-III weighs 48 tonnes and is capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads weighing up to 1.5 tonnes.
After the highly publicised failure, an exhaustive analysis of the missile's test-launch telemetry data was conducted by scientists to find whether the flaw was in design, manufacture or assembly of the missile.
The government, however, asked the scientists to "learn from mistakes" and rectify the same.
Earlier in the morning today, a four-hour "range countdown" for test-firing of the missile began at 6 am, the sources said.
The range countdown was designed to be put on hold if any snag was found in the missile and commence again after the same was rectified.
As programmed, three minutes before the blast-off there was to be a hold in the range countdown process so that an "auto launch sequence" could take over and a network of computers in the main control station could check all the health parameters of the missile as well as its sub-systems and allow the missile to move forward in the pre-programmed trajectory.
Air traffic controls at the Kalaikunda base, the Airport Authority of India at Kolkata and the Eastern Naval Command at Visakhapatnam had been intimated about the test firing of the missile.
The administration in the coastal Balasore, Bhadrak and Kendrapara districts had also been intimated to warn fishermen not to venture into the sea during the launch period, the sources said.
The missile could be deployed using rail or road mobile launch vehicles and had an inertial guidance system with improved optical or radar terminal phase correlation capability to guide it accurately to its target.
Agni's other variants are Agni-I with a range of 700 km and Agni-II with the capability to traverse 1,500 km or more.
Both the variants had been successfully test fired in the past and were in the process of being inducted into the armed forces.
While Agni-I is a part liquid and part solid fuel propelled missile, the longer range Agni-II and Agni-III have solid fuel boosters and aimers, the sources said.
The Agni series of missiles are part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) launched in 1983 under the guidance of the renowned defence scientist and present President APJ Abdul Kalam.
The scientific advisor to the defence minister and DRDO Chief M Natatrajan and project director of Agni-III Avinash Chander were present at the Wheeler's Island launch pad at the time when the missile blasted-off.