Thursday, December 13, 2007

India plans ICBM (Agni IV) next year

India is to launch a 5,000-km nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) next year, even as it has developed a credible missile shield that is superior to the American Patriot anti-missile system, defence scientists said today.
Both are homegrown systems and make India one of the very few countries in the world possessing the technology to manufacture them.
“Yes, the launch of the Agni-IV (ICBM) is on the anvil. We also plan further tests of the (3,000 km) Agni-III,” Mr VK Saraswat, chief controller (R&D) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) told reporters here.
“The launch of Agni-IV is scheduled for June (2008), with another launch planned towards the end of the year,” said Mr Saraswat, who is also the programme director of the DRDO’s air defence project.
DRDO scientists had in April successfully testfired the Agni-III intermediate range ballistic missile, saying at the time they could extend its range to 3,000 km. A decision on the extended range “was left to the government”, DRDO chief Mr M. Natarajan had then said.
Agni-III builds on its predecessors, Agni-I that is a single stage 700-km missile, and Agni-II that is a two-stage 2,000-km system. These two have already been inducted into the armed forces. Agni-III’s induction is some three years away.
Speaking about the ballistic missile defence (BMD) system, Mr Saraswat said this would be ready for deployment in two to three years. The system comprises two elements ~ an exo-atmospheric (above the atmosphere) interceptor missile that can engage targets at a height of 50 km and an endo-atmospheric (within the atmosphere) supersonic interceptor that can eliminate targets at a height of 15 km.
The first, a modified Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) missile, was tested in November 2006 while two trials of the new Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor were conducted in the first week of this month.
“This is what makes our BMD system superior to the Patriot that cannot engage targets beyond 15 km. We can go much higher,” Mr Saraswat said of the system that has been eight years in development.
Giving details of the AAD tests, the scientist said that on 6 December, a Prithvi missile modified to “mimic” a hostile ballistic missile was fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea in Orissa, some 230 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, at about 11 a.m.
The new interceptor was fired from Wheeler Island a little over two minutes later. “The endo-atmospheric interceptor impacted with the (incoming) missile at 15 km altitude at high supersonic speed, exactly as designed,” Mr Saraswat said.
“All the elements of BMD system such as long range tracking radar, multi-function fire control radar, mission control centre, launch control centre, mobile launcher, mobile and multi layer communication system, and data links to the interceptor participated in the mission,” he added.

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