Sunday, December 30, 2007

Missile capability booms, purchase deals slow down

India scaled new heights in missile capability by cranking up production lines in 2007 to almost the pace of China but was bogged down by the slow pace of acquisition of conventional weaponry.

Long-range ballistic missile Agni III and interceptor missiles were successfully test fired and DRDO scientists were upbeat about developing a 6,000-km range Agni IV, marking a watershed in revival and revitalisation of the Integrated Guided Missile Programme which faced hiccups in recent years.

There were five successful trial rounds of surface-to-air Akash missile, which earlier failed to meet parameters, and the Defence Ministry's nod for its induction in the IAF.

The country has begun commercial production of Agni-I and II and 150-350 km Prithvi missiles while Agni IV is expected on the anvil in 2008 but scientists are mum about the talk of a 8,000-9,000 km intercontinental range missile 'Surya'.

A new variety of missiles was tested in exosphere (about 40 km) and endosphere (below 30 km) and there were plans for simultaneous launch of two missiles to intercept a target missile in both exo and endo atmospheric conditions.

The focus was also on developing an indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence system comparable to US Patriot BMD in 3 to 4 years on a top priority as India would have just 3 to 4 minute reaction time in a missile attack, strategists say.

The year saw weakening of the traditional Indo-Russian ties and a shift west with two US-based firms in the running for the biggest weapons tender proposal floated by India.

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