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India to test submarine-launched missile

Buoyed by the success of the ballistic missile defence (BMD) programme, India's defence scientists will test-fire an indigenously-developed submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) later this month, an official source said Friday.

However, since the Indian Navy does not have a submarine capable of firing an SLBM, the test firing of the Sagarika missile Feb 24-25 will be conducted from an underwater launcher positioned in the Bay of Bengal.

"For the test, an underwater launcher will be positioned 50 metres deep in the sea, eight km off the coast," a source at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) told IANS.

Developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the missile has twice been test-fired but without success as its trajectory deviated while in flight on both occasions.

"Scientists are more cautious this time and are leaving no stone unturned for its successful launch," the source said.

The success achieved last year with exo-atmospheric (outside the atmosphere) and endo-atmospheric (within the atmosphere) anti-ballistic missiles, as also and the surface-to-air Akash missile had encouraged DRDO scientists to test the 700-km range Sagarika nuclear-capable missile that has been developed with Israeli assistance, the source added.

Powered by a turbojet, the missile can carry a 500 kg payload. It is 8.5 metres long and about one metre in diameter.

"This missile is a variant of the Dhanush and an advanced clone of Prithvi's naval version. The difference is that it can only be launched from a submarine," the source said.

However, a test-firing in actual conditions is still a while away as Russia is yet to respond to the Indian Navy's request for loaning an Akula-class submarine that is capable of launching SLBMs. The navy's Russian-made Kilo-class submarines and the German-designed HDW submarines do not have the capability to fire such missiles.

The Sagarika is said to be comparable with the US Tomahawk missile.

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