Tuesday, January 26, 2010

India to soon test N-capable Agni-III, missile defence system

After beginning to base Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets in the North-East, India is now finally gearing up to conduct another test of the China-specific 3,500-km-range Agni-III ballistic missile in February-March.
DRDO scientists are also on course to shortly test their fledgling two-tier ballistic missile defence (BMD), which has been tested three times till now and is designed to track and destroy hostile missiles both inside (endo) and outside (exo) the earth's atmosphere.
As reported earlier, the ongoing Phase-I BMD system is geared towards tackling enemy missiles with a 2,000-km range, Phase-II is being designed to intercept incoming missiles in the 5,000-km class range. But it will take some years for the BMD system to become fully operational.
Similarly, Agni-III will be ready only by 2012-2013. The first test of the rail-mobile missile, which is 16.7-metre tall and has a lift-off weight of 50 tonnes, in July 2006 had flopped miserably. But the subsequent two tests, in April 2007 and May 2008, were deemed successful.
Agni-III is crucial since it will provide India with the capability to strike deep into China, bringing cities like Shanghai and Beijing within its potent reach.
India's most ambitious strategic missile Agni-V, with a 5,000-km range, in turn, will be ready for its first test only by early-2011 or so.
Both Agni-III and Agni-V are primarily designed to bolster India's "active credible deterrence posture'' against China, especially since it has a clear-cut "no-first use'' nuclear doctrine.
China's expanding nuclear and missile arsenal, of course, has even the US worried. The Chinese DF-31A ICBM, with a strike range of 11,270 km, for instance, can target any location in the continental US.
India's missile programme is rudimentary by these standards, and even lags behind Pakistan in certain aspects. In fact, only the Prithvi (150-350 km) and Agni-I (700-km) missiles, primarily meant for Pakistan, can be said to be fully operational in the armed forces till now.
The Agni-II missile, with a 2,000-km range, failed to meet its laid-down flight parameters in two tests last year. DRDO scientists, however, hold that the tests failed due to manufacturing glitches rather than technological ones. There is need to fine-tune the industry involved in Agni-II's production to achieve higher efficiency, they say.

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