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Steps on for fourth launch of Agni-III before Sunday

Intense preparations are under way on the tiny Wheeler Island, off Damra village on the Orissa coast, for the launch of ballistic missile Agni-III before Sunday.

This will be the fourth launch of Agni-III and it aims at establishing its reliability. “We are doing this flight to demonstrate the robustness of the missile’s systems,” a top missile engineer of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said on Wednesday.

Agni-III, a product of the DRDO, can carry nuclear warheads weighing 1.5 tonnes. It can fly over 3,500 km and even target parts of China.

The missile has two stages which are powered by solid propellants. It is 17-metre long, has a diameter of two metres and launch weight of 50 tonnes. The missile re-enters the atmosphere with a high velocity at a temperature of more than 2,500 degrees Celsius. The nuclear warhead is protected by a heat-shield made of carbon-carbon composites. While the first Agni-III launch on July 9, 2006 failed, the second and third launches on April 12, 2007, and May 7, 2008, witnessed copy-book flights.

The coming weeks/months will be hectic for the DRDO with one more launch of K-15 missile this month from a submerged pontoon off the coast of Visakhapatnam. The pontoon will simulate the conditions of a submarine. K-15 had been launched earlier from submerged pontoons, but this is a different version. The first version, called Mark-1, is being fitted into the indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine named Arihant.

After the K-15 missile clears the water medium, it climbs 20 km into the air and can destroy targets 700 km away. The missile forms part of the DRDO’s Sagarika project.

Shourya, which is the land-version of the underwater-launched K-15 missile, will have its second flight around June from the Integrated Test Range at Balasore, Orissa.

The fourth flight of India’s interceptor missile, which can knock out adversarial ballistic missiles at an altitude of 130 km, is scheduled for September.

The DRDO has already scored a hat-trick with three of its interceptor missiles confronting incoming “enemy” ballistic missiles in a “hit-to-kill” mode.

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