India tests its most powerful nuclear-capable missile
India on Wednesday test-fired its longest-range nuclear-capable missile, which can reach targets as far as eastern China, from a military base off the country's eastern coast, media reports said.
The Agni III surface-to-surface missile, with a range of more than 3,000 kilometres, was test-fired from a mobile launcher at the Integrated Test Range on Wheeler's Island in the eastern Orissa state, the PTI news agency reported quoting defence sources.
The missile roared into the sky leaving behind a thick plume of orange and white smoke and was invisible to the naked eye within seconds, witnesses told the PTI.
This was the third test of the indigenously developed missile from the same range. The first test which was conducted on July 9, 2006 was a failure but the second trial held on April 12, 2007 was successful, reported dpa.
Sophisticated radar, electro-optic tracking systems, telemetric data centres and two naval warships anchored near the impact point in Bay of Bengal were engaged in monitoring the missile's trajectory.
"The test result will be known after detailed analyses of the flight data recovered," a defence official was quoted by the PTI as saying.
Named after the Hindu god of fire, Agni III is an Indian-made, surface-to-surface missile which can take a payload up to 1.5 tons and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
The missile weighs 48.3 tons and can be deployed through rail or road mobile launch vehicles.
With a length of 16 metres and an overall diameter of 1.8 metres, it is shorter than the Agni I and Agni II which are already inducted in India's armed forces. Agni I has a range of between 700 to 800 kilometres, while Agni II can cover 2,000 kilometres.
Senior Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) officials had told the local media that Wednesday's launch will be a "validation test" for higher performance of the missile in terms of weight and payload capacity.
The officials said that apart from the new software for navigation and guidance controls to achieve better accuracy, an improved re-entry material will be tested, the Hindu newspaper reported.
According to defence experts, a successful induction of Agni-III will allow India to catch up with China's nuclear strike capability in the next few years as its range is expected to be long enough to reach strategic targets deep inside China, such as Beijing and Shanghai.
The missile is a deterrent to the Chinese missiles but falls short of being an inter-continental ballistic missile - which requires and effective range exceeding 5,000 kilometres.