Monday, December 17, 2007
India plans 6,000-km range Agni-IV missile
In what could provide India greater strategic depth, the government on Wednesday announced its plan to develop 6,000-km range Agni-IV missile which will be capable of destroying targets deep in China.
The announcement is seen as a move to send out strong signals to countries in the neighbourhood. Any missile with a range of more than 5,000 km stationed in south or central India would be out of the range of most capable missiles in Pakistan's arsenal while it would be able to hit targets in eastern and northern China with cities like Beijing and Shanghai in its ambit.
The 3,500-km Agni-III, which was successfully test-fired in April, will not be able to reach cities like Beijing unless it is deployed in eastern states near the Chinese border.
Top scientist V K Saraswat of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said the Agni-IV project was in the design stage and its trials and development could take a few years.
Saraswat said the DRDO would carry out three more tests of Agni-III over the next year with the second trial of the missile slated by June. The 3,500-km range missile, which has the capacity to carry a nuclear payload of upto 1.5 tonnes, is likely to be inducted into the forces by 2009 after at least three successful tests.
The DRDO scientist said India would have a complete ballistic missile defence (BMD) system in three years — ready and deployed. The system will have interceptor missiles that can hit targets 50-km above the atmosphere and supersonic interceptors that can eliminate endo-atmospheric targets 15-km within the atmosphere.
Believed to be superior to America's Patriot, the BMD system has been in development for the last eight years. As part of the programme, the Prithvi air defence missile was tested in November 2006 while advanced air defence interceptor was tested this month.
The development of 6,000-km Agni-IV also indicates that the country has shelved plans to develop Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles which would have hit far away targets.
There had been speculations of India developing an ICBM named Surya with a range of more than 10,000-km. However, in light of the ongoing negotiations on Indo-US nuclear deal, it is quite possible that India may not like to annoy US.