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India Sees Agni-3 As Deterrent To China

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) May 20, 2008
India has taken another giant stride toward the strategic nuclear parity it seeks with China.

On May 7 India's Defense Research and Development Organization successfully test-fired another Agni III intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of 1,800 miles at its regular Wheeler Island test facility off the coast of Orissa in the Bay of Bengal, the Hindustan Times reported.

"The test is a complete success and has met all its mission objectives," said Avinash Chander, program director of the Agni missile system, according to the report. "The missile is now ready for induction."

The Agni-III was fired from the Integrated Test Range on Wheeler Island and hit the intended target area 13.6 minutes later after reaching an altitude of 210 miles, the report said. The missile reached its pre-designated target after flying at speeds of up to 9,500 miles per hour, it said.

A senior Indian Defense Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Hindustan Times that the missile had the range to hit targets far into northeast Asia, including anywhere in India.

It was a mark of the importance accorded to the Agni-III program that many senior Indian defense officials, including current Defense Ministry A.K. Anthony, attended the Wheeler Island launch.

The Hindustan Times said the Agni III could deliver conventional and nuclear warheads of up to 1.5 tons and that it was a two-stage missile with a solid fuel propellant.

Solid fuel propellants are far less vulnerable to being destroyed by laser attack, and they can be readied and fired far more quickly than older liquid fuel missiles, making them much less vulnerable to pre-emptive attack.

The missile is almost 50 feet long with a diameter of close to 6.5 feet, and it has a launch weight of 48 tons, the newspaper said.

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