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Missile India: Mine is better than China’s

New Delhi, Feb. 10: India today claimed that its China-specific deterrent, the Agni III missile capable of carrying a 1,500kg nuclear warhead, was ready for use by the armed forces whenever and wherever required.

The missile was test-fired by the army wing of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) from Wheeler’s Island off the Orissa coast on Sunday after the technology was developed by India’s military scientific establishment, the scientific adviser to the defence minister, V.K. Saraswat, and the Agni III programme director, Avinash Chander, said here today.

“Yes,” replied Saraswat, when asked if the claim that the missile was “ready for induction” meant the armed forces could deploy the weapon in operations.

Saraswat and Chander were briefing media today on their findings and conclusions after the test-firing on Sunday.

Saraswat, the head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, would not be drawn into answering questions on what kind of a stockpile was desirable, but said: “We have also established production capability. In today’s world, there is no need to build and store missiles. Since there is no transfer of technology involved, the switchover from development of product to production is almost instantaneous.”

The Agni III is assembled by the defence public sector, Hyderabad-headquartered Bharat Dynamics Limited.

Saraswat also claimed: “We feel our accuracies are better than China’s DF 21.” But he refused to answer a question on the Agni III’s circular error of probability (CEP). The CEP is the radius from a target within which a missile is certain to hit.

The scientists said the technology of the Agni III could also be used to develop an anti-satellite (A-SAT) missile. In its flight test on Sunday, the Agni III, fired from a rail-mobile launcher, reached an apogee (the highest point in its trajectory) of 348km above sea-level to reach its target beyond the equator.

With shorter ranges, the height the missile could be manipulated can reach upto a height of 1,000km. China successfully tested it’s A-SAT in 2007, shooting a “dead” satellite in space.

Agni III mission director Chander said: “The design for the missile is frozen; the configuration is frozen. There is no further development effort on the Agni III that is required.” The missile has been test-fired four times and had failed to meet its objectives the first time.

“The three successful tests have fully validated the design concepts. The user (Strategic Forces Command, the custodian of India’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems) may opt for some more trials,” Chander said.

Both Saraswat and Chander justified the deployability of the missile despite only three successful tests by explaining that “only in an earlier era 15 to 20 tests were required; now it is possible to simulate tests”.

The missile scientists said India had also moved its next long-range strategic missile, the Agni V “from the drawing board to the evaluation of sub-systems”. The Agni V is designed for a range of more than 5,500 km.

More than 80 public and private companies have built components that have gone into the Agni III. The missile is finally made at the defence Bharat Dynamics Limited unit in Hyderabad. Saraswat said “99 per cent of the building blocks” of the Agni III and the Agni V were the same.

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