India successfully tested a nuclear-capable missile yesterday that can hit targets deep inside China, joining the ranks of nations possessing intermediate-range missile capacity, the defense ministry said.
It marked the third test of the Agni-III missile — India’s longest-range ballistic missile — and was staged “to establish the repeatability of the missile’s performance,” defense ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said.
The missile was fired from a mobile launcher yesterday morning at a testing site on Wheeler Island off the coast of Orissa state.
Kar said the launch “propelled India into a select group of countries with intermediate-range ballistic missile capabilities and added yet another dimension to national deterrence.”
The missile, which has a 3,000km range, can carry conventional or nuclear payloads of 1.5 tonnes, and puts China’s major cities such as Shanghai within striking distance, defense analysts say.
The surface-to-surface projectile reached its designated target in 13 minutes and 20 seconds “traveling through a peak height of 350km with a velocity of more than 4,000m per second,” Kar said.
The Agni-III was first tested in 2006. But that first trial of the 1.8m-diameter missile was a flop when it rose 12km before crashing into the Bay of Bengal.
The failure was blamed on a snag with its strapped-on solid fuel booster rocket.
India successfully tested the missile in April last year.
In yesterday’s test, “all the sub-systems of the missile functioned in a copybook manner, giving an outstanding integrated performance of the missile in terms of range and accuracy,” Kar said.
The missile is one of a series developed as part of India’s deterrence strategy against China and Pakistan which also have nuclear weapons, analysts say.
India has shorter-range missiles that analysts say were developed to target Pakistan.
But the development of the Agni III is aimed at displaying that India’s deterrent reach can stretch far beyond Pakistan, analysts say.