T.S. Subramanian

CHENNAI: After the successful firing of Agni-1 missile on Sunday, the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile on March 5 and the K-15 (Sagarika) missile from a submerged pontoon on February 26, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has set its sights on launching the Agni-III ballistic missile in April 2008.

Agni-III is the most powerful, surface-to-surface missile built by India, which can carry nuclear warheads. It has a range of more than 3,500 km. It has been described as not just “a missile, but a system for the future with which various configurations can be developed.”

It will be the third launch of Agni-III, which will take place from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) on the Wheeler Island off the Orissa coast.

Agni, Agni-II, Agni-I and Agni-III form the group of India’s surface-to-surface, ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. Agni-III is a two-stage, long-range missile that weighs 48.3 tonnes and is 16.7 metres long. It can carry warheads weighing 1.5 tonnes over a distance of more than 3,500 km.

Celebrations broke out at the Launch Control Centre on Sunday on the Wheeler Island after the successful launch of Agni-1 missile that reached a distance of more than 700 km. A release from the DRDO from New Delhi said the missile had a textbook performance in terms of range, accuracy and lethality.

Agni-I missile was developed by the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), the premier missile development centre of the DRDO, in collaboration with its neighbours, that is, the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), the Research Centre, Imarat, all of which form the missile complex at Hyderabad.

It was integrated by the Bharat Dynamics Limited, also located in Hyderabad. The ASL is headed by Avinash Chander, who was the Mission Director for the launch. The Vehicle Research and Development Establishment at Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, the ITR and public and private sector industries contributed to the launch.

V.K. Saraswat, Chief Controller, R&D (Missiles and Strategic Systems), DRDO, said the success of Agni-1 gave a tremendous boost to India’s strategic defence. The terminal event of the flight was recorded by a downrange ship and the results validated the entire technology of the strategic defence, he added.

Dr. V.G. Sekaran, Project Director, ASL, was present during the launch.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Minister of State for Defence Pallam Raju congratulated the scientists and the operational team of the Strategic Force Command.

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