India announces long-range nuclear-capable missile test

Feb 10, 2010

India will test a nuclear-capable missile with a range of over 5,000 kilometres (3,000 miles) within a year, its top military scientist said Wednesday, risking a rise in regional tensions.

"The next series of missiles is Agni-V, which has left the drawing board and is moving toward the first flight trial within the year," the country's chief military scientist, V.K. Saraswat, told a news conference in New Delhi.

India's current longest-range nuclear-capable missile, Agni-III, can travel a maximum of 3,500 kilometres and is now ready for use by the military, Saraswat said.

"The missile system will be fully inducted into the armed forces," Saraswat said. "It is the full deterrence that the country needs."

The Indian-built Agni-III -- Agni means fire in Sanskrit -- was first tested in 2006 and brings major Chinese cities, such as Shanghai, within striking distance, defence analysts say.

India kicked off its guided missile project in 1983 and has developed an array of weapons systems, including the Prithvi, which means "earth" and Agni-I, which is meant for possible use against neighbouring Pakistan.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan, with which India has fought three wars since their partition and independence six decades ago, has said India's missile development programme could trigger a new arms race in the region.

, which fought a brief, bloody war with China in 1962, has unresolved border issues with its giant neighbour.

The Agni-III is "a real mobile system and hence it has a strategic advantage," Saraswat said.

Avinash Chander, who heads India's Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, said both Agni-III and Agni-V would be able to carry 1.5-ton conventional or nuclear warheads.

The government scientists said Agni-III was declared operational after three flight tests and numerous computer-simulated trials.

The most recent test was held Sunday, when the was fired from Wheeler Island, off the coast of the eastern Indian state of Orissa.

Chander said the Agni-III, which he called a "100-percent indigenous system," hit its "target with pinpoint accuracy and met all mission objectives".

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