New missile ‘operational in two years’

2012-04-20 15:01

India’s new long range missile, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead anywhere in China, will be operational within two years, its developers said today, a day after the weapon’s maiden test.

The state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation, which built the Agni V, also rejected the prospect of India “capping” its missile programme just because it had now had a weapon with an intercontinental reach.

“We will carry out two more tests of Agni V which will take about one-and-a-half years, and after that the production of the missile will commence and we will start handing it over to the military,” the organisation’s chief VK Saraswat told reporters...

“When it (Agni V) reaches the military, they will start training and so a maximum time of two years is needed to operationalise Agni V.”

India successfully tested the Agni V, which has a range of 5 000km and could potentially hit targets in Europe, yesterday, triggering an outpouring of national pride.

With its ability to strike across the Chinese mainland, the missile is seen as marking a significant upgrade of India’s nuclear deterrent.

India and China, each with a population of more than a billion, have prickly relations and a legacy of mistrust that stems from a brief but bloody border war in 1962.

Saraswat, who described yesterday’s test as “textbook perfect”, rejected suggestions that the Agni V meant India had achieved its regional strategic objectives and so had no need of more powerful, even longer-range missiles.

“Our development needs are based upon today’s threats and also evolving threats,” he said. “And so there is no question of capping any programme because we will always have an evolving threat which will require different classes of systems.”

Agni, which means “fire” in Sanskrit, is the name given to a series of rockets India developed as part of its ambitious integrated guided missile development project launched in 1983.

India’s shorter-range Agni I and II were developed with traditional rival Pakistan in mind, while the later versions reflect a shift in India’s focus towards China.

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