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Agni-III fails to hit target

Dhamra (Orissa), July 9
India today test-fired its most advanced intermediate range ballistic missile Agni-III but it developed a snag and fell into the sea off the coast of Orissa without hitting the target, defence sources said.

The launch of the nuclear-capable missile, designed to hit targets at a distance of 3,500 km, from the Integrated Test Range at Wheeler Island was “successful” but its second stage did not separate and it fell into the sea, the sources said.

They said the missile went up vertically to a height of about 12 km before the snag developed. They attributed the problem to a “design failure”.

Officially, there was no confirmation of any problem, with a spokesman confining himself to a terse statement that “the missile took off successfully” at 11.03 am. He said “the flight performance” was being analysed by the mission team.

This was the first launch of the Agni-III, the most sophisticated product of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme that started in 1983. The testing of the missile has been repeatedly put off since November 2004 for a number of reasons.

The countdown began early in the morning as scientists of the DRDO prepared for the launch under an overcast sky.

The 16-metre-long and 1.8-metre diameter missile, rose majestically into the sky, spewing thick yellow smoke and fire, eyewitnesses said.

This is the 10th time that a missile of the Agni series has been launched from the test ranges at Chandipur-on-Sea and Wheeler Island. It was the fifth time that the Agni category of missiles has been tested from Wheeler Island.

Agni-III can be deployed by rail or road launch vehicles and is equipped with an improved guidance system, the defence sources said.

Three sophisticated radars, six electro-optical tracking systems and three telemetric data stations on the mainland at Dhamra, Chandipur and Andamans as well as a ship stationed close to the splash down point monitored the trajectory of the Agni-III after it was fired from the island.

Fitted with an on-board computer, the missile took off vertically into space and was designed to re-enter the atmosphere again to hit the impact point near Nicobar Island in the Bay of Bengal.

The two-stage missile has solid fuel boosters and can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads weighing up to a tonne.

The missile fired today had the capability of carrying a payload of 1,000 kg, the sources said.

The Agni missile, initially with a range of 700 to 800 km, was first tested from the range at Chandipur-on-Sea on May 22, 1989, in the presence of then Defence Minister K.C. Pant.

This was followed by two more launches on May 29, 1992, and February 19, 1994.

Agni-II, with the capability to hit targets 2,000 km away, was first fired from the new range at Wheeler Island on April 11, 1999, using a rail mobile platform, the sources said.

Agni-I was twice launched from Wheeler Island on January 9, 2003, and July 4, 2003.

The sleek 20-metre Agni-II was tested from the island again on August 29, 2004, with a range of 1,200 km.

Both Agni-I and Agni-II have been inducted into the Army as part of the country’s minimum nuclear deterrent. Both missiles have boosters developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation, the sources said. — PTI


Data to be examined: Pranab

Kolkata: Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the data record of Agni-III would be examined to ascertain the nature of snag it developed.

“Agni-III took off well. But it developed a technical snag in the second phase. We will examine the data to look into the problem,” he said. — UNI






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