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India today successfully test-fired the nuclear capable, 5,000 km-range Agni V missile that can reach deep into China and Europe, putting itself in the exclusive club of countries with long range ballistic missile (LRBM) capability.
The 17.5 m long, 50-tonne surface-to-surface missile took off from a mobile launcher on Wheeler Island off the Orissa coast at 8.07 am and followed its trajectory in copybook fashion, with the three stages of propulsion falling into the sea at precise intervals.
The flight lasted 20 minutes, officials of the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) present at the site said. The test, originally scheduled for yesterday, was deferred because of bad weather, including rain and lightning.
Ships located in midrange and at the touchdown point in the Indian Ocean tracked the vehicle and witnessed the final event. Radars and electro-optical systems along the path monitored all parameters in real time.
All of China is in the range of the missile, which can carry a nuclear warhead weighing over a tonne. It is equipped with multiple, independently targetable re-entry vehicle technology, which enables it to cover intercontinental distances and hit multiple targets. The exterior has been designed to survive re-entry temperatures of up to 5,000 degrees Celsius. The indigenously developed composite rocket motors performed well in today's test.
DRDO chief V K Saraswat said, "We will go for at least two more tests to prove the missile's reliability before it is inducted into the armed forces. The launch has given a message to the entire world that India has the capability to design, develop, build and manufacture missiles of this class, and we are today a missile power."
Saraswat added that production would start within a year after the next two tests.
Over 800 personnel in 20 DRDO laboratories were part of the Agni V project. Preparation for the test gathered momentum after Agni IV, which has a strike range of over 3,500 km, was launched from the same pad in November 2011. Agni I, II and III have ranges of 700 km, 2,000 km and 2,500 km respectively.