India test-fires long-range missile

Launch of an Agni V intercontinental ballistic missile at Wheeler Island, India's Orissa state, on September 15, 2013 (DRDO/AFP)

BHUBANESHWAR: India today successfully test-fired for a second time a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, marking another advance in its military capabilities.

The Agni V blasted off from a concrete launchpad on an island off the eastern state of Orissa.

“The missile met all the mission objectives with absolute accuracy,” MVKV Prasad, director of the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, told AFP.

Analysts say Agni V has the range to strike any target on the Chinese mainland, including military installations in the far northeast.

It was developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, which described the missile as a “non-country specific” deterrent while hailing today’s launch as a major milestone.

“This second successful test of Agni V has demonstrated the maturity, repeatability and robustness of the system,” the organisation said in a statement.

The country was now ready to start a process of production and subsequent induction of the missile, it added.

India sees the rocket, which has a range of 5,000 kilometres as a major boost to its regional power aspirations.

It narrows — albeit slightly — the huge gap with China’s missile systems.

Agni, which means “fire” in Sanskrit, is the name given to a series of rockets India developed as part of a guided missile development project launched in 1983. The Agni V was first tested in April last year.

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

India and China, each with a population of more than one billion, have prickly relations and a legacy of mistrust that stems from a brief but bloody border war in 1962. Defence Minister AK Antony congratulated defence scientists on the second successful launch, saying they had made the country proud.