New Delhi: With a successful test launch of the Agni III intermediate range ballistic missile behind them, which validated all test parameters, jubilant Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) officials now say that a submarine launched version of the missile is now on the cards. This sub-surface platform would provide the country with a much needed second strike capability in case of a nuclear confrontation.
Also on the cards, is an extension of the missile's range to 5,000 km and more, which will give the Agni III a quasi-ICBM status.
According to DRDO chief M Natarajan, "We have achieved the capability to make missiles with a range of 3,500 km to 5,500 km but the decision (to develop an ICBM) has to be taken by the political leadership," said here.
"DRDO scientists are working on miniaturising the systems of the Agni III so that a third stage can be squeezed into the 16-metre-long missile to enable it to go up to 5,500 km with the same 1.5-tonne payload," Natarajan said a day after the first successful launch of the 3,000-km Agni III.
"I don't have a solution now but we will work toward building capability on the basis of our success with the first and second stage motors,' said Natarajan.
Agni III will also be converted into a submarine-launched ballistic missile to provide more second-strike options for the country, DRDO scientists told reporters during a briefing.
According to mission director Aviansh Chander, the Agni III had been tested to almost its full range of 3,000 km and would become "fully operational" after another two or three launches to be carried out over the next two to three years.
According to DRDO officials, the organization had drawn up a busy schedule of tests for the entire family of indigenous missiles developed by it. A second test of its missile defence system is now slated for later this year in August or October. User trials have also been lined up for its surface-to-air Akash missile and the fourth generation anti-tank Nag missile.
According to Avinash Chander, the 700 km range Agni I had already been inducted for operations by the Indian Army while the country's first fully solid-state missile, the 2,000-km Agni II, is currently in the process of being inducted.
Interestingly, Chander also revealed that for the first time with the Agni III test the DRDO acted only as an integrating agency, as most of the missile's components were made and delivered by the country's private sector. In this regard he mentioned that a total of 258 private firms and 20 DRDO laboratories were involved in the exercise.
"This is why there were no production delays and the next missile is being readied in parallel," he said.
In this regard DRDO head Natarajan revealed that Thursday's test was all the more significant as the missile was built with 85 per cent Indian know-how. 'We have developed the capacity for the balance 15 per cent and will be progressively introducing this,' he added.
"Agni-III is the first Indian missile to have crossed the equator," said Chander, adding that the detonation of the missile's warhead had been recorded and would be analysed.
Chander also said that some of the firsts established in Thursday's launch included a "flex nozzle control" for the rocket motor, a specially developed composite propellant, a guidance and control system with "built-in fault tolerant avionics" and systems to withstand the "severe aero-thermal environment" experienced during re-entry.