New Delhi: With a second successful test of the 3,500 km intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), Agni-III, already in the bag, Indian defence scientists are planning to test a long range 5,000 km, IRBM by the end of the year.
According to Aviansh Chander, project director, the planning process for the test launch of the Agni-IV was in the final stages, now that the Agni-III had reached the stage of operationalisation. He indicated Monday that test flights could be scheduled for the end of the year, once government clearance was received.
According to Chander, an intercontinental range of 5,000-km would be achieved by strapping a solid fuel propellant-powered, third stage booster rocket on an Agni-III missile.
The second test of the Agni-III essentially tested the system's repeatability and reliability without any major technological additions as compared to the test carried out in April last year.
Apart from the longer range Agni series missiles, India will also test its ''special naval missile,'' an euphemism used by DRDO scientists for a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), as well as conduct a second test of an 'interceptor' missile. These tests are likely to be undertaken in the September-October period.
According to M Natarajan, director general, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), his scientists were "heavily engaged" in the special naval missile project. He, however, refused to be drawn out on when India's first nuclear submarine would roll out. "The Advance Technology Vehicle, as the nuclear submarine project is known, is not my project," Natarajan told reporters, when queried if the probable 2009 launch schedule for the submarine would be adhered to.
Last year December, VK Saraswat, chief controller, R&D (missiles and strategic systems), DRDO, had said that the organisation had begun work on Agni-IV, a 5,000 km range missile, to provide ''enough capability'' for a credible deterrence to the country. ''Work on the 5,000 km range missile is on and the first trial is expected to take place in early 2009,'' he said.
According to Saraswat, the Agni-IV, would have many new features, including anti-ballistic counter measures and rocket motor systems with composite materials to improve the thrust-to-weight ratio. It would also be equipped with stealth technology and be more accurate than missiles of a similar class, providing improved mobility and higher energy.
Sarawat had said then that the Agni-IV would not be an inter-continental ballistic missile, but a long range one. According to Saraswat, the Agni-III and IV were the building blocks for missiles with an intercontinental reach.
According to defence scientists, all major technologies for long range missiles have been realised with the two successful tests of the Agni-III missiles. The first successful test took place in April last year.
These technologies include high-power booster, multi-stage vehicles, re-entry technologies, which would allow aero-thermal loads to be sustained at very high Mach numbers along with a potent navigation system to maintain accuracy throughout the flight path.
According to Dr Saraswat, missiles in the range of 2,000-5,000 km would provide India ''enough capability'' to field a ''credible deterrence.''
He also said that depending on existing or emerging threats the need may arise for a 10,000 km range missile in the future. These are generally referred to as the 'Surya' class of missiles and will constitute India's inter-continental ballistic missile capability.
According to Dr Saraswat, India was also developing a ''long endurance,'' long range cruise missile that will fly at high subsonic speeds. Subsonic cruise missiles enable delivery of payloads at low cost and are generally difficult to detect because of their ability to fly at low altitudes.