New Delhi: On the back of reports appearing last week that India was likely to conduct its first test of a submarine-based ballistic missile, which can also be tipped with a nuclear warhead, a senior defence scientist has now confirmed that the test would be conducted as soon as Government clearance was received.
According to senior scientist, S Prahlada, chief controller of India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the experimental missile will be fired from a submerged pontoon. "We have completed all preparations for the first-ever test launch of the missile and are awaiting the government's nod," Prahlada told reporters on the sidelines of the DefExpo 2008, a major arms fair being hosted in the Indian capital.
The missile, variously referred to as the Sagarika, or the K-15, has a top range of 700 kilometres (438 miles). If successful, the test would put India into the elite club of nations, including the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and China that are capable of launching missiles from air, land, ships and submarines.
The test is critical for India, as it would allow the country to achieve the 'Triad' of
nuclear weapons delivery systems. It already has land-based nuclear missiles, which will operate in tandem with Indian Air Force fighter squadrons capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
According to Prahlada, the K-15 missile will eventually be "integrated" with a nuclear-powered submarine that India is building. The reference is to the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), a 6,000 tonne nuclear powered submarine being constructed by India. India will, very likely, build three such vessels.
Prahalada also said that DRDO scientists would carry out another test of the 4,000-kilometre (2,480 miles) range Agni-III ballistic missile, capable of hitting most targets deep inside China. "We are just awaiting the weather condition to improve to go ahead with the test," he said.
According to Prahalada, the missile would be deployed after two further tests.
Prahlada also announced that India and Israel would proceed with a $625 million joint venture to build surface-to-air missiles for the Indian Navy. He also said that a number of ballistic and short-range missiles developed by India were also ready for export.