Balasore: India on Friday successfully test-fired its 250 km range, surface-to-surface, Prithvi-II, missile from the integrated test range (ITR) at Chandipur, off the coast of the State of Orissa. The missile can carry a conventional explosives payload of up to 1000 kg.
A defence ministry statement said that the Prithvi-II was successfully launched at 10:26 this morning.
In a statement, the government Press Information Bureau, said that the test flight had a duration of 483 seconds and that today's launch was carried out as part of a training programme for the Indian Army. The missile, taken from a routine production lot, was launched with an improved Aided Inertial Navigation and achieved single digit accuracy reaching close to zero Circular Error Probability (CEP).
The statement also said the missile had the features to deceive any anti-ballistic missile.
Top Army officials and DRDO scientists witnessed the launch. Dr VK Saraswat, chief controller, R&D, oversaw all operations of the missile launch. SP Dash, director, ITR and DS Reddy, project director, led the team of scientists.
However, some data released in the statement today does not tally with knowledge about the missile as it rests in the public domain.
The statement says that the missile tested today has a range of 350 km and that it reached a peak altitude of 43.5 km. As far as is known the Prithvi-II (SS-250) has a range of 250 km. The missile has been developed for the Indian Air Force and is a single-stage, dual-engine, liquid fuel, road-mobile, short-range, surface-to-surface missile. It is the Prithvi-III (SS-350) which is credited with a range of 350 km.
The Prithvi-III is a solid fuel, two-stage, road-mobile, short-range, surface-to-surface missile. According to conventional knowledge, Sagarika and Prithvi-III are two different acronyms for the same missile.
Another apparent discrepancy about the missile lies in the statement's reference to the missile achieving ''single digit accuracy reaching close to zero Circular Error Probability (CEP).'' This is intriguing, for a missile developed for the Indian Air Force would presumably have an air defence operational profile, as it is not likely that both the air force and the army would be fielding the same version.
Yet this test, according to the statement, has been conducted by the army in a surface-to-surface profile, as evident in the reference to the missile achieving ''zero CEP.''
Here, it may also be useful to point out that in the landmark Prithvi Air Defence Exercise (ADE) tests, conducted in November 2006, which catapulted India into the club of nations with anti-ballistic missile (ABM) capability, reports had referred to the modified Prithvi missiles used in the 'attacker' and 'interceptor' mode as Prithvi-II missiles. This made sense, for if these missiles were initially developed for the air force then their mutation into an ABM role would be understandable.
This is not to deny that the army cannot have an ABM role to play. But the reference to the Agni-II in a purely surface-to-surface role may need to be clarified.