India readies for long-range missile test

India on Wednesday prepared for the first trial of a long-range nuclear-capable missile that could strike anywhere in China — Delhi’s main focus as it strives to modernise its military.

By (AP)

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Published: Wed 18 Apr 2012, 5:51 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:40 AM

An official at the test monitoring station in the eastern state of Orissa told AFP that the maiden flight of the Agni-V rocket, which has a range of 5,000-kilometres (3,100-miles), was expected later Wednesday.

“Final preparations are going according to the plan and the launch window opens today through to Friday,” the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) official added.

A successful test of the domestically-developed Agni-V would be a major step for India, which is increasing its defence capabilities and spending billions of dollars modernising its military.

The rocket, which will blast off from an island off the coast of Orissa, would be able to strike targets across China, the rest of Asia and even parts of Europe, experts say.

India has long had missiles capable of striking across Pakistan. The earlier version of its Agni series has a range of 3,500 kilometres, while the new missile would cover the whole of China.

Only China, Russia, France, the United States and Great Britain have full-scale intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the launch would take India closer to joining the elite club.

DRDO chief Vijay Kumar Saraswat told the NDTV new channel that the new missile would reinforce India’s status as regional power.

“It gives us a great edge because our coverage extends to wide boundaries... in terms of technology, we are now competing with the best in the world,” Saraswat said.

The Agni-V, named after the Hindu god of fire, weighs 50-tonnes and is 17-metres (56 feet) high. It could be armed with a one-tonne nuclear warhead, according to officials.

India boosted military spending to $40 billion in its last budget, and is the world’s largest importer of military hardware with Jane’s Defence Weekly forecasting its total purchases between 2011 and 2015 will top $100 billion.

India has fought three wars with arch-rival Pakistan since independence in 1947, but China is now viewed as the main focus of India’s military concerns.

The disputed border between India and China has been the subject of inconclusive diplomatic talks since the 1980s after the two nations fought a brief, bloody war in 1962.

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