Balasore (Orissa), Mar 23 (PTI) India's nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missile Agni-I, having a strike range of 700 to 900 kms, was today test fired for the first time by the newly-created Strategic Forces Command.
The missile's successful launch from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at the Wheelers' Island on Orissa's coast near here into the Bay of Bengal, was described as a "major milestone" in preparing the armed forces in handling strategic weapons.
So far, the tactical units of the Command, comprising the Army's specialised artillery personnel, had carried out user trials of short-range surface-to-surface Prithvi missile and supersonic cruise missile BrahMos. Though Agni-I and the 2000 km range Agni-II have been inducted into the armed forces, they were earlier being manned for the Army units by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) personnel.
Powered by solid fuel, the missile, fired from a mobile launcher at 1015 hours, "had a textbook performance in terms of range, accuracy and lethality", the Defence Ministry said.
This was the second user trial of the precision target hitting missile to test its "operational readiness", DRDO scientists said. The previous trial was conducted on October 5, last year, from the same launch site.
"It is a major milestone in the preparedness of the Army units in the strategic deployment of Agni-I system," Director of the Missile System, Avinash Chander said.
Congratulating the scientists and operations team of the Strategic Forces Command, Defence Minister A K Antony and Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju described today's launch as an "outstanding achievement", which "added yet another milestone in the preparedness of the country in the area of strategic defence".
Chander said the performance of all the sub-systems of the indigenous Agni-I including explicit guidance, re-entry structures, avionics and payload "has been outstanding, confirming the robustness and maturity of long-range missile technology in DRDO."
V K Saraswat, who has been heading the country's missile anti-missile programme, participated in the launch and lauded the team members for their dedicated and professional work towards achieving the success.
The missile has been developed by DRDO and its laboratories along with public sector Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad.
The trials are part of efforts to test the readiness of the missiles. DRDO carries out two tests of each missile every year.
The missile is 15 metres tall, weighs about 12 tonnes and is capable of carrying both conventional as well as nuclear warheads of 1000 kg.
Defence sources said personnel of the newly raised Strategic Forces Command (SFC) along with scientists from the DRDO carried out today's trial in order to ensure familiarisation for the end operator -- the special missile group 334 raised by the Army.
The anti-missile system is also expected to be tested for the second time next month. It was successfully tested last year.
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