India announced the next test-launch of its Agni-III for April. According to plans, it will be the third launch of Agni-III, which will take place from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) on the Wheeler Island off the Orissa coast. The first two launches were conducted from the same test range. The first launch on July 9, 2006, proved to be unsuccessful with the missile falling into the sea off the coast of Orissa, short of reaching the target. India scored better on April 12, 2007, when it declared the flight test to be a success.
There is still no reliable information available on the number and the dates of Agni-III test launches for 2008. In December last year IRNA stated wrongly that the next test would be conducted in June this year. However, there is no indication on whether IRNA only omitted the April test with another one being conducted in June, if DRDO decided to test-launch earlier or if the information was plainly wrong. In another piece on the Agni I wrote in January on the same question:
Jane’s quotes local press reports, according to which Dr V K Saraswat said that the 3,000 km-range Agni-III would make three more test flights during 2008. This information is contradictory to what his colleague M Natarajan, who is scientific advisor to the ministry of defense and chief controller at DRDO, said earlier. He spoke of two tests: “One, sometime within the first quarter of , and another within nine to 12 months."Maybe we can get additional information on this issue in April when India will be commenting the launch. The successes of the recent past made DRDO very confident. They bragged about the Agni-III and described it as not just “a missile, but a system for the future”.
Update April 2: The Times of India provided today additional information on the upcoming test. The test-firing is likely to take place between April 20 to 30, but the exact launch date will depend on technical, environmental and other parameters. The daily continues:
"If the third test is successful, then the ballistic missile will require just one or two more tests before it can go for limited series production and training trials by the armed forces. Its operational deployment should be possible by 2010-2011," said a source.The same article contained also information on the Agni-III+ missile:
The government, however, is yet to give defence scientists the green signal for an advanced version of Agni-III, with a miniaturised third-stage to increase the strike distance to around 5,000-km. "If the political directive comes, we can test this Agni-III-plus missile in a year or so," the source said.