Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Third Agni-III test launch

Here we go: India has tested its Agni-III for the third time.

I certainly do not have to remind the reader of this blog that there was some confusion about the date of the test-firing. It was announced for April 27 but nothing happened on that day. There was – literally - no big reason to defer the test: the tests in the last week of April could have impacted the mass nesting and breeding of Olive Ridley sea turtles along the Orissa coast. The military is indeed changing, has one already thought about nominating the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the “Ecological Conscience Award 2008”?

However, in the end the turtles did not stop the test from taking place: the missile was test fired today. Defense scientists confirmed that the test fire was successful and claimed that the missile meets all parameters. The Agni-III achieved its full range and accuracy by reaching its pre-designated target in 800 seconds. This was of special importance because a new navigation system was part of the test:

For the first time, the missile scientists flight-tested high performance indigenous Ring Laser Gyro based navigation system in the Agni range of missiles. So far the DRDO has been using Strap-down Inertial Navigation Systems.

With the revival of the Indo-Russian GLONASS project, which will be in orbit by 2010, Indian missiles are expected to have more precision.
One scientist even jubilated that “the missile achieved its target in a copy-book style” and that the missile is now ready for induction. This might be a bit early. Originally Indian defense scientists had planned only three tests of the Agni-III missile before its induction. It was test-fired first on July 9, 2006 but it failed to meet its mission objectives due to cascaded failure of booster flex nozzle controller. The second test launch, conducted on April 12, 2007, was successful and validated all mission objectives. Even though the current test was successful as well, due to the failure of the first test flight DRDO said that two more tests would be required to prove its robustness.

It is not only the Agni-III missile that will be tested in the near future. Rediff reports that a miniaturized submarine-launched version of the Agni-III called Agni-III SL is also being developed and could be test-fired shortly.

As it is always the case after a successful test launch, the confidence is (overly) bolstered and people tend to look optimistically ahead. The Indian Express writes that DRDO will be ready to test fire its next ballistic missile in the Agni series, with a range of more than 5000 km, early next year if it gets requisite clearances from the government. The clearance is not the only problem. The mentioned missile has still no clear designation: Agni-III+ and Agni-IV are both used.

Graphic: © RediffNews

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