India test launches Agni-V long-range missile
Addis Ababa, April 19, 2012 (WIC) - India has successfully launched a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile able to carry a nuclear warhead, officials say.
The Agni-V missile was launched from a site off India's east coast and took 20 minutes to hit its target somewhere near Indonesia in the Indian Ocean.
The missile has a range of more than 5,000km (3,100 miles), potentially bringing targets in China within range.
It is still unclear if it reached the 5,000km range India was hoping for.
If it is confirmed as a successful test, India would join an elite nuclear club of China, Russia, France, the US and UK which have such long-range missiles. Israel is also thought to possess them.
"It was a perfect launch. It met all the test parameters and hit its pre-determined target," SP Das, director of the test range, told the BBC.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the scientists for the "successful launch" of the missile. It was launched from Wheeler Island off the coast of the eastern state of Orissa at 0805 local time (0235GMT) on Thursday
"Today's launch represents another milestone in our quest for our security, preparedness and to explore the frontiers of science," Mr Singh said.
The BBC's Andrew North in Delhi says Indian officials deny it, but everyone believes the missile is mainly aimed at deterring China - and this Agni-V will now in theory allow India to fire nuclear warheads at Beijing and Shanghai.
Beijing did not immediately comment on the launch, but state-owned China Central Television (CCTV) said the test was "a historic moment for India and it shows that India has joined the club of the countries that own ballistic missiles", Associated Press reported.
CCTV listed some of the missile's shortcomings and said "it does not pose a threat in reality".
But defence analyst Rahul Bedi says a successful test flight of the Agni-V missile, which is capable of delivering a single 1.5-ton warhead deep inside nuclear rival China's territory, would strengthen India's nuclear deterrence once it comes into service by 2014-15.
"Agni-V is to meet our present-day threat perceptions, which are determined by our defence forces and other agencies," DRDO Ravi Gupta spokesman told AFP news agency ahead of the launch.
"This is a deterrent to avoid wars and it is not country-specific," he said.
Analysts say the Agni (meaning "fire" in Hindi and Sanskrit) missile family is to be the cornerstone of India's missile-based nuclear deterrent.
The Agni-V is 17.5m tall, solid-fuelled, has three stages and a launch weight of 50 tons. It has cost more than 2.5bn rupees ($480m; £307m) to develop.
According to BBC, the missiles are among the country's most sophisticated weapons.
In 2010, India successfully test-fired Agni-II, an intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of more than 2,000km (1,250 miles).
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