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India test-fires nuclear-capable Prithvi-II missile

‘The launch, conducted by a missile unit of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), was flawless and achieved all its targeting and technical parameters. The aim of the exercise was to validate our readiness by undertaking launches in various contingencies,’ said a defence official.

Prithvi was initially supposed to be a 150-km ‘tactical’ battlefield missile with conventional warheads but later its role was expanded to include the ‘strategic’ one as well with 500 to 1,000-kg nuclear payloads. The surface-to-surface missile is now equipped with ‘improved high accuracy navigation and manoeuvring systems’, say officials.

The SFC, in turn, was created in January 2003 to manage the country’s nuclear arsenal. While the different Prithvi variants are the short-range missile in its inventory, the longer range requirements are met by the Agni-I (700-km), Agni-II (2,000-km) and Agni-III (3,000-km) missiles.

India is also planning to conduct more tests of the 3,500-km Agni-IV and the over 5,000-km Agni-V, which is a genuine ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile), to prepare them for induction by 2016 or so. Agni-V brings the whole of China – including its northernmost city of Habin - and Asia as well as parts of Europe, Africa and Australia within its strike envelope.

DRDO chief Avinash Chander, on his part, has declared that India can even develop a nuclear-capable missile with a strike range of 10,000-km, rivalling China’s DF-31A missile that can hit targets 11,200-km, but does not see the operational need for it given ‘the existing threat perceptions’.
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