India Puts Agni 3 “ICBM” Tests on Ice
India relies on a number of delivery platforms for its nuclear deterrent, from combat aircraft to its Prithvi (150-300 km/ up to 180 miles) Agni I (700-800 km/ up to 500 miles) and rail-mountable Agni II (2,000+ km/ 1,200+ miles) ballistic missiles. Their location and range ensure that their coverage is largely restricted to Pakistan, but the two-stage Agni III missile was expected to change that with a range of over 3,000 miles. While this is not the ICBM it is sometimes made out to be unless its range is very substantially beyond that 3,000 mile figure, The Agni III would certainly be a capable MRBM(medium range ballistic missile)/ IRBM(intermediate range ballistic missile) capable of reaching many parts of China.
Yet India has put an indefinite hold on the maiden flight-test of the Agni III, despite assurances from Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) scientists that the missile is ready. Our fast round-up of background information and perspectives includes:
- UPI Op/Ed (June 5/06) – India Pulls The Plug On The Agni 3 ICBM Project. Martin Sieff sees it as a canny political move, and doubts very much that US pressure had anything to do with the decision.
- Hindustan Times Op/Ed (May 15/06) – A dud in the manger? Brahma Chellaney criticizes the decision not to test the missile, and rails against foreign defdense imports instead of using made-in-India solutions. New India observers should note that this article reflects a common mindset in Indian defense procurement debates.
- The Times of India (May 15/06) – Agni-III can lift off in 2-3 weeks. That’s how long DRDO scientists say it would take to get an assembled missile ready for testing, given their prior testing and re-testing of its sub-systems.