Monday, October 12, 2009

Two Prithvi missiles tested back-to-back

In quick succession, India tested two advanced versions of the nuclear-capable Prithvi-II ballistic missile, with a strike range of 350-km, from the Chandipur interim test range off the Orissa coast on Monday.

‘‘The two P-II missiles, which can carry 500-kg warheads, were successfully launched within minutes of each other by the armed forces as part of operational exercises... Aimed at two different targets 350 km away from the launch point, the missiles met all mission objectives,’’ said a defence ministry official. ‘The missiles were test-fired from mobile launchers around 10.30 am. Two naval ships tracked and monitored both the missiles hitting the targets very accurately,’’ he added.

An important aspect about the twin tests was that they were conducted by the tri-Service Strategic Forces Command (SFC), created in January 2003 to manage the country’s nuclear arsenal.

The Nuclear Command Authority (NCA), headed by the PM, and SFC were established to ensure proper command and control structures after the 10-month troop mobilisation along the Indo-Pak border under ‘Operation Parakram’ in wake of the December 2001 Parliament attack.

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 nuclear payloads. With the 700-km Agni-I and 2,000-km-plus Agni-II ballistic missiles still to be inducted into the forces, the advanced version of Prithvi is currently the mainstay of SFC. The Army had earlier ordered 75 Prithvi-I and 62 Prithvi-II missiles worth around Rs 1,500 crore, while IAF had gone in for 63 Prithvi-II missiles for Rs 906 crore.

The Navy, in turn, has orders worth Rs 116 crore for Dhanush (a Prithvi variant with a 330-km range) missiles for its two ‘‘dual-tasked’’ warships, INS Subhadra and INS Suvarna.

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