India today created history with the successful testing of the much awaited Agni-V long-range ballistic nuclear-capable missile, described as 'China killer', that can accurately hit targets more than 5,000 km away.
With the launch from a defence base in Orrisa, India stormed into an exclusive club of nations, including USA, Russia and China, that have this capability to hit targets over 5,000 km away.
"It was a fantastic launch. It hit the target with high accuracy," Mr SP Dash, the director of the test range, said. The missile test was carried out at 8.07 a.m. from the test range in Wheelers' Island off Orissa coast, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Mr VK Saraswat told reporters at the test site.
"India is today a nation with proven capability to design, develop and produce a long-range ballistic missile. India is a missile power now. The three-stage Agni-V missile's entire performance has been successfully demonstrated. All mission objectives and operational targets have been met," Mr Saraswat said.
Agni-V is about 2,500 km short of being called an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), as the world recognised range for an ICBM is over 7,500 km. It will go through a series more tests before it is inducted into the armed forces by the end of 2014. But this missile provides India the capability to hit targets deep inside China and the entire Pakistan territory. However, India maintains a 'no-first-strike' nuclear weapons policy and Agni-V and the 3,500-km-range Agni-IV missile, which was successfully tested in November 2011, are deterrents against a nuclear attack from it's enemies. China, in India's neighbourhood, has the 11,500 km range Deng Fong-31A inter-continental ballistic missile in it's arsenal that can hit targets all over South Asia.
Soon after DRDO announced the success of Agni-V, defence minister Mr AK Antony spoke to Mr Saraswat and Agni-V project director Mr Avinash Chander and congratulated them for "this immaculate success", defence ministry spokesperson Mr Sitanshu Kar said.
Mr Antony described the development as a major milestone in the country's missile programme and said that "the nation is indeed proud" of it's defence scientists. He also recalled "the untiring contributions" of former DRDO chief Mr M Natarajan.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also hailed the long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile test as "another milestone" in the country's "quest for security, preparedness and to explore the frontiers of science"."I congratulate all the scientific and technical personnel of the DRDO and other organisations who have worked tirelessly in our endeavour to strengthen the defence and security of our country," Mr Singh said in his message.
DRDO had wanted to test Agni-V on Wednesday, but had to postpone the launch due to bad weather and lightning in the area of the test, and for safety reasons. It had a test window till Friday. But the scientists did not have to wait that long and the missile, which was prepared over 15 days for the test, was brought to the launch site today morning, DRDO officials said.
Interestingly, the Agni-V programme has a woman missile scientist, Ms Tessy Thomas, as the number two in the project under Mr Chander. Ms Thomas had led the Agni-IV missile programme.