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Nuclear capable Agni-III missile fails in maiden night trial

Manufacturing defect has once against hit Agni series of missile as the first night trial of long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile Agni-III from a defence base off Odisha coast ended in ‘failure’ on Saturday.

The Made-in-India surface-to-surface missile carrying a dummy payload blasted off from an auto-launcher at Abdul Kalam Island in full operational configuration at about 7.15 pm. This was third night trial of an Indian missile in the last fortnight.

A highly placed source informed ‘The Express’ that the missile tumbled into the sea after first phase separation. “The missile travelled around 115 km into its initial flight trajectory when things went awry. It deviated from the flight path forcing the mission team to terminate it midway,” he said.

The test was considered ‘very crucial’ as it was to reconfirm the technical parameters set for the user and its readiness to handle the weapon during night hours. The flight trajectory of the missile was set for nearly 2,800 km. While the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of Indian Army conducted the trial, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) provided all logistic support. The trial was conducted as part of user training exercise.

Though the exact technological fault behind the ‘failure’ is yet to be ascertained, preliminary investigations attributed it to manufacturing defects. “Staring from the launch to the first phase separation, everything was smooth in accordance with the mission plan. But suddenly it started behaving abnormally. It could be possibly due to metallurgical defects,” claimed the source.

The missile used in the test was picked up randomly from the production lot. The missile equipped with state-of-the-art avionics, advanced on board computer has the latest features to correct and guide in-flight disturbances. However, it was not the first failure of the Agni series missile. Two other variants of the missile, Agni-I and Agni-II, have failed during both development and user trials in the past. Agni-II had failed to deliver desired result during its first night trial in 2009.

Developed by DRDO, Agni-III has already been inducted in the armed forces in 2011. Propelled by two-stage solid propellant, it is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads weighing up to 1.5 tonnes. The missile is 17 metres tall and has a diameter of two-metre, it weighs around 50 tonne. All major cities of Pakistan and China come under its range.

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