NEW DELHI: India hopes this week to join the select group of countries with intercontinental missiles by holding the first test flight of a new long-range nuclear-capable rocket, officials said Monday.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has scheduled a maiden launch of the Agni-V missile, which has a range of more than 5,000 kilometres (3,100 miles), between Wednesday and Friday.
The exact launch date is flexible “because this is our longest-range missile and there are many logistics issues and hence we don’t plan for one day,” DRDO spokesman Ravi Gupta told AFP.
In the latest display of India’s growing military might, the test of the indigenously-developed Agni-V will be carried out from a coastal range in the eastern state of Orissa.
“Agni-V is a 5,000-plus kilometre range missile and it is to meet our present-day threat perceptions, which are determined by our defence forces and other agencies,” Gupta said from the test site.
The planned launch comes four months after India successfully tested the Agni-IV missile, which is capable of travelling 3,500 kilometres.
India is among the world’s top 10 military spenders, with Jane’s Defence Weekly forecasting its total purchases between 2011 and 2015 will top $100 billion.
It traditionally sees neighbours Pakistan and China as its prime external threats.
Military spending was boosted by 17 percent to $40 billion in last month’s budget, following a 12 percent increase the previous year.
The Agni-V would in theory be able to strike targets across Asia and some parts of Europe.
Only China, Russia, France, the United States, Great Britain and Israel are thought to have such long-distance missiles.
India conducted a string of atomic detonations in 1998 and declared itself a nuclear-weapons state but it refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The test plan has not attracted the international criticism aimed at reclusive North Korea, which last week carried out a rocket test that ended in failure.