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34 yrs since Prithvi, India’s missile plan continues to soar

Source : Hindustan Times

34 yrs since Prithvi, India’s missile plan continues to soar
India's Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) Agni-III (3,500-5,000km) on Rajpath (File Photo) 

Thirty four years after India successfully test-fired the Prithvi surface-to-surface weapon, the country’s missile programme has come a long way, put its credible minimum deterrence on a firm footing, and defence scientists have now set their sights on developing a new class of ultra-modern weapons that can travel six times faster than the speed of sound (Mach 6), officials familiar with the development said.

India's missiles and its ranges on world map

Hindustan Times front-paged the first Prithvi launch in its February 25, 1988 edition after Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi broke the news of the historic launch in both Houses of Parliament. The announcement was greeted with jubilation and prolonged thumping of desks on all sides. The missile had a range of 250km.

Describing the launch as a milestone in India’s quest for self-reliance, Gandhi stressed that no foreign knowhow or collaboration was involved in the missile’s development.

All Major Indian missiles in one frame

Responding to members’ queries in the Rajya Sabha, Gandhi made it clear that it was a purely defence missile and India, being a peace-loving country, would continue to work for peace.

“After a number of necessary test launches, we plan to induct Prithvi in numbers into our defence forces,” he said.

Agni missile family in one frame (Agni-P, Agni-1,Agni-III,Agni-V,Agni-II,Agni-1P)

The launch was part of the integrated guided missile development programme (IGMDP), conceived by former president and missile scientist APJ Abdul Kalam, approved by the government in July 1983 to develop an array of missiles including Prithvi, Agni and Akash.

In the decades that followed the maiden Prithvi launch, India developed a series of conventional and strategic missiles that give it the capability to hit targets at ranges of 250km to more than 5,000km.

India's Short Range Tactical Ballistic Missiles in one frame (From Left, Prahaar, Prithvi-I, Prithvi-II, Dhanush ShLBM), PAD Interceptor, PDV Interceptor)

India is now tapping into advanced technologies to develop a new class of weapons. In September 2020, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) carried out a successful flight test of the hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle (HSTDV) for the first time from a launch facility off the Odisha coast. India could develop hypersonic cruise missiles in about four years, the officials said.

“Congratulations to DRDO for successful flight of the Hypersonic Test Demonstration Vehicle today. The scramjet engine developed by our scientists helped the flight achieve a speed 6 times the speed of sound. Very few countries have such capability today,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on the day of the flight test.

India's SLBM and their derivatives (From Left , K-15 SLBM/Shaurya QBM, SMART, K-4 SLBM, PDV Mk2 Interceptor)

Only the United States, Russia and China have developed technologies to field fast-manoeuvring hypersonic missiles that fly at lower altitudes and are extremely hard to track and intercept. Mach 6 translates into a speed of 7,408kmph.

India has sharpened its focus on exporting weapons, including missiles. In December 2020, the Union Cabinet, chaired by PM Modi, gave its go-ahead to the sale of Akash missile systems to friendly foreign countries and created a high-powered panel for swifter approval to export of military hardware.

India has set a target of clocking defence exports worth $5 billion by 2024.

Last month, India’s BrahMos Aerospace and the Philippines signed a deal worth almost $375 million for the Philippine Marines to acquire three batteries of the BrahMos cruise missile, a shot in the arm for New Delhi’s efforts to emerge as an exporter of major defence hardware.

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