New Delhi, March 06: India on Friday successfully tested an indigenous interceptor missile that destroyed an incoming "enemy" ballistic missile at an altitude of 80 km, an official said.
The test was a key element in the efforts of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to put in place a missile defence shield to protect populated areas and vital installations like nuclear power plants.
The interceptor was fired from Wheeler Island off the Orissa coast at 4.24 p.m.
"To mimic the incoming missile's trajectory, a Dhanush missile was launched from a ship about 100 km from the coast. It rose to a height of 120 km and as it began its downward trajectory, the interceptor was launched and successfully achieved a kill," the DRDO official said in New Delhi.
"The test marks the completion of the first phase of the programme and it will secure operational clearance by 2012-13," the official added.
With three successful trials conducted, DRDO, after analysing data from the latest firing, might conduct one more test before certifying the system as ready for deployment. Thereafter, the armed forces will put it through a series of trials before the missile defence shield is put in place.
M. Natarajan, the scientific adviser to the defence minister, programme director V.K. Saraswat, and armed forces and government officials witnessed Friday's test.
The first test of the interceptor was conducted in 2006.
On Dec 6, 2007, DRDO had for the second time successfully tested an endo-atmospheric - below 30 km altitude - version of the ballistic missile defence shield, which will have highly sensitive radars to track incoming missiles. The guidance system would ensure that the interceptor collides with the incoming missile within a matter of seconds, thereby saving vital targets from destruction.
Baptised as the Prithvi Air Defence system, the agile interceptor has now been renamed 'Pradyumna'.
DRDO says its missile system is comparable to the Israeli Arrow system and the American Patriot system, both of whose manufacturers are courting the Indian defence establishment for possible orders.
DRDO expects the ballistic missile shield to take care of threats from existing Chinese and Pakistani missiles. While Pakistan possesses missiles with ranges between 400 and 2,000 km, the Chinese arsenal varies from a range of 300 km to 2,800 km.
First Published: Friday, March 06, 2009, 00:00