July 10, 2006

India confirms test of long-range missile fails

NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) - India's test-firing of its
longest-range nuclear-capable missile, the Agni III, was
unsuccessful after the projectile crashed into the sea despite
a smooth take-off, a defense ministry official said on Monday.

The launch of the ballistic Agni, which means "fire" in
Sanskrit, took place on Sunday morning from the well-guarded
Wheeler island off India's eastern coast.

Soon after the launch of the missile, which has a range of
more than 3,000 km (1,870 miles), another defense official had
said that it had been a successful test-firing.

But on Monday, the defense ministry official in New Delhi
confirmed Indian media reports which said the two-stage missile
plunged into Bay of Bengal after going up for 12 km (8 miles)
and then losing height.

The missile was in the air for about five minutes, at least
10 minutes less than expected.

"The take-off was successful but there were some problems
later," Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee was quoted in The
Times of India as saying.

"It will take some time to analyze the data about the
flight performance," said Mukherjee, who witnessed the launch.

India, which has estimated 100-to-150 nuclear warheads and
staged tests in 1974 and 1998, is developing a range of
missiles including the Agni series as part of a defense
strategy against neighbors China and Pakistan, also armed with
atomic weapons.