India successfully test-fired indigenously developed interceptor missile, capable of destroying any incoming hostile ballistic missile on Sunday from Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Wheeler Island off Orissa coast.
The 'interceptor' missile was fired from Wheeler Island off the Orissa coast near Dhamra in Bhadrak district, about 170km from here at 9.37am which successfully intercepted an incoming hostile missile fired five minutes earlier.
The 'hostile' missile was a specially modified Prithvi missile, fired from the Launch Complex III of the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur-on-sea in Balasore district, about 70km away from Wheeler Island across the sea.
The incoming ''enemy'' ballistic missile was intercepted at an altitude of 16 km and was destroyed through ''a direct kill.'' The interceptor had a specially designed 'directional warhead'.
According to Dr VK Saraswat, director general, DRDO, and also scientific advisor to the defence minister, the interception ''had a copybook terminal homing, taking the interceptor very close to the incoming ballistic missile.''
The 'hostile 'missile simulated the 600-km range of a ballistic missile and the interceptor worked up near-hypersonic speeds. ''With this launch, we have perfected the interception in endo-atmosphere'' below an altitude of 50 km, Saraswat informed media. "It was a major milestone in the history of ballistic missile defence programme of the country," he said.
This is DRDO's sixth interceptor mission and five have been successful declared successes.
''Our BMD programme has matured and it is really ready now for integration into the air defence assets of the country. India is next only to the US, Russia, France and Israel, who have BMD capability,'' said Dr Sarawat. Dr Saraswat is also the architect of India's interceptor missile programme.
According to Dr Saraswat, the actual significance of this mission may lie in the fact that DRDO may have written ''history for the country in the arena of ballistic missile defence programme.''
Asked about China's capability, Dr Saraswat replied that ''China is still developing it.''
According to other senior DRDO officials, with this test the organisation had now entered the phase where it could ''look at multiple targets and multiple missiles. It has given us the confidence to go ahead with this kind of initiative.''
SP Dash, director of the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur, said the test was tracked by various radars and sensors. All weapon system elements, including command and control, communication and radar, performed satisfactorily, he said.
"It was a fantastic mission. It successfully hit the target. The interceptor intercepted the ballistic missile and blasted it into pieces," Dash said.
"It was a textbook launch and all the events and mission sequence took place as expected. It was a major milestone in the history of ballistic missile defence programme of the country," he said.
Besides this successful test, the DRDO has so far tested its interceptor missile five times - 26 July 2010, 27 November 2006, 6 December 2007 and 6 March 2009. The trial in March 2010 was a failure.
DRDO officials said the entire mission went off in a copybook fashion and the trajectories of the both the missiles followed the pre-designated paths.
According to Avinash Chander, director of DRDO's Advanced Systems Laboratory, with Sunday's launch India had moved closer to the stage of having a credible ballistic missile defence system. ''Of course, we would need to do some more tests in the next one-two years. We now have the capability to intercept multiple missiles being fired at the same time,'' he said.