The planned trial launch next month of India's nuclear-capable Agni 3 ballistic missile could lead to the weapon's induction into the military, the New Indian Express reported on Sunday.
Work is under way at the Wheeler Island missile launch facility for the test, according to anonymous defense insiders. The trial is anticipated to take place in the first week of September, though Agni missile program head Avinash Chander said no specific date has been set.
With a flight range of 2,175 miles, the Agni 3 is one of the longest-range missiles in India's nuclear arsenal; the developmental Agni 5 has the farthest tested range at 3,100 miles.
The solid-fuel Agni 3 has been tested four times, with success declared in the last three attempts. The two-stage ballistic missile has a velocity of about 3.1 miles per second and can be loaded with nuclear and non-nuclear payloads.
"If the missile meets all mission parameters, the [Indian Defense Research and Development Organization] would definitely go for its induction by the end of the year," a military researcher said.
"Though it is said to be ready for induction, it will still require one or two more tests before it can go for limited series production trials by the armed forces," according to a military expert. "However, two years more will be required for its operational deployment."
The Agni 3 missile was developed with China in mind, in contrast to earlier Agni variants seen as a weapon against India's longtime rival Pakistan, according to the report.
Flight trials for two other Agni missile versions are in the planning stages as well, Chander said.
Meanwhile, the Indian army in the coming days is slated to conduct a user trial of its nuclear-ready Prithvi 2 missile, likely either on Saturday or Sunday, according to the New Indian Express.
The last planned test-launches of the operational ballistic missile in December did not take place due to technical problems that prevented liftoff.
The liquid-fueled Prithvi 2 has a top flight range of roughly 217 miles. The Indian navy and air force have their own versions of the Prithvi missile.