India has test-launched its first long-range intercontinental ballistic missile, significantlyupgrading the emerging Asian nation’s military capabilities. It has the capacity to target major Chinese cities and Europe.
The Agni-V missile has a range of 5,000 km and is able of carrying a 1.5 ton nuclear warhead. It can also be used to launch satellites into orbit. India’s military reportedly spent US$486 million on building the ballistic missile which stands at 17.5 meters high and weighs in at 50 tons.
According to Indian media the missile was launched just after 8am local time from WheelerIsland off India’s east coast. It rose to an altitude of 600 kilometers and successfully completed the three stages of its flight before releasing its payload.
The Agni-V will undergo four or five more trials and is expected to join India’s military arsenal before 2015.
The government had earlier hailed the missile project as a major step towards regional dominance, counterbalancing China.
“India has today become a nation with the capability to develop, produce, build long-range ballistic missiles and today we are among the six countries who have this capability,” said Vijay Saraswat, head of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization.