India is preparing to test a new class of intercontinental ballistic missiles, beginning in January 2002, with one missile said to have a maximum range of over 12,000 miles.

Indian media reports said the first ICBM, the Surya (Agni IV), with a range of 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) will begin flight testing in January, followed by a longer-range version, the Surya II, to begin testing in 2003.

The Surya II, reports said, will have a range of 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles), according to officials at India’s Defense Research and Development Organization, New Delhi’s version of the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.



Test-firing of an early model Agni I ballistic missile.

Eventually, scientists said, the Surya II’s range will be extended to 20,000 kilometers, or more than 12,400 miles, putting every country on Earth within range of Indian missiles, which are expected to be fitted with nuclear warheads.

Technicians said the Surya missiles are based on a combination of liquid- and solid-fueled rocket technology. All are variants of India’s Agni series of ballistic missiles, the longest of which has a range of over 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles).

DRDO officials said the Surya’s test would consist of a single-stage liquid-fueled rocket “based on cryogenic engine technology,” which has already been perfected by the U.S., Russia, France, China and Japan.

A Federation of American Scientists analysis said India first tested cryogenic technology in December 1999 as part of New Delhi’s effort to develop rockets capable of putting Indian satellites into orbit.

“The powerful cryogenic engine can carry communication satellites of up to 2,500 kilograms (about 2.5 tons) into space. So far, India launches its bigger satellites from France because India’s capabilities are limited to sending smaller satellites into a lower orbit,” the FAS document said.

Russia has cut a deal to supply India with seven cryogenic engines from 1998 to 2002. The first engine was received in December 1998 for a satellite booster; one of the next engines will be for a Surya test rocket, DRDO officials said.

India began its ICBM project in 1994 using cryogenic technology developed at the Liquid Propulsion Systems Center Laboratories in Thiruvananthapuram, India, and guidance technology from that facility’s existing geostationary launch vehicle program.

Indian Agni I and II models have already completed testing and have been ordered into serial production.

India and rival neighbor Pakistan both became declared nuclear powers after testing devices in 1998.

Pakistan is also active in the development of its own indigenous ballistic-missile program, and Pakistani officials have said they were set to arm Pakistan’s submarines with nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

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