It was the second test of Agni-III, a two-stage solid-fuelled missile which has a diameter of 1.8 metres and can carry nuclear or conventional warheads.

The first test of the missile, ended in failure last July when it developed problems after a successful take-off and crashed into the sea without hitting a designated target.

 

Second test

 

"The technical glitches in its heat shield and other material related faults have been rectified," an unnamed defence ministry official told The Times of India newspaper.

  

"A flexible heat shield to protect the warhead and avionics from high temperatures generated by the missile's re-entry into the earth's atmosphere is being used this time."

  

Agni-III was originally scheduled for testing in 2003 but it was believed to have been deferred amid moves by arch-rivals India and Pakistan to bury decades of mutual hostility.

 

An Indian foreign ministry source in New Delhi said India, which signed an agreement with Pakistan on the pre-notification of ballistic missile tests in October 2005, had informed Islamabad of the latest Agni-III test.

  

Nuclear weapons

 

India, which conducted nuclear weapons tests in 1998, has developed a series of nuclear and conventional missile systems as part of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)'s  Integrated Missile Development Programme which was launched in 1983.

  

The Agni is one of five missiles developed by the DRDO.

  

New Delhi has already begun the production of two variants of the Agni - a 700km Agni-I and the 2,500km range Agni-II after flight-testing both the ballistic missiles numerous times since 1993.

  

The other four missiles are the Prithvi, the surface-to-air Trishul (Trident), multi-purpose Akash (Sky), and the anti-tank Nag (Cobra).