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September 7, 2000
India refuses to confirm production of Prithvi
India on Thursday refused to confirm or deny a US media report that it was planning full production of about 300 short-range surface-to-surface missiles for all three branches of the defence forces.
"Obviously we are working at all levels to counter security threats and the Prithvi missile is part of that programme," a defence ministry spokesman said.
"We are facing serious problems from Pakistan. We are fully ready with our defence preparedness on all fronts but I cannot indicate a time-frame for the production of Prithvi or the number involved," he said.
The US-based Defense News quoted a senior Indian ministry official as saying the decision to mass produce the Prithvi was taken by Defence Minister George Fernandes on August 25. It said the decision was prompted by arch-rival Pakistan's test-firing of its Ghauri-III intermediate range ballistic missile 10 days earlier.
The report said the 300 Prithvis, estimated to cost $ 200 million, would be manufactured at the state-owned Bharat Dynamics in Hyderabad.
Defense News quoted company sources as saying the army required 150 Prithvis with a range of 150 kilometres (93 miles) while the navy needed 100 missiles of equal range.
It said 50 Prithvi missiles, with a longer range of 250 kilometres, would be produced for the air force. They would be called Prithvi-II.
The naval version of Prithvi, known as Dhanush, will move to serial production in April 2001 while Prithvi-II will go into production in June 2001, the weekly said.
The short-range Prithvi missile developed by India's Defence Research and Development Organisation can carry a payload of 1,000 kilogrammes (2,200 pounds).
India has built a full rack of guided missiles including the ballistic missile series Agni since it launched an ambitious weapons development programme in 1983.
The Agni, first launched successfully in 1993, has a range of 1,800 kilometres (1,116 miles) which makes it capable of hitting targets anywhere in Pakistan and deep inside China.
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