NEW DELHI, March 16 (UPI) -- India's bid to bolster its defenses with a missile shield has suffered a major setback, officials say, following a botched test launch this week.
The test was effectively abandoned after one of the two missiles in the operation deviated off course because of a snag in the system, officials said.
"The flight test was planned to demonstrate the interception of a tactical ballistic missile in the endo-atmospheric (inside the atmosphere) region," said a senior official of the Defense Research Development Organization, which is developing the missile shield.
The anonymous official, cited by the India Express daily, said the attacker missile, from the Prithvi family, took off normally but, after 20 seconds of flight, veered off its path, unable to reach its required altitude of 68.3 miles.
The hypersonic missile, instead, reached about 43 miles before radar lost track of it when it fell into the Bay of Bengal.
What's more, the India Express reported, is that as the target went off course, the interceptor missile failed to take off from Whealer Island off the Orissa coast about 45 miles across the sea from Chandipur.
Authorities said an investigation had been immediately begun to determine the causes of the botched defense missile test.
Scientific Adviser to the Defense Minister and DRDO Director General V.K. Saraswat told The Hindu that the target missile "might have failed to reach its required altitude and velocity due to a malfunction in one of its sub-systems."
The trial, conducted Monday, was scheduled to take place over the weekend but authorities postponed it because of last-minute technical snags.
More than 3,000 people from six surrounding villages had been evacuated as part of precautionary measures taken ahead of the launch.
A new test day was also quickly reset to June, The Hindu said.
Should India succeed with its defense shield designs it will join Israel, Russia and the United States in both developing and owning such defense technology.
Although manufactured domestically, the system's tracking and fire control radars have been developed with Israel and France.
Bent on bolstering its military might, India announced plans recently to spend up to $30 billion on its military by 2012.
Last month, for example, it inducted a long-range nuclear-tipped missile into its armed forces, unveiling, also, a defense spending budget spiked by 24 percent since last year.
The moves have Pakistan fretting, with leading officials billing India's drive a "massive militarization."
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