The Prithvi was India's first indigenously developed ballistic missile to result from Integrated Guided Missile Development ProgramThe Prithvi is not a particularly sophisticated missile, incorporating propulsion technology derived from the Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missile. First test-fired on February 25, 1988, two versions of this single-stage, liquid-fuel missile are now in service and a third may be in development. Prithvi-I (150 km/1,000 kg) is in army service,. Prithvi-II (250 km/500 kg), is with the Air Force service, Development of a longer-range, reduced-payload Prithvi-III (350 km range) is suggested by some sources. The Prithvi-lll is apparently the naval version of the missile.
The Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) was an Indian Ministry of Defence program for the development of a comprehensive range of missiles, including the intermediate range Agni missile (Surface to Surface), and short range missiles such as the Prithvi ballistic missile (Surface to Surface), Akash missile (Surface to Air), Trishul missile (Surface to Air) and Nag Missile (Anti Tank). The program was headed by Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), with former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam, being one of the chief engineers involved in the project.The project was started in early 1980s and resulted in the development of several key strategic missiles. The last major missile developed under the program was Agni 3 intermediate-range ballistic missile which was successfully tested on 9 July 2007. On 8 January 2008, and the third test on 7 May 2008, the DRDO announced that it will be closing the missile program formally since most of the missiles in the program are developed and inducted into Indian armed forces.According to statement by Dr. S Pralhada, head controller of DRDO, new missile and weapons systems will be developed within a five-year time frame at low costs, with foreign partners and private industries. DRDO has independently carried out further development work on Nag and Surya missile.In September 2008 Indian scientists developed a path-breaking technology that has the potential to increase the range of missiles and satellite launch vehicles by at least 40%.The enhanced range is made possible by adding a special-purpose coating of chromium metal to the blunt nose cone of missiles and launch vehicles. This would add-up on the stated range.
The Prithvi-I is small (8.55 m) and was paraded in mobile launchers during India's Republic Day parade in January 1996.The Surface-to-Surface Missile 'Privthi' developed under the integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, was successfully test launched, for the 10th time on February 7, 1993.The Prithvi-I has been test fired at least twice from mobile launchers by artillery personnel. The mobile launcher, mobile launch control and user version of the ground system including software, have been validated. Reportedly, the Prithvi-I can be armed with five different types of conventional warheads. A prefragmented warhead has been developed which has performed satisfactorily in dynamic and static trials. In May 1997 India's Junior Defence Minister V.M. Somu told Parliament that development of the 150 km-range Prithvi for the Indian Army was complete, and no test flights have been conducted since that time.The Prithvi-1 is launched from a Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) vehicle, designed to transport the missile along roads and railways. The missile takes approximately two hours to launch. The Prithvi-1 takes a great deal of time to launch due to its necessary support vehicles. A single TEL platform will carry an average of nine support vehicles. Its short range and low payload prevent it from being used against strategic targets. However, the missile's high accuracy enables it to target enemy military targets effectively, making it a battlefield weapon. It is reported that mobile targets can be attacked with Prithvi-1 missiles using Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs).Following India's nuclear tests in May 1998, the Prithvi-1 was fitted with a range of small nuclear warheads with 1, 5, or 12 to 20 kT yields, and a weight of around 250 to 300 kg.
Starting with a test on 27 January 1996, the Prithvi-II missile has been tested to achieve the range of 250 km with a 500-650 kg payload.On 23 February 1997 India conducted the third test of the Prithvi-II, the 16th in the overall program. And on 16 June 2000 India completed successfully its 17th test firing of the Prithvi. On 13 December 2001 India tested an improved version of the Prithvi missile from the at Chandipur testing. The medium-range missile was fired over the Bay of Bengal from the testing range, 750 miles southeast of New Delhi. On March 19, 2004, India successfully fire-tested an extended version of the medium-range surface-to-surface missile `Prithvi` from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea, about 13 kms from Balasore in the Eastern Indian State of Orissa. The extended version has been developed for Indian Air Force (0AF) and was reportedly test fired from a mobile launcher at about 10:10 a.m. (local time) from the ITR. In its current configuration, the missile is 9.0 m long, 1.1 m in diameter, and weighs either 4,000 or 4,600 kg. It uses a single-stage, liquid-propellant engine, giving it a maximum of 250 km with an accuracy of 50 m CEP. Its payload consists of a single warhead weighing either 500 kg or 1000 kg. The 1000 kg payload has yet to be a confirmed carrier of all the types of warheads available to the Prithvi series. The missile's warheads are nuclear, high-explosive, or submunitions. The missile can also be equipped with multiple payloads, to be dispensed by the missile during its flight.
Prithvi III, Sagarika, is a two-stage surface-to-surface missile in the developmental stages. The first stage is solid fuelled with a 16 metric ton force (157 kN) thrust motor. The second stage is liquid fuelled. The missile can carry a 1000 kg warhead to a distance of 350 km and a 500 kg warhead to a distance of 600 kilometres and a 250 kilogram warhead up to a distance of 750 kilometres. The design is developed while keeping the navy in mind.Sagarika will be a nuclear-capable, ballistic missile, capable of being mounted in ships or submarines. Considering the upward capability developments, Prithvi class of missiles could be reclassified from short-range ballistic missile to a medium range ballistic missile. The current codename of the operational variant Dhanush could pave way for the new codename Sagarika as Sagarika becomes operational. Dhanush was successfully tested on March 30, 2007. Sagarika will be inducted into the Advanced Technology Vessel being developed for Indian Navy.On October 27, 2004, India flight-tested the Prithvi III, its most sophisticated medium range surface to surface missile and capable of carrying nuclear warheads within a range of up to 300 kms at Chandipur-on-sea. The 8.5-meter-high and one-meter-thick missile, was fired at 11:29 p.m. (local time), and has a range of 250-300 kilometers. The missiled uses a two-stage propellant, both solid and liquid.
Although little has been written about the Prithvi's accuracy, India claims that it is the first indigenously produced missile with inertial guidance. Prithvi is reported by some sources to have a circular error probable of 1.5 km -- 1% of range, and therefore it cannot be categorized as a precision munition. According to other sources, the accuracy of the Prithvi when fired from a pre-surveyed launch site is 10 meters at a range of 67km. From an unsurveyed site, that increases to 150-200 metres at 150km. The army wants accuracy from unsurveyed sites to be brought down to 40 metres. There is no use of any terminal guidance on Prithvi.