India’s nuclear-capable, long-range Agni-V missile, with a strike range of over 5,000 km (3,100 mi.), is scheduled to be tested this month.

“The Agni-V will be tested sometime in the middle of April. The exact date has not been fixed, though,” says Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) chief Dr. V.K. Saraswat.

The Agni V’s range is just 500 km shorter than that of an intercontinental ballistic missile. China has an ICBM that can reach any part of India, with a range of more than 11,000 km. The three-stage Agni-V, with its advanced ring-laser gyros, composite rocket motors and highly accurate micro-navigation systems, comes close to the top American missiles in terms of technology, Saraswat says.

Once the surface-to-surface missile is inducted by 2014-15, India will join an elite ICBM club with the U.S., U.K., Russia, China and France.

The missile, with a canister-launch system to impart greater operational flexibility, is expected to give more teeth to India’s deterrence program.

DRDO is preparing to conduct more test flights of the missile over the next year. “This is a program that [has been] going on for the past two years. Another one year of testing will be involved for fully developing the missile,” Saraswat says.

Capable of carrying a one-ton nuclear war head, the 50-ton missile stands 17.2 meters (56 ft.) tall with a diameter of two meters, and has three solid-fuel stages.