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Death Anniversary Special: The Story Of Missile Man Abdul Kalam, AKA Maj Gen Prithvi Raj

ANANYA BHATNAGAR | 0
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| July 27 , 2018 , 14:08 IST

July 27 marks the death anniversary of the people’s president and phenomenal scientist and researcher Late Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam Azad.

Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad is also known as the missile man of India for his contribution and work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology.

He also played a pivotal organizational, technical, and political role in India's Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974.

The Story Of Major General Prithviraj

On May 11, 1998, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced, “Today at 1545 hrs India conducted three underground nuclear tests in the Pokhran test range. The tests conducted today were with a fission device, a low yield device and a thermonuclear device. The measured yields are in line with expected values. Measurements have also confirmed that there was no release of radioactivity into the atmosphere. I warmly congratulate the scientists and engineers who have carried out the successful tests. Thank you very much indeed."

This speech marked the success of the Pokhran nuclear tests and Major General Prithviraj played a key role in the successful completion of these tests.

ALSO READ: When APJ Abdul Kalam Pioneered Pokhran Nuclear Test

Positioned in Pokhran as an officer of the 58th Engineers Regiment of the Indian Army, Dr Abdul Kalam took the name of Maj Gen Prithviraj. He took this name as he was the team leader of Prithvi missile project which was India’s first nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range of 150 to 250 kms.

Major General Prithviraj who is better known as the missile man and was also the 11th President of India, he is none other than Late Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam Azad.

For the first round of tests, the shafts were given code names such as White House, Taj Mahal and Kubhakaran. The other three shafts for the second test series were named as NT 1, 2, and 3.

The key people involved in this operation codenamed as Operation Shakti were Dr. A. P. J Abdul Kalam (then DRDO Chief & Scientific Advisor To PM), Dr. Rajagopala Chidambaram (then Atomic Energy Chief), Dr. Anil Kakodkar (then Baba Atomic Research Centre (BARC) chief), Brajesh Mishra (then NSA chief) and few politicians including then home minister Lal Krishna Advani.

The bombs were transported in four trucks of the Army under the command of Colonel Umang Kapur, all devices from BARC were relocated at 03:00 hrs on 1 May 1998.

From the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, the bombs were flown in an AN-32 transport plane to the Jaisalmer army base. The devices were then transferred to the Pokhran range in an army convoy of four trucks in three trips

On May 11, 1998, at 1543 hrs three nuclear devices (specifically, Shakti I, II and III) were detonated simultaneously, as measured by international seismic monitors. While May 13, at 1221 hrs, two sub-kiloton devices (Shakti IV and V) were detonated but due to the low yield, these explosions were not detected internationally.

Missile Man

With Kalam's effort, India made advanced missiles during the Indira Gandhi period. Agni and Prithvi missiles were being designed during this time only. Kalam was also part of the Indian National Committee For Space Research (INCOSPAR) committee working under Vikram Sarabhai.

Between the 1970s and 1990s, Kalam made an effort to develop the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and SLV-III projects, both of which proved to be successful. Kalam served as the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Prime Minister and also Secretary of the Defence Research and Development Organisation from July 1992 to December 1999.

ALSO READ: Former President APJ Abdul Kalam Passes Away In Shillong

Dr. Kalam took his last breath on July 27, 2015, in Shillong while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), he was rushed to a nearby hospital but was declared dead on arrival.