The Prithvi is an Indian short-range ballistic missile, touted as India's first indigenous missile design (although analysts note that most of the propulsion system is derived from the Russian SA-2 SAM design). It is a liquid-fueled, launched from either a fixed position or a road-mobile missile truck, first tested in February 1988. It has been deployed since across the Indo-Pak border as a deterrent against Pakistani aggression.
Two versions are currently deployed, the Prithvi-150 (Prithvi-I) which has a 1,000-kg payload and a range of 150 km, and the Prithvi-250 (Prithvi-II) with a 500- to 650-kg payload and a range of 250 km. Indian sources claim that the inertial guidance systems of their own design give it an accuracy rivalling that of the Russian TOCHKA and the US ATACMS, although foreign military analysts dispute this claim.
The Indian army has ordered 100 Prithvi-150s from Bharat Dynamics Ltd., the primary manufacturer, although as of 1997, less than two dozen have been delivered. Most of these have been deployed with the newly-created 333 Missile Group, then based in a base in Sikanderabad. These were later moved in late-1999 to a more secure facility in Hyderabad, where Bharat Dynamics is located. The 333 has displayed the missile every year since 1994 at the annual Republic Day parade.
The Indian Air Force also has an undisclosed number of the longer-range Prithvi-250s deployed, but mostly for familiarization purposes. These are expected to be used to take out Pakistani airfields, as its range allows it to strike at nearly half of Pakistan, including Islamabad.
The development and testing of the Prithvi missile has been criticized repeatedly by US officials, and has been the sore point in US-Indian relations, due to the future capability of both versions to carry a small nuclear payload (current Indian nuclear technology may not yet be capable of designing such a warhead, but they do have enough fissile material).
More worrying, however, is the recent development of the Prithvi-III (renamed Sagarika/Dhanush), allegedly a cruise missile variant capable of being launched not only from land bases, but from naval platforms as well.
Data gathered from www.fas.org, www.iet.com, www.bharat-rakshak.com, and The Times of India (www.timesofindia.com).