The Indian Air Force officially expressed interest in an air-launched version of the Nirbhay, tentatively designated Nirbhay-A for the stand-off air to ground role for its Su-30 MKI jet platform, solidifying its support with a stated interest in acquiring at least 40 systems once it is proven. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa is understood to have designated a Group Captain-rank officer to be embedded with the new effort and help accelerate development of the air-launched Nirbhay for the area attack role. Both the IAF and DRDO have mutually agreed on a target of 2020 for first drop (weapon release) and 2021 for first test launch.

In an exclusive interview to Livefist, Dr S. Christopher, chief of the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) that administers the laboratories developing and testing the Nirbhay, says, “We have begun a study on modifications required on the missile and the aircraft. We will likely remove the booster and a few systems, but largely the weapon will remain the same.”

The team is currently conducting studies to see if the Nirbhay-A can be slung onto the special pylons developed to carry the BrahMos-A, or if they need to be modified. Weight and dimensions won’t be an immediate issue — the Nirbhay is smaller and lighter than the BrahMos. However, they will be using simulations to see if the lighter system needs a powered ‘push down’ before the booster fires, as a safety mechanism. The team hopes to freeze the list of required modifications this year and begin building a prototype Nirbhay-A.