Equivalent of the famous American Tomahawk missile, Nirbhay missile can carry nuclear warheads of up to 300 kg. Nirbhay is India’s first indigenously designed and developed long-range sub-sonic cruise missile

India’s first indigenously designed long-range sub-sonic cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’ will make a final development trial in April, over a year after it successfully completed its test flight in November 2017.

The maiden test flight of ‘Nirbhay’ held on March 12, 2013, had to be terminated midway for safety reasons due to malfunction of a component. However, the second launch on October 17, 2014, was successful. In the next trial conducted on October 16, 2015, the missile deviated from its path after covering 128 km. The test flight held on December 21, 2016, had to be aborted after 700 seconds of its test flight as it deviated from its designated path. In 2017, the fifth experimental test of the homegrown missile system was done with success.

Equivalent to the famous American Tomahawk missile, Nirbhay missile can carry nuclear warheads of up to 300 kg. India had developed the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile with Russia but it had to go alone for developing the Nirbhay, which has a range of 1,000 kilometres. This is because of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which forbids its signatory countries from assisting or providing technology to any other country developing a cruise missile with a range of 300 kilometres or more. The range of BrahMos has thus been capped at 295 kilometres, just under the limit set by MTCR.

How Does It Function?

‘Nirbhay’, a two-stage missile, is 6-metre long, 0.52 metre wide and with a wingspan of 2.7 meters. It can carry the designated warhead at a speed of 0.6 -0.7 Mach. Its launch weight is about 1500 kg.

With an operational range of 1,000 km, the missile is fuelled by a solid rocket motor booster developed by the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL). The missile is guided by a highly-advanced inertial navigation system which is also indigenously designed and developed by the Research Centre Imarat (RCI), DRDO sources had said.

Developed by the DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment Bangalore, Nirbhay uses autopilot and navigation technologies developed for Nishant and Rustom UAVs. The two-stage missile — it takes off vertically like a conventional rocket and then takes a 90-degree turn to come into horizontal flight, or ‘cruise mode’ — flies at the treetop level to avoid detection by enemy radars. A flight speed of 900-1,000 kilometres per hour allows the missile to manoeuvre and navigate its way precisely to the target.