India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted the final developmental flight trial of the nuclear-capable sub-sonic cruise missile Nirbhay on Monday, April 15 off the coast of Odisha. Nirbhay, meaning “Fearless,” is a land attack cruise missile (LACM).

This test was after a year 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.

Here are the key points to know about ‘Nirbhay’ cruise missile

Nirbhay is a long range, all-weather missile that can be launched from multiple platforms. This sub-sonic cruise missile is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads, with nuclear warhead of 12kT yield.

It was developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a lab under DRDO

In its development tests, the Nirbhay is being powered by Russian NPO Saturn 36MT mini turbofan engines. The DRDO’s engine laboratory Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) is currently developing a similar indigenous mini turbofan engine called Manik in active collaboration with the Centre for Propulsion Technology at IIT Chennai and IIT Bombay. Ground runs of the engine are slated to begin soon and the engine system will have over 95% indigenous components

An inertial navigation system developed by Research Centre Imarat (RCI) guides this missile, while a radio altimeter is used for height determination

Measuring 6 metres, the width of Nirbhay missile is 0.52 metres and it has a wing span of 2.7 metres. The weight of this missile is about 1,500 kg

The missile can deliver 24 different types of warheads depending on mission requirements

The two side wings of Nirbhay missile allows it to fly at different altitudes ranging from 100 m to 4 km above the ground

Nirbhay is equipped with a Ring Laser Gyroscope (RLG) based guidance, control and navigation system

It also comes with a Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) based Inertial Navigation System (INS) and the GPS system

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS 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

The Navy is interested in a Nirbhay variant with a maximum range of at least 1,500 km to ‘account for the various types of strike missions that may need to be undertaken with a stand-off system, including land attack’.  Interestingly, the Navy is also interested in a submarine-launched version of the missile

Equivalent to the famous American Tomahawk missile, Nirbhay missile can carry nuclear warheads of up to 300 kg

Finally, its makers now hope to dodge headwinds from several quarters — not least shifty service requirements and squeezed budgets — to deliver a cost-effective strategic multi-service weapon

Our Bureau