Fresh test of ITCM ‘failed’ on Friday after its engine developed problems

BHUBANESWAR: A fresh test of India’s indigenous technology cruise missile (ITCM) system ‘failed’ on Friday after its engine reportedly developed snags. The system, a technology demonstrator, was tested with indigenously developed small turbo fan engine (STFE) ‘Manik’ and an upgraded radio frequency seeker from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) off Odisha coast.

Defence sources said the engine developed technical glitches after the initial booster phase, and the missile system plunged into the sea within 30 seconds of the launch. The mission had assumed significance as the missile with indigenous STFE developed by Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) would pave the way for development of a long-range land attack cruise missile that the country has been expecting since long.

“The engine was supposed to start after the initial take-off from the specially designed mobile launcher. But it did not start, possibly owing to a snag. The system then fell down,” said a defence scientist associated with the mission.Since the engine did not start it would be difficult to say how it developed snags and whether any external factor was responsible for it. Issues, if any, with the design of the system will also be looked into, he added.

This was the second failure of the system in the last two years. Of the three tests of the ITCM conducted since 2020, two have failed and one achieved ‘partial success’. During the first trial on October 12, 2020, the system deviated from the pre-coordinated flight path prompting the mission team to kill the missile mid-air to prevent damages to human habitation as the same engine had failed to function. The second trial on August 11 last year though was ‘partially’ successful as the engine performed as expected but the missile system could not travel the desired range reportedly due to some issues with the control mechanism.

Developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) lab of DRDO, the ITCM technology demonstrator uses the sub-sonic cruise missile Nirbhay platform for validating the STFE of 450 KGF thrust class. The country’s first cruise missile Nirbhay was equipped with Russian origin NPO Saturn 36MT turbofan.

DRDO Chairman Samir V Kamat did not respond to calls and messages. ADE Director Y Dilip refused to comment. Both were present at the test range during the vital mission, sources said.