Nirbhay, India’s latest missile — equivalent of the famous American Tomahawk missile — will be test fired by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from the Integrated Test Range at Balasore in Odisha at 9 am on Thursday. This will be the third test of India’s indigenously developed subsonic cruise missile.
The first two tests of the cruise missile were conducted on March 12, 2013 and October 17, 2014. The first test was only a partial success. “Our previous test was successful where all the critical phases were completed, and the mission parameters met. It will take us a couple of more tests before Nirbhay gets operational clearance,” a top DRDO source told The Indian Express.
DRDO sources also confirmed that Nirbhay missile can carry nuclear warheads. The version currently being tested is a land version, being fired from a road-mobile launcher. There are plans to develop the Nirbhay for naval and air platforms as well.
Developed by the DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment Bengaluru, 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.
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.