India Effectively test fires Subsonic Cruise Missile ‘Nirbhay’

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Nirbhay subsonic missile
Image Credits: The Economic Times

The Nirbhay cruise missile’s sixth flight was directed by the Indian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). Being India’s first indigenously designed and established long-range cruise missile; the nuclear missile took flight on an Integrated Test Range on Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha.

The Nirbhay is a subsonic long-range land attack cruise missile that can be equipped with a 200-300-kilogram weapon. The nuclear-capable, solid fuel, the missile can apparently touch top speeds of 0.6-0.7 Mach and it can assault land targets at a distance of up to 1,000 kilometers.

It can be launched from numerous platforms — the first test of the air-launched variant is expected to take place in 2021 — and reportedly has the ambling capability.

nirbhay missile
Image Credits: Wikipedia

Its objective was to prove the repeatability of boost phase, cruise phase using waypoint navigation at very low heights. The missile took off upright turning horizontally into the anticipated direction, booster separated, wing positioned, the engine started, cruised all the projected waypoints.

Cruising at 0.7 Mach at altitude as low as 100 meters, the test supposedly authenticated the missile’s sea-skimming ability. The entire flight was completely shadowed by a chain of Electro-Optical Tracking Systems, Radars and Ground Telemetry Systems positioned all along the sea coast. The Nirbhay cruise missile allegedly covered the chosen target range in 42 minutes and 23 seconds.

According to the Indian Ministry of Defense, all test aims were met.

Some previous test launches ended in failure, along with a few successful ones. DRDO engineers have pointed to glitches with the flight control software and navigation system of the cruise missile, as well as hardware design faults, for the causes of the failed missile tests.

Software and hardware issues that hampered the missile’s performance during tests in the past have now been looked at. By the time user trials start, the DRDO hopes to be in a position to offer Manik-powered Nirbhay, at which point the structure will be over 95 percent indigenous.

In the past, the MoD considered terminating the Nirbhay program on many occasions. Next, to technical and funding difficulties, there remains a persistent query over the Indian military’s operational necessity for a subsonic, long-range cruise missile.

Despite that, the Nirbhay program has allegedly been given priority status by the MoD.