India’s Nirbhay v/s. Pakistan’s Babur:- Which Subsonic Cruise Missile is The Best?

On August 11, 2005, Pakistan outsmarted India by publicly announcing the successful test launch of Hatf-VII a.k.a ‘Babur’ cruise missile. India had to wait until 2014 to counter Pakistan in subsonic cruise missile tech. Since then there has been lot of speculations and comparisons. With the usual ‘Who’s better?’ tagline on several forums. This article is our take on one of the most debated topics in Indian subcontinent.

Let us take a look at our neighbour’s at first:


The Hatf 7 “Babur” is a short-range, turbojet-powered ground-launch cruise missile. Development  of missile started in the 1990s as a response to the Indian cruise missile program,  and may have been aided by the reverse engineering of one or more U.S. RGM/UGM-109 Tomahawk missiles recovered by Pakistan in May 1998. The missile also shares similar characteristics to the Russian AS-15, the Russian SS-N-27 Club, and Chinese Hong Niao-3.

With a launch weight around 1,500 kg, it is capable of carrying a 450 kg payload up to 700 km.  The missile can be equipped with either a single 10 or 35 kT nuclear warhead, or up to 450 kg worth of conventional explosives (HE unitary or submunitions).

Over the course of the missile’s lifespan, there have been a wide range of estimates and declarations as to its range. When the missile was first tested in 2005, it was announced that it had a range of 500 km. In 2012, there were claims of the Babur reaching a 700 km range. Future improvements could extend the missile’s range to around 1000 km.However, U.S. assessments put the current range much lower at 350 km.

The missile began testing in August 2005. Subsequently, at least ten flight tests have occurred through July 2014. The system is believed to have entered service in 2010. The known launch vehicles have all been mobile, land-based platforms. It is possible that air, ship, and even submarine-launch versions could be developed in the future.

The widely acknowledged platform for ‘BABUR’ is TEL and even though Pakistan claims that a submarine version was tested successful, Indian Navy has a different take on it. Indian Navy strongly believes that the test never took place as no IN ships in the region picked up anything positive. Few experts also suggest the photographic evidence provided was manipulated in some way.

Nirbhay Missile

Nirbhay is a long range, subsonic cruise missile designed and developed in India by the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Nirbhay is an all-weather, low-cost, long-range cruise missile capable of carrying conventional and nuclear war heads. The missile has a range of more than 1000 km, weighs about 1500 kg and has a length of 6 metres.The missile is powered by a solid rocket booster for take off which is developed by Advanced Systems Laboratory(ASL).

The missile utilizes a solid propellant booster motor that is jettisoned shortly after launch, switching over to a turbojet engine with a cruise speed of 0.65 Mach and a reported range of 800-1,000 km.The missile is guided by INS/GPS with an active-radar terminal seeker, and its accuracy could be improved both by the development of an indigenous Indian navigation satellite system4 and the potential of integrating the seeker from the BrahMos missile

The missile can carry warheads ranging between 300 kg and 400 kg and a total of 24 types of warheads can be attached based on mission requirements. It can be launched from multiple platforms including aircraft, land-based vehicles/launchers, ships and submarines and shall be inducted into Indian Navy, Army, and Air Force.

The Circular Error Probability (CEP) of Nirbhay is as low as 1-2m as compared to 10m of Babur. The seekers of Nirbhya are based on Ring Laser Gyro technology which makes it highly precise & accurate. Babur uses Chinese Fiber Optics Gyros in its seekers.

Although Babur and Nirbhya both claims to be stealth against any Radars. But Nirbhya has the capability to fly as low as 5m so it can’t be detected by radars, in this parameter also Nirbhay wins.

Nirbhay can be launched from all three platforms; ground, air, and water. It will me mounted on Su-30 MKI to make the fighter more lethal. Babur does not have air force version because of smaller range and heavy weight.

As of Pakistan’s military reports, BABUR doesn’t seem to have loitering capability. It enables the missile to circle over the target area, to prevent collateral damage or to assign a new target. However, as per DRDO, Nirbhay does come with loitering capability and hence paks more punch that BABUR in this case.


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