Nirbhay Missile:- India’s Indigenuously Developed sub sonic long range cruise 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.3 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.

Nirbhay is a two-stage missile system with loitering capability. Nirbhay is equipped with ring-laser gyroscope for accurate strikes.

Nirbhay can fly at extremely low altitudes, the missile is enabled with terrain hugging technology which effectively means the missile can fly in the tree levels. This method is instrumental in avoiding detection by enemy radar systems and can help in reducing the reaction time of the enemies.

Nirbhay is capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads. Initially Nirbhay will be launched from a mobile launcher which has been developed by Tata. Further development will guarantee the launch of Nirbhay from Aerial and Naval platforms. The missile will supplement the BrahMos with its extended range.

The first test of the missile took place in February 2013, the test was a partial success as the missile was destroyed half way to its target after it showed diversion in its trajectory. The missile was again tested in October 2014, the missile delivered the package to the designated target flying flawlessly through the skies. Nirbhay is expected to enter service in less than three years.

First Trail – 12th March 2013 – Failed – Missile destroyed in mid flight

Second Trail – 17 October 2014 – Success – 100% performance

Third trail – 16 October 2015 – Failed – Missile crashed

Fourth test-December 21, 2016-Failed

Update on Nirbhay programme?

After two consecutive failures, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is gearing up for a fresh experimental trial of India’s first home-grown subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay with a hope that the weapon system this time will not let them down.

Hectic preparations are underway at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) off Odisha coast as the missile has been scheduled for the test next week. It will be fifth launch of the missile in the last five years.

“The launch window has been set for November 7 to 9. Final checks of the missile sub-systems are on and hopefully the missile will be ready for test in next two days. A team of experts are monitoring the launch preparations. We are planning for the launch on Tuesday,” said an official associated with the project.

Once powered by a turbofan engine, Nirbhay will be tested using a turbojet engine for the first time. DRDO scientists are expecting a success this time as wing deployment and navigation software problems, detected during the pre-launch check-ups in May which led to its postponement, seem to have been rectified.

Of four tests so far, three have been failed as the missile had achieved partial success during the second test in 2014. The first test flight conducted on March 12, 2013, was an utter failure as the missile crashed only after 20 minutes of flight and its remnants fell in an orchard in Jagatsinghpur district, about 150 km from the launch site.

Nirbhay’s last trial conducted on December 21, 2016, was aborted midway as the missile changed its course. The missile project was mired in controversy after ‘The Express’ raised doubts on its outcome prior to third and fourth trials since it was pushed for test with faults in the flight control and navigation software.

Integration of Nirbhay with Indian Airforce Aircrafts

According to reports, DRDO is now working on integrating it with the fighter jet’s systems and developing the capability of launching from low altitudes, in order to minimize its visibility to radar.

Nirbhay missile can use the Su-30MKI’s existing pylons that now carry the Brahmos missile. DRDO is considering Nirbhay missile to arm Tejas, a light fighter jet with a rocket “shortened” by about 25%.

Nirbhay can be adapted for naval release by both a surface ship and submarines. It has a range of 1500 kms, weighs 1000 kgs, and its current engine is ramjet technology.

Nirbhay missile design and development

Nirbhay subsonic cruise missile was designed by DRDO’s aeronautical systems design division, Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), which is located at Bengaluru. Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), based at Hyderabad, developed the weapon’s solid rocket motor booster and the Integration of the missile was carried out by DRDO’s Research & Development Establishment (Engineers), Pune (R&DE).

The projectile is designed to deliver similar loitering capabilities, control and guidance, as well as the accuracy and stealth capabilities of America’s Tomahawk and Pakistan’s Babur missiles. Nirbhay is an addition to the Indian arsenal, which includes BrahMos, a short-range supersonic cruise missile jointly developed by India and Russia.

The first test-firing of Nirbhay was terminated midway after the missile deviated from the intended path. It was trialled a second time using a solid booster and a turbo-jet engine during the cruise phase.

It took more than one hour and ten minutes for the first flight test mission to be completed from lift-off to final splash down. The propulsion was initially provided by booster motor while the turbofan engine powered the further flight. Stabilisation was given by wings, which were unfolded by commands from the onboard computer.

The missile, carrying a dummy payload, reached a distance of 1,000km while maintaining accuracy of above 10m during its trajectory. The complete mission was tracked by indigenous telemetry stations and closely observed by an aircraft of the Indian Air Force.

Nirbhay missile features

“The missile has an operational range of approximately 1,000km and can cruise at a speed of Mach 0.8.”

Nirbhay subsonic cruise missile has a length of 6m and a diameter of 0.5m, whilst it’s launch weight is approximately 1,500kg. The missile has an operational range of approximately 1,000km and can cruise at a speed of Mach 0.8.

The weapon can carry warheads ranging between 300kg and 400kg. A total of 24 types of warheads can also be attached to the missile, based on the mission requirements

A highly advanced inertial navigation system, which was indigenously developed by Research Centre Imarat (RCI), guides the weapon. The missile can reach flight altitudes 500m and 4km above the ground and can also fly at very low levels to avoid detection by enemy radar.

Nirbhay has the capability to penetrate deep into the enemy territory and can engage targets with high-accuracy. It can also be launched from multiple platforms including aircraft, land-based vehicles/launchers, ships and submarines.

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