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Nirbhay: India’s yet another success leap

In its fifth experimental test of the home-grown missile system, India on November 7 conducted a flight test of its long-range sub-sonic cruise missile 'Nirbhay' that can carry warheads of up to 300 kg. The missile was test fired from a test range at Chandipur along the Odisha coast. The state-of-the-art sleek cruise missile took off from a specially designed launcher from the launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, according to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The missile took off in the programmed manner and all critical operations viz. launch phase, booster deployment, engine start, wing deployment, and other operational parameters demonstrated through autonomous way point navigation. The missile majestically cruised for a duration of 50 minutes, achieving the range of 647 km. The missile was tracked with the help of ground based radars and other parameters were monitored by indigenous telemetry stations developed by DRDO.”

The two-stage missile is 6 metre long, 0.52 metre wide with a wing span of 2.7 metre. It can carry a warhead of 200 kg to 300 kg at a speed of 0.6 to 0.7 Mach. Its launch weight is about 1500 kg, the sources said. Powered by a solid rocket motor booster developed by the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), the missile has an operational range of 1000 km. The missile is capable of reaching speeds of 0.6-0.7 Mach. The Nirbhay, designed to be launched from air, sea, and land is highly maneuverable and has loitering capabilities.

The recent test is good news for the Nirbhay programme. The indigenous cruise missile project was kicked off in 2004 and projected to be completed by the end of 2016. However, the programme has been plagued by many difficulties including technical problems with the missile’s flight control software and navigation system.

The last Nirbhay test launch in December 2016 ended in failure as the missile had to be destroyed in mid-air after it deviated from its course. Out of four earlier trials since its maiden launch in 2013, only the flight trial of the missile conducted on October 17, 2014 met all test criteria.

'Nirbhay' missile can travel with a turbofan or turbojet engine and is guided by a highly advanced inertial navigation system indigenously developed by the Research Centre Imarat (RCI), the DRDO sources said.

All along its trajectories from lift off to splash down, the missile is to be tracked with the help of ground-based radars and IAF aircraft.

The health parameters of the vehicle are being monitored by indigenous telemetry stations by a team of professionals from DRDO's ITR and LRDE (Electronics and Radar Development Establishment).