India on Friday successfully test-fired the nuclear-capable Nirbhay cruise missile from the integrated test range at Balasore in Odisha, a step towards filling a vital gap in the country’s missile capabilities.
The missile flew for 70 minutes along a predetermined course to hit the target in the Bay of Bengal. The Nirbhay’s much-hyped maiden launch in March 2013 had failed to hit the pre-designated target, with the long-range missile deviating from its intended course. The failure was caused by glitches in the missile’s inertial navigation system.
Speaking to HT shortly after the launch, DRDO chief Avinash Chander said the missile flew along 15 predetermined flight points before hitting its target at a range of more than 1,000 km. The missile maintained an accuracy of 10 metres throughout the flight.
“The missile can fly below the enemy radar line undetected and strike targets that fighter jets may not be able too,” said the country’s top missile scientist.
The missile can be maneuvered between ranges of 30 metres and 5 km above the ground and has a terminal accuracy of “one to two metres,” Chander said.
The subsonic missile flew at speeds of 0.7 Mach to 0.8 Mach, roughly the same as commercial airliners, before striking its target. Congratulating defence scientists, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the successful launch would provide “great impetus to our capabilities.”
The DRDO plans to conduct at least five more tests over the next three years before declaring Nirbhay ready for induction in the armed forces.
Chander said, “The Nirbhay can easily pick precise targets like a building in a cluster of buildings. The missile can be guided by multiple navigation modes to eliminate the risk of jamming.”
Low-flying cruise missiles such as the Nirbhay can easily slip past enemy air-defence systems due to small radar cross section. The Nirbhay will be configured to be launched from multiple platforms such as land, air and sea.
Chander said, “Nirbhay would fill a vital gap between supersonic cruise missiles and long-range ballistic missiles in the Indian arsenal.”