India successfully test fired a sub-sonic cruise missile Nirbhay off the Odisha coast on Monday. The 1,000-km range missile was fired for a shorter range from a launch pad from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur in Balasore district, said informed sources. Indigenously developed by the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), the Nirbhay missile can carry warheads of up to 300 kg, the sources added.
It can travel with a turbofan or turbojet engine and is guided by a highly advanced inertial navigation system. The last successful test launch of the missile took place in November 2017. The Nirbhay, which is considered to match the US Tomahawk and an effective counter to Pakistan’s Babur land-attack cruise missile (LACM), has been under development for over a decade. At least three of its six tests till now have failed.
The DRDO said the latest test demonstrated its sea-skimming capability to cruise at very low altitudes. “It was successful in meeting all its mission objectives,” said a DRDO officer. After the initial blast-off with a solid-propellant booster rocket engine to gain speed and altitude, Nirbhay deploys small wings and tail fins in the second-stage and fly like an unmanned aircraft, which turn and twist to redirect the air flow around them.
The missile is highly maneuverable with “loitering capabilities” to first identify and then hit the intended target with precision. Indian armed forces have for long been demanding nuclear-tipped LACMs, with ranges over 1,000-km that can be fired from land, air and sea.