Thursday, January 27, 2022

 India Test Fires Sub- Sonic Cruise Missile ‘NIRBHAY’

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India, this week, successfully flight tested its first indigenously designed and developed long –range sub-sonic cruise missile ‘Nirbhay” from a test range in Odisha. The ‘Nirbhay’ is a land attack cruise missile which can carry nuclear warheads to a strike range of 1,000 kilometers. The missile is capable of loitering and cruising at 0.7 Mach at altitude as low as 100 metres covered the designated target range. The state-of-the-art missile is highly manoeuvrable with “loitering capabilities “to first identify and then hit the intended target with precision. The flight test achieved all the mission objectives, right from lift-off till the final splash, boosting the confidence of all scientists associated with the trial; sources said, adding it has an engine with rocket booster and turbofan jet.

The sophisticated missile took-off in a programmed manner and all critical operations like launch phase, booster deployment, engine start, wing deployment and other parameters were demonstrated through autonomous way point navigation. “The missile majestically cruised and covered its given range. It was tracked with the help of ground-based radars and other parameters were monitored by indigenous telemetry stations developed by Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO). The last successful trial of ”Nirbhay” cruise missile was conducted on November 7, 2017.

Notably, the Nirbhay missile is said to have demonstrated its sea-skimming capabilities while cruising at very-low altitudes over the sea. “It was an excellent launch. This is the first time ever an indigenously-developed missile cruised at 5-metre altitude,” an official confirmed. During the test-flight, Nirbhay covered waypoints as low as 5 metres to a maximum of 2.5 km. DRDO said the entire flight was fully tracked by a chain of electro-optical tracking systems, radars and ground telemetry systems deployed all along the sea coast. In its terminal phase, the Nirbhay missile is said to have travelled at a sustained altitude of 5 meters covering 15 waypoints. “This is a very significant achievement that gives huge advantage for the weapon system,” said an official.

The successful testing of Nirbhay would significantly bolster India’s striking capabilities as the missile has terrain hugging capability to avoid radar detection and can loiter over the target before going in for the kill. Nirbhay adds a new dimension to India’s attack capabilities along with BrahMos cruise missile. BrahMos, a potent supersonic missile in the Indian arsenal, is the world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile in operation. The missile travels at speeds of Mach 2.8 to 3.0. Nirbhay flies slower and closer to ground and this gives it capability to avoid detection by enemy radars. Nirbhay follows a low–level path. Stealth is essential because the slow flying missile is vulnerable to being shot down by fighter aircraft, if detected by enemy radar.

Cruise missiles fly at a low altitude, mostly to avoid radar detection, and can be guided throughout its path. They fly within the earth’s atmosphere and use jet engine technology.  Having effective cruise missiles significantly bolsters a country’s land attack capabilities. It adds a totally new dimension to a nation’s striking ability with features such as ability to fly low and avoid detection. It can quietly enter the enemy territory and deal a deadly blow with a precision strike.

The Nirbhay may be India’s answer to the US ‘Tomahawk’ missiles and could be an effective counter to Pakistan’s Babur land-attack cruise–missile (LACM) which has been in a development stage for over a decade. After the initial blast-off with a solid propellant booster rocket engine to gain speed and altitude, Nirbhay is designed to deploy its smallish wings and tail fins in the second stage and fly like an unmanned aircraft.

 In fact, Indian armed forces have long been long demanding nuclear–tipped LACMs which are versatile enough to be fired from land, air and sea. Perhaps their long standing demand has been met. More flight-tests lie ahead for the Nirbhay, which will eventually bolster India’s   defence capabilities.

Script:  Yogesh Sood, Journalist

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