Nirbhay GLCM / ALCM / SLCM
On 06 February 2020, India’s Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) announced the completion of the Nirbhay cruise missile development project and revealed several cruise and antiship missiles under development. The first, dubbed the Long Range Land Attack Cruise Missile (LRLACM) will reportedly possess a range of 1,000 km; developmental flights are expected to begin in 2023. The second, titled the Indigenous Technology Cruise Missile (ITCM), is envisioned as a successor to the Nirbhay, featuring an indigenously-produced turbofan engine and terminal seeker.
The 1000 kilometer class cruise missile with capability to strike deep in to the enemy territory, has been designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, DRDO, India's premier Defence R&D organisation at it's aeronautics R&D laboratory ADE (Aeronautical Development Establishment) based in Bengaluru, Karnataka. The missile is yet another step forward in India's technological capabilities for design development and leading to production state of the art weapons platforms and equipment for country's Armed Forces.
In mid-2007 it was reported that India was developing a new medium-range, multi-platform missile, called the Nirbhay [Dauntless or Fearless], that was slated to be tested by end-2009. The missile, with a range of 1,000 km, was being developed at the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), a unit of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) under the defence ministry. The latest in the series of India's missile development program, the Nirbhay followed the Agni (I, II and III), the Prithvi (I and II), the Indo-Russian joint venture supersonic Brahmos, Akash, Trishul and Nag.
"It (Nirbhay) will be better than Babur," explained Avinash Chander, director of ASL, referring to Pakistan's first subsonic, low-level terrain-mapping missile, developed originally with a 500 km range and later upgraded to 700 km. First tested in 2005, the Babur is similar in design to the US BGM-109 Tomahawk land attack cruise missile-the two being roughly the same size and shape. Pakistan is said to be working on a more advanced version with a range of 1,000 km.
The subsonic Nirbhay weighs 1,000 kg with a 1,000 km range and a speed of 0.7 mach. A missile is subsonic when its speed is less than the speed of sound (1 mach). Nirbhay was said to be six meters in length with a 520 mm diameter. While the missile was being developed in-house, India was looking at partnerships for the engine. The requirement for Nirbhay was anticipated by India's three armed forces. Nirbhay is to have multiple platforms and can be launched from ground, sea and air.
For the first time, the MOD spelled out an ambitious Road Map 2010, its first effort to provide industry with an overview of what the armed services hope to field by the middle of the next decade. The need based capabilities were spelled out in the Road Map 2010. "Medium and long-range precision-strike weapons, short-range directed-energy air defenses and unmanned combat air vehicles as key aspirations for its future arsenal. Ability to field long-range subsonic cruise missiles for precision strikes against high-value targets. The 625-mi.-range Nirbhay cruise missile is to be developed for both land and air launch."
The long range cruise missile, Nirbhay had its maiden flight in 2013. Long range cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’ was successfully launched 12 March 2013 at 1150 hrs from launch complex, Chandipur in Odisha, meeting the basic mission objectives successfully. Except for covering the full range by flying in all way points, all the objectives set for the Nirbhay cruise missile functionality were met fully. The missile was launched perfectly. The navigation system was perfect correctly touching the first way point.
A deviation was observed while going to second way point. When the deviation exceeded the safety limits, mission abort command was issued from the ground and the destruction mechanism inside the missile was activated. The mission was aborted to ensure coastal safety. Scientists identified that Inertial Navigation System has malfunctioned and corrective design/modifications were being implemented.
Avinash Chander, scientific advisor to the Defence Minister told Deccan Herald February 05, 2014 that “Nirbhay is a typical model of how we should not do project R&D. Earlier it was piecemeal work, but new thrust has been provided to this project.” India's indigenously designed and developed long range sub-sonic cruise missile Nirbhay was successfully flight tested 17 October 2014 at 1005 hrs from the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Balasore, Odisha.The entire mission, from lift-off till the final splash down was a perfect flight achieving all the mission objectives.
The cruise missile Nirbhay, powered by a solid rocket motor booster developed by the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL) took off from a mobile launcher specifically designed for Nirbhay by the R&D Engineers (E). As it achieved the designated altitude and velocity, the booster motor separated, the turbofan engine automatically switched on taking over the further propulsion and the wings opened up by the commands generated by the onboard computer (OBC) stabilising the flight. Guided by a highly advanced inertial navigation system indigenously developed by Research Centre Imarat (RCI) the Nirbhay continued it's flight that lasted a little over 1hr and 10 minutes.
Throughout it's path, the missile was tracked with the help of ground based radars and it's health parameters were monitored by indigenous telemetry stations by team from DRDO's ITR and LRDE (Electronics & Radar Development Establishment). Additionally, the performance of Nirbhay was closely watched by an Indian Air Force aircraft.
"The missile maintained an accuracy better than 10 meters throughout it's path and covered a distance of more than 1000 km" informed Dr Avinash Chander, the Scientific Advisor to Raksha Mantri, Secretary Deptt of Defence R&D and DG DRDO, speaking after the completion of the mission. "The successful indigenous development of Nirbhay cruise missile will fill a vital gap in the war fighting capabilities of our armed forces", continued Dr Avinash Chander.
The launch preparations and plans were authorized after thorough review by a team led by Dr Avinash Chander, under whose guidance the launch process was executed. Shri P. Srikumar Director ADE, as the mission director, led the launch operations. The launch preparations were planned and supervised by Shri VasanthSastri Project Director 'Nirbhay' project.
The launch was witnessed by Dr K Tamilmani, DS& DG Aeronautical systems, Dr V G Sekran DS & DG Missiles and strategic systems, Vice Admiral Dinesh Prabhakar (retd.) AVSM, NSM, VSM. DG ATVP, DrSatishReddy, DS and Director RCI, DrTessy Thomas, OS and Director ASL, Shri MVKV Prasad OS and Director ITR and senior DRDO scientists. The Hon'ble Raksha Mantri ji congratulated Dr Avinash Chander and the DRDO team on the successful flight trial of Nirbhay.
A test firing in October 2015 was but a partial success, as the missile, supposedly India’s equivalent of the US Tomahawk, developed technical snags and its flight had to be aborted as it could not maintain altitude. During its maiden test in March 2013, the missile encountered a similar hitch and was destroyed mid-trajectory. An MoD statement, however, indicated that all initial critical operations such as booster ignition, booster separation, wing deployment and engine start had been successfully executed and Nirbhay had reached the desired cruise altitude.
India’s Nirbhay cruise missile, the equivalent of the Pentagon’s Tomahawk Land Attack Missile, has been granted a 16-month development extension, despite failing in tests for a fourth time. A Defense Ministry official told Defense News in January 2017, "After a review of the Nirbhay program last week, defense minister gave further time till June 2018 to allow Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to do their best on the program." Some analysts believe that technical issues will delay the Nirbhay program beyond the extension.
The 21 December 2016 test failure happened "because the engine lost its thrust minutes after takeoff and the flight control system and other software failed as well." The cruise missile faced complications "with TERCOM, or terrain contour mapping. It tends to rise up periodically while following the predetermined route. It could be that the radar altimeter and the computer are not talking on a regular basis…Stability of the flight over long range has been the main problem." Soon after launching from the Integrated Test Range off the Odisha coast at Balasore, the missile had to be destroyed in mid-air when it veered dangerously from its flight path, near the Bay of Bengal coast.
A DRDO employee told the Times of India at the time that, "The test was an utter failure, with the missile veering to the right within two minutes of takeoff." Agency officials explained, "The engine in Nirbhay’s first stage started working well. The missile rose from the launcher. But it did not follow the required flight path. It started veering dangerously towards one side in about a minute and a half after the lift-off," according to the Hindu.
The DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment laboratory has been developing the Nirbhay since 2004. The two-stage subsonic cruise missile can carry a nuclear warhead and has a range of 1,000 kilometers. Meant to enter service in 2016, unsuccessful tests have kept the Nirbhay in the development stage. Defense analyst and retired Indian Army major Bhupinder Yadav suggested that the DRDO’s projects should go up for review, saying, "In our context, most of the DRDO projects are similar exercises to reinvent the wheel over stretched timelines and resources. It is time someone questions the logic in continuation and decides to put a break to non-performing public monopolies and seek alternatives." Yadav added that the Nirbhay’s development is important, given the missile capabilities of Pakistan and China.
He said, "India has ballistic and tactical missiles of different capacity, but not land-attack cruise missiles [to counter] Pakistan and China, that have such systems with range varying from 400-1,500 kilometers, respectively." An Indian Army official suggested that New Delhi press ahead with the Nirbhay’s development. "Turbofan technology, which still has not been mastered, needs to be refined by India and used for this missile successfully. If we could develop the cryogenic technology for [a] Geostationary [Satellite] Launch Vehicle, then we certainly can master this turbofan technology also, given some more time," it was reported.
Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) on 15 April 2019 successfully test fired indigenously designed & developed Long Range Sub-Sonic Cruise Missile “Nirbhay” from the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur Odisha. It was the sixth development flight trial with objective to prove the repeatability of boost phase, cruise phase using way point navigation at very low altitudes. The missile took off vertically turning horizontally into desired direction, booster separated, wing deployed, engine started, cruised all the intended waypoints. The missile demonstrated its sea-skimming capability to cruise at very low altitudes. 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. All the mission objectives were met.
In September 2020 India Today reported that the security forces had rolled out the Nirbhay to counter China's missile deployment along the Line of Actual Control. The surface-to-surface missile has a reach of up to 1,000 km. The Nirbhay missile is capable of low-level stealth strike on targets, capable of flying between 100 meters to four km from ground. The Nirbhay missile had been in the testing for seven years. This was Nirbhay missile's first deployment. According to sources, the new missiles have been deployed in a limited number for now. The missile is likely to get full op clearance later.
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