#FridayFury: India's subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay scores a Perfect 10

Written by: Dr Anantha Krishnan M


India on Friday added an inspiring chapter to her book on ‘Home-Grown Weapons', when its nuclear-capable, sub-sonic cruise missile Nirbhay scored a Perfect 10 during its launch from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Chandipur.

The missile took off from the Launch Complex-3 of ITR at 10.05 am and successfully completed the mission parameters within an hour (11.02 am). Military sources confirm to OneIndia that the missile is capable of flying as low as 5 meters and can attain a maximum height of 5 km.

Nirbhay gives Indian armed forces deep-strike capabilities and can be launched from land, ship and submarine. The missile is developed by Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), with over a dozen DRDO labs joining hands in the project.

During Friday's launch, Nirbhay travelled a total of 1050 kilometers and hit the designated target area with an accuracy of 5-6 meters, which is also known as CEP (Circular Error Probable). Sources say that with a seeker coming on board the missile during future launches, Nirbhay is expected to hit the target with offer an accuracy of 1-2 meters.


Hyderabad-based DRDO lab Research Centre Imarat (RCI) is engaged in the development of a desi seeker. The RCI also played a key role in Nirbhay's success by providing a redundant navigation system, control actuation system and battery. "The missile navigated through all the 17 way points," a top official said. Capturing Nirbhay's outing on video was a Jaguar deep-penetrating strike aircraft of the Indian Air Force.

Thrilled DRDO Chief says more variants in the offing


For DRDO Chief Dr Avinash Chander, Nirbhay's second outing was critical to ward off critics, who were waiting in the wing to pounce on him, with the first attempt of the missile (March 2013) being only partially successful. "Mission successful! We have done it. It's a great day for DRDO and missile scientists in India. We are now confident of attempting smarter versions of the missile. This will add new dimensions to our armed forces' capabilities," Dr Chander told OneIndia from the Block House in ITR.

A visibly joyous DRDO chief went on to add that Nirbhay demonstrated the capabilities to carry heavy payload giving confidence to its makers. "We are now ready to add more teeth to the missile. We need to integrate the terminal guidance system to make the missile more lethal. It will be then capable of homing on to specific targets," Dr Chander said.

Commenting ADE for finally making the missile follow their script right from the word go and till the pre-planned end-game near the safe zone (target area), Dr Avinash said that the lab will have its hands full for the next 10 years. "As I see it, ADE is currently on a well-chartered flight-path with a number of critical projects in their kitty. Our efforts will be now to have Nirbhay indicted into the Navy within three years followed by the Army an year after that. The air force version should be out in the next six years," the top missile scientist said.

Ready for crucial briefing with Defence Minister: DRDO DG

A top DRDO team led by Dr K Tamilmani, Director General (Aeronautical Systems) is expected to brief Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday (Oct 18) about Nirbhay. "We will be meeting the Defence Minister with the complete mission parameters Nirbhay has achieved. Integrating the missile was a huge challenge with multiple agencies being involved. We will be briefing the minister about the benefits Nirbhay will offer to the Services," Dr Tamilmani, who oversaw ADE's progress in developing the missile on a daily basis, said.

The team is also expected to brief Jaitley about the possibilities Nirbhay will offer to all three Service wings. "It has been tough days for the Nirbhay team and everyone was under tremendous pressure. We stuck to our plans and never let the focus shift. When you develop complex weapon platforms, it's unfair to call challenges as delays," Dr Tamilmani said.

A perfect Diwali gift, says ADE boss


According to P Srikumar, Director of Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Bangalore, Nirbhay performed more than what was expected. "It's a great achievement for all of us. Nirbhay was loaded with technology challenges and today one by one we demonstrated how we overcame them. A submerged air intake, which is just a hole in the belly of the missile and deployment of folded wing into the flight configuration are two critical technological challenged we overcame in this project. Deriving inspiration from today's successful launch, we are confident of building on the foundation thereby converting Nirbhay into an excellent missile system," Srikumar said.

"Most of the designers in all our partner labs are youngsters, whose confidence will grow in leaps and bounds with the successful launch of Nirbhay. We have tapped the capabilities of over a dozen DRDO labs for this project. I couldn't have asked for a better Diwali gift," the ADE director said.

Dr K G Narayanan, former ADE director said that the Nirbhay's success is the logical extension of the work in the field of unmanned systems such as Lakshya and Nishant. "Though I am not fully familiar of the technology used in Nirbhay, it is a great achievement by our scientists," Dr Narayanan said.

More than satisfied; exciting days ahead: RCI Director

Dr G Satheesh Reddy, DRDO's ‘missile magician' and RCI Director was probably one man who knew what a successful outing for the missile could do to his entire team. "We are more than happy and more than satisfied. We have more challenges ahead and my team of young scientists will right away get on to our next mission of making Nirbhay, a smarter weapon system. We had to wait for over an year after the first launch and today every system that we developed stuck to the designated task," Dr Satheesh said.

Celebrations at ADE

The news of the Nirbhay's successful launch was greeted with great fanfare at the ADE campus in C V Raman Nagar. "It's a great day for India. It's a great day for DRDO and ADE. We will wait for the Nirbhay team to return and they have really slogged in the last two years. This success has come after a mild set-back we had last time and hence it is a great sense of relief for us. Nirbhay has gifted us a great sense of satisfaction," B Mahalingam, technical staff officer to ADE director, said.

He said that celebrations will continue till the entire Nirbhay team lands back in Bangalore. "We are expecting everyone by mid of next week. We will celebrate this success, which I think we truly deserve," Mahalingam added. Incidentally, Nirbhay is the first missile DRDO developed in Bangalore.

(The writer is a senior aerospace and defence journalist anchoring India's leading military blog, Tarmak007. He is a Consulting Editor with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake)

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