Bengaluru, Feb 11: India has begun the work on developing an air launch version of its nuclear-capable subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Director-General (Aero) Dr K Tamilmani confirmed to OneIndia that the confidence and technology know-how mastered by developing the air version of BrahMos missile, to be test-fired from Sukhoi soon, has propelled the team for launching the Nirbhay variant.
He did not specify what stage the project has reached or when will the project get into a definite stage. Nirbhay is being developed by DRDO's Bengaluru-based wing - the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE). The missile is likely to be test-fired from Sukhoi, while the thought process is on to see the feasibility to integrate the same on other platforms as well.
When specifically asked whether it was the Indian Air Force (IAF) who placed the requirement for Nirbhay's air version, the senior-most scientist in DRDO said that it was a collective effort.
Third launch of Nirbhay within 60 days
DRDO has so far conducted two tests of Nirbhay, with the first one being partially successful and the second one hitting the designated target area with pin-point precision. The successful second launch was held on October 17, 2014 from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Chandipur.
Dr Tamilmani said that the third launch of the missile will be held in March or April. "We are trying to do a launch where the missile will be cruising at lesser altitude, ducking any possible threat from radars," he added.
IAF awaiting final study report
Military sources confirm to this Correspondent that the IAF had written to DRDO for initiating the Nirbhay air launch project.
"The Aircraft Systems and Testing Establishment and Software Development Institute (both IAF units based out of Bengaluru) are part of a team that's currently looking into the finer points of the missile along with ADE. The team is expected to submit a report to Air HQ by end of April," a Ministry of Defence official, told OneIndia over the phone from Delhi.
The official said that the missile will have to undergo some sizing changes so as to be deployed from Sukhoi. "There are some dimensional constrains. But, the same pylons of BrahMos will be used by Nirbhay as well. In future if Nirbhay needs to be fitted on to Tejas, then the missile will have to get shorter in size," the official said.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)