Pakistan way behind India in cruise missile technology: Babur vs Nirbhay

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    India and Pakistan have been involved in missiles development race for decades now. Both the countries are nuclear powers and have a range of ballistic missiles that can wreak havoc in the event of war. Time and again both countries have claimed that they are committed to peace and these weapons are merely for deterrence.

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    India and Pakistan have several missiles that carry nuclear warheads. But the main focus of this article is on cruise missile technologies of India and Pakistan.

    Difference between cruise and ballistic missiles:

    Ballistic are launched on a sub-orbital flight trajectory and spend most of their flight out of the atmosphere. It travels well outside the atmosphere and then the warhead detaches and hurtles back to earth.

    Cruise missile, on the other hand, are jet-propelled pilot-less aircraft designed to strike distant targets with great accuracy. They fly close to terrain, as compared to ballistic missiles, and even speeds are much lower.

    India's well known cruise missiles are BrahMos and Nirbhay, while that of Pakistan is Babur or Hatf 7 missile.

    Comparison between Babur and Nirbhay:

    Babur is a short-range, turbojet-powered ground-launch cruise missile whose development began in 1990s. With a launch weight around 1,500 kg, it is capable of carrying a 450 kg payload up to 700 km. 

    Nirbhay is a long-range, subsonic cruise missile designed and developed in India by the Defence Research and Development Organisation. The missile has a range of more than 1000 km, weighs about 1500 kg and has a length of 6 metres.The missile is powered by a solid rocket booster for take off which is developed by Advanced Systems Laboratory(ASL).

    Both Babur and Nirbhay can carry nuclear as well as conventional warheads.

    When it comes to accuracy of striking targets, Nirbhay has a clear upper hand. The Circular Error Probability (CEP) of Nirbhay is as low as 1-2m as compared to 10m of Babur.

    Nirbhay can be launched from all three platforms; ground, air, and water. In case of Babur, the known launch vehicles have all been mobile, land-based platforms, according to defenceupdate.in.

    Although Pakistan claims that a that a submarine version of Babur was tested successful, Indian Navy has refuted such a claim.

    Babur's stealth capability, when compared to Nirbhay, is also questionable. When it comes to terrain hugging capability, Nirbhay can fly as low as 5 mts from surface and can circle over the target so as to strike with great precision.

    Nirbhay can also be mounted Su-30 MKI and launched from air, whereas same cannot be said about Babur. Babur does not have air force version because of smaller range and heavy weight.

    Nirbhay has had problems in the past:

    Many of the tests of Nirbhay in the past have failed or have been partially successful. The first completely successful test of Nirbhay came only in November this year.

    The sub-sonic missile, designed to carry a 300-kg nuclear warhead, had failed during its first test in March 2013. Though the second test in October 2014 was a partial success, the third and fourth tests in October 2015 and December 2016 also flopped, leading to talk that the project may have to be scrapped.

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