Nirbhay, India’s first indigenous long-range sub-sonic cruise missile reportedly failed in its fourth test on December 21. Since 2013, a total of four test flights of the Nirbhay missile have been conducted, three of which have failed. The news comes as a disappointment for not only DRDO, which has developed it, but also the forces who would have looked forward to inducting a potent weapon in the future. While there is no official word from DRDO about the failure of the missile’s test flight, various reports confirmed that the test had indeed not been a success.
The Nirbhay sub-sonic cruise missile is a 1000-kilometre class missile, and its ability to strike at such a range deep into the enemy’s territory would make it a formidable weapon in a country’s defence arsenal. The missile will ultimately be designed to operate from not only land, but also under water, from aircraft and sea.
The missile is powered by a solid rocket motor booster. Once the missile achieves a designated altitude and velocity, the booster motor gets separated. The turbofan is then automatically switched on, taking over the further propulsion of the missile. The “wings” of the missile open up on the commands that are generated by the onboard computer (OBC), stabilising the flight.
The missile was first tested in 2013, but the maiden flight was terminated because of component malfunction. Even at that time, DRDO had said that the test flight achieved “most of the mission objectives”. It was only in the October of 2014, that the Nirbhay missile had a successful test flight. According to DRDO, “The entire mission, from lift-off till the final splash down was a perfect flight achieving all the mission objectives.” However, in 2015 the missile “fell midway” during a test. It is in this backdrop that the fourth test of the indigenous missile assumed significance.
Meanwhile, India is now getting ready to test its most lethal missile, the Agni V in its final operational configuration. The test is likely to happen on December 26. The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has a range of 5,000 km. This means that with its induction in the future, India’s defence forces would finally get a missile that can hit into China’s territory.