After two consecutive failures, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is gearing up for a fresh experimental trial of India’s first home-grown subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay with a hope that the weapon system this time will not let them down.
Hectic preparations are underway at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) off Odisha coast as the missile has been scheduled for the test next week. It will be fifth launch of the missile in the last five years.
“The launch window has been set for November 7 to 9. Final checks of the missile sub-systems are on and hopefully the missile will be ready for test in next two days. A team of experts are monitoring the launch preparations. We are planning for the launch on Tuesday,” said an official associated with the project.
Once powered by a turbofan engine, Nirbhay will be tested using a turbojet engine for the first time. DRDO scientists are expecting a success this time as wing deployment and navigation software problems, detected during the pre-launch check-ups in May which led to its postponement, seem to have been rectified.
Of four tests so far, three have been failed as the missile had achieved partial success during the second test in 2014. The first test flight conducted on March 12, 2013, was an utter failure as the missile crashed only after 20 minutes of flight and its remnants fell in an orchard in Jagatsinghpur district, about 150 km from the launch site.
Nirbhay’s last trial conducted on December 21, 2016, was aborted midway as the missile changed its course. The missile project was mired in controversy after ‘The Express’ raised doubts on its outcome prior to third and fourth trials since it was pushed for test with faults in the flight control and navigation software.
The six-metre long two-stage missile can strike a target 1,000 km away. With a diameter of 0.52 metres and wing span of 2.7 metres, it weighs around 1,500 kg and can carry warheads up to 200 kg. Comparable with America’s Tomahawk missile as far as the stealth capability, it can cruise at a speed of Mach 0.8.
Nirbhay blasts off like a rocket and unlike a missile it turns into a vehicle akin an aircraft. Flying at tree-top level it can deceive enemy radars making it difficult to be detected. Designed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and launched in 2004, the project is on an 18-month extension which expires in June 2018.