A test flight of the Nirbhay, India’s under-development cruise missile with a strike range of 1,000 kilometers, was called off only 8 minutes in due to technical difficulties. The failed test took place off the coast of Odisha in eastern India over the Bay of Bengal on Monday.
The missile, over ten years into development, was undergoing the test after its Indian made contents had been increased, according to an official. An intermediate-range subsonic land-attack cruise missile (LACM) with terrain hugging capabilities, the Nirbhay has been described as an Indian version of the United States’ Tomahawk and Russia’s 3M-54 Kalibr.
After a successful initial launch using a solid-propellant booster that gets the rocket upto the needed speed and altitude, the missile’s engine was unable to attain the needed power to cruise after deploying its wings and tail fins in the second stage of travel. This led the missile to slowly drop altitude until it plunged into the sea instead of continuing the planned 50-minute cruise at Mach 0.7 speed.
The Nirbhay is currently being powered by the Russian-made Saturn 50MT turbofan engine, but the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was reported as saying “the next set of trials will be as per the user requirements. We will be also testing the missile with an indigenously-developed small turbofan engine (STFE) in future,” last year.
The Nirbhay weighs 1,500 kilograms (3,307 lbs) and measures at 6 meters (20 ft) in length, with a load-carrying capacity of 300 kilograms (661 pounds), suitable for carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. It features a domestically produced ring laser gyroscope inertial navigation system, a satellite guidance system, and a Russian seeker system.
Although an additional 20 tests will need to be conducted over a duration of three to five years, before deployment at the very least, according to the DRDO, the Indian ministry of defense has already begun the process to purchase around 300 of the missile for the three branches of the Indian Armed Forces.