DRDO Conducts Successful Flight Trial of ‘NIRBHAY’ Sub-Sonic Cruise Missile

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) achieved yet another feat today with the successful test flight of ‘NIRBHAY’ – India’s first indigenously designed and developed Long Range Sub-Sonic Cruise Missile which can be deployed from multiple platforms. It was successfully test fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur, Odisha. The missile has the capability to loiter and cruise at 0.7 Mach, at altitudes as low as 100 m. The flight test achieved all the mission objectives completely from lift-off till the final splash, boosting the confidence of all scientists associated with the trial.

The state-of-the-art sleek cruise missile took off from a specially designed launcher from the launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, near here, at about 11.20 AM and all critical operations viz. launch phase, booster deployment, engine start, wing deployment and other operational parameters demonstrated through autonomous way point navigation. The guidance, control and navigation system of the missile is configured around the indigenously designed Ring Laser Gyroscope (RLG) and MEMS based Inertial Navigation System (INS) along with GPS system. The missile majestically cruised for a total time duration of 50 minutes, achieving the range of 647 km. The missile was tracked with the help of ground based radars and other parameters were monitored by indigenous telemetry stations developed by DRDO.

Powered by a solid rocket motor booster developed by the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), the missile has an operational range of 1000 km.  ‘Nirbhay’ missile can travel with a turbofan or turbojet engine and is guided by a highly advanced inertial navigation system indigenously developed by the Research Centre Imarat (RCI)

The two-stage missile is 6 metre long, 0.52 metre wide with a wing span of 2.7 metre. It can carry a warhead of 200 kg to 300 kg at a speed of 0.6 to 0.7 Mach. Its launch weight is about 1500 kg .

Raksha Mantri Smt Nirmala Sitharaman, hailed the success of DRDO Scientists and complimented them for this inspired achievement. She was optimistic that this successful trial would take India to the select League of Nations for possessing this complex technology and sub-sonic cruise missile capability.

Chairman DRDO and Secretary Department of Defence (R&D), Dr. S Christopher, DG (Aero) Dr. CP Ramanarayanan, Director ADE, RCI , ITR and CEMILAC, along with other senior DRDO scientists and user representatives from Army witnessed the momentous launch and congratulated the team ‘NIRBHAY’ for making DRDO proud for the long awaited achievement.

Development and trials

The missile was developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Bengaluru. ADE is a lab under DRDO. After the design was finalized, the technology required for the missile was developed. It was integrated by R&D Engineers, Pune, a specialized arm of DRDO. Indian private sector giant Tata has built the vehicle that is the carrier/launcher for the Nirbhay system and is based on an “indigenous high mobility, all-terrain and all-wheel drive Tata LPTA 5252-12 X12 vehicle”, developed in partnership with DRDO.

The first test flight of the missile was planned in October 2012, but the launch was postponed to December owing to the changes being made to the launcher. V.K. Saraswat, Director General & Scientific Adviser of DRDO, later said that the missile would be tested in February 2013. He said the delay was due to development of some processes. DRDO expected the missile to be ready for induction within 12 to 18 months after the February test. There were unconfirmed media reports that the missile would be scrapped due to multiple test failures but it was then reported that the project has been given an 18-month extension, till June 2018, to fix all outstanding issues.

First Trial

The surface version of Nirbhay missile was test fired for the first time on 12 March 2013 from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur in Balasore district of Odisha. The missile in its maiden flight was supposed to hit a static target situated 1000 km away in the Bay of Bengal. Missile took off from the launch pad successfully and reached the second stage of propulsion, travelling 15 minutes through its envisaged path at a speed of 0.7 mach. After that it veered away from its trajectory forcing the command center to detach the engine from the missile mid way into the flight. This was done to avoid the risk of the missile hitting the coastal areas. The missile was purposely destroyed in mid-flight.

The test was a partial success as the missile took off, reached the second stage of propulsion, and travelled 30% of its range and completed most of the mission objectives, before deviating from its path. DRDO has detected the problem which was a faulty inertial navigation system and corrected the same in subsequent tests.

Second Trial

A second launch of the Nirbhay missile was scheduled for February–May 2014 but it was further delayed until October 2014. Slight delay in October was also due to cyclone Hudhud. On 17 October 2014, the surface version of the missile was tested once again from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur in Balasore district of Odisha, and this time the test was successful. The missile test met all the parameters & completed all 15 way-points. The missile travelled for more than 1000 km that lasted for a duration of over 1 hour and 10 minutes. The missile was tracked with the help of ground based radars and its health parameters were monitored by telemetry stations from DRDO’s ITR and LRDE (Electronics & Radar Development Establishment). Indian Air force fighter jet Jaguar chased the missile during its flight to capture the video of the flight.

Third trial

The third test of the missile took place on 16 October 2015. The missile was to be tested for its low flying capability. The missile in flight was supposed to be brought down from 4800 meters to 20 meters gradually and in stages. Su-30 MKI aircraft videotaped the flight. A press release by the Ministry of Defence stated the missile was launched at 11:38 IST and all initial critical operations such as Booster ignition, Booster separation, Wing deployment and engine start were successfully executed and Nirbhay reached the desired Cruise Altitude. Although the take off was successful after repeated disruptions of countdown, the missile crashed into the Bay of Bengal 11 minutes into its flight after covering only 128 km of its 1000 km range.

Fourth Trial

The fourth test of the missile took place on 21 December 2016 from Launch Complex-III of Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Balasore in Odisha around 11:56 IST. There has been no official word on the test outcome, however according to news reports this test was not successful. The booster engine in the first stage started working and lifted the missile off from its launcher. But the missile started veering dangerously towards one side in two minutes after lift-off and veered outside its safety corridor. Due to this, the missile test had to be aborted and it was remotely destroyed. A potential reason for the failure was described as a hardware problem with one of the missile’s component.

Fifth Trial

Fifth flight test indigenously designed and developed long-range sub-sonic cruise missile was conducted form a test range at Chandipur along the Odisha coast on 7th November 2017. As per sources, the fifth test has been declared a success. The state-of-the-art sleek cruise missile took off from a specially designed launcher from launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, at about 11.20 am, according to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) sources said. All initial critical operations of the trial such as blast of the sophisticated missile were successful as it moved up in its trajectory, a DRDO scientist said soon after the launch of the missile.

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