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NIrbhay Missile.jpg
The Nirbhay, during a test launch on October 17, 2014
Type Long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile[1][2]
Place of origin India
Production history
Manufacturer DRDO
Weight 1,500 kilograms (3,300 lb)[3]
Length 6 m (20 ft)
Diameter 0.52 m (1.7 ft)
Warhead conventional or nuclear

Engine Turbofan
Wingspan 2.84 m (9.3 ft)
1,000 km (620 mi) - 1,500 km (930 mi)[1][4][5]
Speed Mach 0.8–Mach 0.9[6]

Nirbhay (Sanskrit: निर्भय, Nirbhay "Dauntless/Fearless") is a long range, subsonic cruise missile designed and developed in India by the Defence Research and Development Organisation.[7]


Nirbhay is an all-weather, low-cost, long-range cruise missile capable of carrying conventional and nuclear war heads. The missile has a range of more than 1000 km, weighs about 1500 kg and has a length of 6 metres.[8] The missile is powered by a solid rocket booster for take off which is developed by Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL). Upon reaching the required velocity and height, Turbofan engine in the missile takes over for further propulsion. The missile is guided by a highly advanced inertial navigation system indigenously developed by Research Centre Imarat (RCI) and a radio altimeter for the height determination.[9]

Nirbhay is able to pick out a target and attack it among multiple targets. The missile has a loitering capability, i.e., it can go round a target and perform several manoeuvres and then re-engage it.[10] With two side wings, the missile is capable of flying at different altitudes ranging from 500 m to 4 km above the ground and can also fly at low altitudes (like low tree level) to avoid detection by enemy radar.[11][12] It is capable of delivering 24 different types of warheads depending on mission requirements and uses an inertial navigation system for guidance.[13] The missile supplements Brahmos by delivering warheads farther than the 290 km range of Brahmos.[14]

Development and trials[edit]

The missile was developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Bengaluru. ADE is a lab under DRDO.[11][15] 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.[12] 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.[16]

The first test flight of the missile was planned in October 2012,[17][18] but the launch was postponed to December owing to the changes being made to the launcher. V.K. Saraswat, director general 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.[11][15][19] 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.[20][21][22]

First Trial[edit]

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.[23]

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[edit]

A second launch of the Nirbhay missile was scheduled for February–May 2014[24] 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).[25] Indian Air force fighter jet Jaguar chased the missile during its flight to capture the video of the flight.

Third trial[edit]

The third test of the missile took place on 16 October 2015.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29]

Fourth Trial[edit]

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.[30][31] 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.[32][33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "India to Test Nirbhay Cruise Missile in 2012". Rusnavy. November 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "India Develops Sub-sonic Stealth Cruise Missile". Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Nirbhay Cruise Missile". Indian Defense Projects Sentinel. Mar 7, 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2012. 
  5. ^ "India Test Fires Indigenous Subsonic Cruise Missile". India Strategic. November 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  6. ^ "India to Test 'Nirbhay Cruise Missile, Develop Agni-V Variant with Multiple Warhead Capabilities". Defence Now. Retrieved 28 February 2016. 
  7. ^ "Nirbhay Subsonic Cruise Missile". Army Technology. Retrieved 2015-10-22. 
  8. ^ "Nuke-capable Nirbhay cruise missile fails again, flight aborted". The Indian Express. 2015-10-17. Retrieved 2015-10-22. 
  9. ^ "India to test subsonic cruise missile in February". IDRW News. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  10. ^ T. S. Subramanian (March 2012). "Nirbhay likely to be test-fired in April". The Hindu. Chennai, India. Retrieved 10 March 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c "India to test subsonic cruise missile in February". The Times of India. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  12. ^ a b "DRDO developing hypersonic missile". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  13. ^ "Nirbhay to beef up missile muscle". DNA India. 21 July 2007. 
  14. ^ "India to Test 'Nirbhay Cruise Missile, Develop Agni-V Variant with Mutliple [sic] Warhead Capabilities". Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  15. ^ a b "India to launch sub-sonic missile, Nirbhay, next month: DRDO". The Economic Times. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  16. ^ "Tata Motors' Defence Vehicles" (PDF). DEFEXPO 2012. Tata Motors. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  17. ^ " - Mangalore News Articles, Classifieds to Around the World". Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  18. ^ "'Nirbhay' missile set for test-firing next month". The Times of India. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  19. ^ "Nirbhay to be test-fired in February". The Times of India. 19 January 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  20. ^ India Extends Homemade Missile Program Despite Failed Test
  21. ^ Parrikar gives lifeline to Nirbhay missile team, project gets extension till June 201
  22. ^ India's Nirbhay cruise missile programme extended by 18 months, says report
  23. ^ Mallikarjun, Y.; Subramanian, T. S. (12 March 2013). "Nirbhay strays from flight path, aborted". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 
  24. ^ "Second test of Nirbhay cruise missile in February". Deccan Herald. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  25. ^ "India test-fires nuclear-capable Nirbhay cruise missile". The Times of India. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  26. ^ Y. Mallikarjun. "Subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay to be test-fired today". The Hindu. 
  27. ^ Nirbhay missile set for critical low-altitude trial; Sukhoi to chase
  28. ^ Business Standard (16 October 2015). "Flight of Nirbhay Missile Aborted after 700 Seconds of Launch". 
  29. ^ "Nirbhay, India's Indigenous Cruise Missile, Fails Test Midway". 16 October 2015. 
  30. ^ "Long range Subsonic cruise missile Nirbhaya test fired from ITR". Jammu Kashmir Latest News | Tourism | Breaking News J&K. 2016-12-21. Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  31. ^ Biswajeet (2016-12-21). "Nirbhay missile test fired off Odisha coast". Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  32. ^ Subramanian, T.S. "Nirbhay missile test "an utter failure"". The Hindu. Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  33. ^ "Nuclear-capable Nirbhay cruise missile's test fails for the fourth time - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2016-12-21. 

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