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Nirbhay missile test on 15 April 2019 (cropped).jpg
Nirbhay launched on 15 April 2019
TypeLong-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile[1][2]
Place of originIndia
Service history
In service2020 Limited deployment
Production history
ManufacturerDefence Research and Development Organisation, Tata Motors Limited
Mass1,500 kilograms (3,300 lb)[3]
Length6 m (20 ft)
Diameter0.52 m (1.7 ft)
WarheadConventional or Nuclear (200-300 kg)

EngineFirst stage: Solid rocket booster
Second stage:
Wingspan2.7 m (8.9 ft)
PropellantFirst stage: Solid fuel
Second stage: Liquid fuel
up to 1,000 km (620 mi)[1][4][5]
Maximum speed Mach 0.6–Mach 0.7[6][7]
Mid-course: Ring laser gyro inertial navigation system and MEMS gyroscope. Augmented by GPS/NavIC satellite guidance
Terminal: Active radar homing[8]
Land-based mobile launcher
TransportTata LPTA 5252-12 X12 High Mobility Vehicle

Nirbhay (Hindi:Dauntless/Fearless) is a long range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile designed and developed in India by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) which is under Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).[9] The missile can be launched from multiple platforms and is capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads. It is currently deployed in limited numbers in LAC during standoff with China.[10]


Nirbhay missiles mounted on a truck-based launcher

Nirbhay 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, a Turbofan engine in the missile takes over for further propulsion. The missile is guided by an inertial navigation system developed by Research Centre Imarat (RCI) and a radio altimeter for the height determination.[11][12] The missile has a Ring Laser Gyroscope (RLG) based guidance, control and navigation system. It also has a Microelectromechanical system (MEMS) based Inertial Navigation System (INS) along with the GPS/NAVIC system.[13] The missile has a length of 6 metres, width of 0.52 metres, a wing span of 2.7 metres and weighs about 1500 kg. It has a range of about 1000 km and is capable of delivering 24 different types of warheads depending on mission requirements between 200 and 300 kg.[6][14][15]

The missile is claimed to have sea-skimming and loitering capability, i.e., it can go round a target and perform several manoeuvres and then re-engage it. It is also able to pick out a target and attack it among multiple targets.[16] With two side wings, the missile is capable of flying at different altitudes ranging from 100 m to 4 km above the ground and can also fly at low altitudes (like low tree level) to avoid detection by enemy radar.[17][18] It will eventually supplement the role played by Brahmos missile for the Indian Armed Forced by delivering warheads farther than the 450 km range of Brahmos.[19]

Development and trials[edit]

After the design was finalized, the technology required for the missile was developed. It was integrated by Research and Development Establishment (Engineers), a specialized arm of DRDO.[18] Tata Motors Limited has built the vehicle that is the carrier/launcher for the Nirbhay system and is based on a "high mobility, all-terrain and all-wheel drive Tata LPTA 5252-12 X12 vehicle", developed in partnership with DRDO.[20]

The first test flight of the missile was planned in October 2012,[21][22] 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.[17][23][24] 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.[25][26][27]

Nirbhay project is now technically closed after completing six developmental trials. The next phase of tests will happen from April 2020 under a new name called Indigenous Technology Cruise Missile (ITCM). It will include Short Turbo Fan Engine (STFE) developed by Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) and a Radio-frequency (RF) seeker from Research Centre Imarat (RCI). A separate air-launched variant and submarine-launched variant is under active development.[28]

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 centre 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.[29]

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]

Fifth successful trial flight tested on November 07, 2017.

A second launch of the Nirbhay missile was scheduled for February–May 2014[30] 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).[31] Indian Air force fighter jet Jaguar chased the missile during its flight to capture the video of the flight.

Third trial[edit]

Second successful trial launch of Nirbhay sub-sonic cruise missile from Integrated Test Range on October 17, 2014

The third test of the missile took place on 16 October 2015.[32] 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.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35]

First trial of Nirbhay Long Range Cruise Missile (LRCM) launched at Chandipur, Odisha on March 12, 2013.

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.[36][37] 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 test was aborted and the missile was remotely destroyed. A potential reason for the failure was described as a hardware problem with one of the missile's component.[38][39][40]

Fifth Trial[edit]

The fifth successful test of the missile took place on 7 November 2017 from Launch Complex-III of Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Balasore in Odisha around 11:20 IST. The flight test was a success and met all mission objectives. During the test, the missile travelled a distance of 647 km over a 50 min duration was tracked by ground based radars and telemetry stations.[41][42] This trial of the missile used a turbojet engine instead of a turbofan engine[43]

Sixth Trial[edit]

Sixth missile trial from Integrated Test Range, Odisha on 15 April 2019.

The sixth successful trial took place on April 15, 2019. Traversing around 650 km, the test missile navigated way-points located at altitudes varying from 5 meters to 2.5 km. DRDO clarified that all mission objectives were met.[44] The test also validated the terrain hugging and the sea skimming capability of the missile.[45]

This trial completed the developmental trials of the missile. The next set of trials will be conducted as per the requirements of the user - the Indian Armed Forces.[46]

Seventh Trial[edit]

DRDO is planning to conduct test of Nirbhay under the new name Indigenous Technology Cruise Missile (ITCM) with GTRE developed Short Turbo Fan Engine (STFE) called Manik and an upgraded RF seeker from RCI on 12 October 2020.[47] The seventh trial took place on October 12, 2020 at 10:30 AM from Wheeler Island, it was given a test-launch window of 2 days. The test was aborted after 8 minutes of launch and the missile ditched into open waters due to a technical glitch, which is yet to be ascertained. GTRE developed STFE is a crucial step in achieving self-sufficiency in cruise missile technology. DRDO is expected to fly the Nirbhay again in a few months after analyzing the data.[48]


India has deployed its long-range missile Nirbhay along with missile Brahmos and Akash surface to air missile to deter Chinese aggression along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh .[49]

Manik Engine[edit]

GTRE is developing a new 4.25 kN thrust turbofan engine to power Nirbhay Cruise missile and future UAV, Long range AshM cruise missile systems. GTRE is working fast to add test capabilities and infrastructure to test the Manik engine.[46]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "India Develops Sub-sonic Stealth Cruise Missile". Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Nirbhay Cruise Missile". Indian Defense Projects Sentinel. Mar 7, 2012. Archived from the original on June 5, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2012.
  5. ^ "India Test Fires Indigenous Supersonic Cruise Missile". India Strategic. November 2014. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  6. ^ a b "India test fires subsonic cruise missile 'Nirbhay'". The Economic Times. 2018-01-27. Retrieved 2020-02-06.
  7. ^ "India to Test 'Nirbhay Cruise Missile, Develop Agni-V Variant with Multiple Warhead Capabilities". Defence Now. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2016.
  8. ^ CSIS. "Nirbhay". Missile Threat. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  9. ^ "India successfully tests its first nuclear-capable cruise missile.", The Times of India, 8 November 2017.
  10. ^ "LAC standoff: India deploys long-range missile Nirbhay to tackle Chinese threat". Zee News. 2020-09-29. Retrieved 2020-09-29.
  11. ^ Menon, Jay (25 January 2013). "India To Fly Subsonic Cruise Missile". Aviation Week. AWIN First.
  12. ^ "Long-range cruise missile 'Nirbhay' test-fired". The Hindu Business Line. PTI. 7 November 2017.
  13. ^ "Press Information Bureau". Retrieved 2017-11-08.
  14. ^ "Nuke-capable Nirbhay cruise missile fails again, flight aborted". The Indian Express. 2015-10-17. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
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  17. ^ a b "India to test subsonic cruise missile in February". The Times of India. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2013.
  18. ^ a b "DRDO developing hypersonic missile". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  19. ^ "From 290 km to 450 km: India to soon test extended range BrahMos missile". Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  20. ^ "Tata Motors' Defence Vehicles" (PDF). DEFEXPO 2012. Tata Motors. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  21. ^ " - Mangalore News Articles, Classifieds to Around the World". Archived from the original on 6 February 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  22. ^ "'Nirbhay' missile set for test-firing next month". The Times of India. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
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  26. ^ Parrikar gives lifeline to Nirbhay missile team, project gets extension till June 201
  27. ^ India's Nirbhay cruise missile program extended by 18 months, says report
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  32. ^ Y. Mallikarjun. "Subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay to be test-fired today". The Hindu.
  33. ^ Nirbhay missile set for critical low-altitude trial; Sukhoi to chase
  34. ^ Business Standard (16 October 2015). "Flight of Nirbhay Missile Aborted after 700 Seconds of Launch".
  35. ^ "Nirbhay, India's Indigenous Cruise Missile, Fails Test Midway". 16 October 2015.
  36. ^ "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.
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  38. ^ Subramanian, T.S. "Nirbhay missile test "an utter failure"". The Hindu. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
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  40. ^ Bhattcharjee, Sumit. "'Nirbhay failed due to use of recycled material' -The Hindu". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-07-01.
  41. ^
  42. ^ "India conducts successful flight test of Nirbhay cruise missile | Jane's 360". Retrieved 2017-11-08.
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External links[edit]