Following the successful launch of the Agni-V missile, the state-run DRDO is gearing up for the first flight of the homegrown subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay. According to DRDO officials, the first flight of Nirbhay cruise missile will take place this year itself from the Integrated Test Range at Balasore in Odisha. Besides, DRDO is also working on equipping the recently tested Agni-V missile with multiple warheads.
As for the indigenously developed subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay, it has a range of 750 km to 1,000 km. Nirbhay is a two stage missile being developed by DRDO lab Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE). It is capable of carrying nearly two dozen different warheads as per the requirements and can be launched from multiple platforms including air, land and sea.
The Nirbhay missile is believed to have a length of 6.0 m, a body diameter of 0.5 m and a launch weight of 1,500 to 1,600 kilograms. Sources added that it has a payload of 450 kilograms and a cruise speed of between Mach 0.8 and Mach 0.9. According to reports, the missile has been described as being similar to the US RGM-109 Tomahawk and the Russian Club (SS-N-27).
Using its inertial navigation system for guidance, Nirbhay cruise missile has the ability to pick one target among multiple targets. Nirbhay cruise missile is specifically designed for Su-30 MKI and is equipped with ‘loitering’ capabilities. The aim is to heighten the capability of the Su-30 MKI which is already equipped with BrahMos supersonic cruise missile and Astra missile. The air-launched version of Nirbhay for Su-30MKI aircraft will complement the range and its strike capability.
DRDO has indicated that besides the engine, Nirbhay cruise missile has been developed indigenously and will be inducted into all the three Defence forces. According to sources, the private sector giant Tata may be building the launch vehicle for Nirbhay. A wheeled Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) vehicle is also reported to be in development by the Research and Development Establishment (Engineering) at Pune.
On the other hand, DRDO Chief Dr V K Saraswat has recently indicated that DRDO is developing capabilities to produce a variant of Agni-V missile which can hit multiple targets. Agni-V has been recently tested and it India's most powerful missile with a strike range of over 5,000 kilometers. Dubbed as Multiple Independently Targeted Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV), the Agni-V missile will be able to carry multiple warheads to destroy several targets. He added that the missile will remain the same and so will the first three stages of the missile. Only the kill vehicle or the payload delivery system will need changes.