The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a new sub-sonic cruise missile called Nirbhay (Fearless in Sanskrit), which may be test-fired in April.

This is the first time that India has developed a cruise missile that will travel at a sub-sonic speed (less than the speed of sound). India and Russia have jointly developed BrahMos, a supersonic, cruise missile, which travels for 290 km at 2.8 Mach (2.8 times the speed of sound).

India felt the need for developing a sub-sonic cruise missile with a long range, and the upshot is Nirbhay. The Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a DRDO facility in Bangalore, has designed Nirbhay, the equivalent of Lakshya, which is a pilotless target aircraft developed by the ADE. Nirbhay has many technologies derived from Lakshya. The maximum speed of Lakshya is 0.65 Mach. Nirbhay is India's equivalent of Tomahawk, a long-range, sub-sonic cruise missile, developed by the U.S.

Nirbhay is a two-stage, surface-to-surface missile. While a booster engine would “kick the first stage” from the ground, the second stage has a turbo-prop engine, akin to an aircraft's. It can carry multiple payloads and engage several targets. “Even if there are multiple targets, it can pick out a target and attack it. It is a loitering missile; it can go round and round a target, perform several manoeuvres and take it apart. It has precision, endurance and accuracy. It is an important missile,” DRDO officials said.

With a range of more than 750 km, Nirbhay can remain in the air for a long time. Capable of flying at the height of a tree (so, it is known as “tree-top missile), it can soar to a minimum of 10 km and a maximum of 50 km.

The DRDO will also soon test-fire Helina, the helicopter-fired version of Nag, the third-generation anti-tank missile. Helina is a portmanteau term, standing for helicopter and Nag (the cobra). Nag has ‘fire and forget' and ‘top attack' capability. Carrying an eight-kg warhead, it has an infra-red seeker and can destroy enemy tanks four km away. Based on the information available from the target, Helina will lock on to it midway through its flight and zero in on to it.

A modified version of Arjun-Mark I main battle tank will prove its mettle by firing a LAHAT missile from an Army range this month. The LAHAT (Laser Homing Attack or Laser Homing Anti-Tank missile) is a third-generation semi-active low-weight anti-tank missile. This version was fired from the Arjun tank in 2004. The Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment, a DRDO facility at Avadi, designed and developed the Arjun.


  • It is India's equivalent of U.S. Tomahawk

  • It can engage many targets and be in air longer