A flight-test of subsonic cruise missile Nirbhay from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Balasore in Odisha on Wednesday was “an utter failure”, informed sources in the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said. The sources added that the failure was caused by the wing-deployment problem in the second stage of the missile, which flies like an aircraft.
Out of four Nirbhay missions so far, three, including Wednesday's flight-test, have ended in failure.
On Wednesday afternoon, after the missile took off from Launch Complex-III of the ITR, it did not follow the required flight path.
“The booster engine in Nirbhay's first stage started working. The missile lifted off from its launcher. But it started veering dangerously towards one side in less than two minutes of its lift-off,” DRDO officials said.
The missile started flying beyond the safety corridor and threatened to fall on the land. So the “destruct” mechanism in its first stage was activated and it was destroyed.
The DRDO sources called the mission “an utter failure” because the missile started veering towards one side in the “initial phase” of the flight itself. They said, “It is a big failure. We should have a thorough re-look at what has been done so far. Out of four Nirbhay missions, three have ended in failure.”
The sources ruled out any problem with the missile's configuration. They said it could be “a hardware failure” that led to the mission being aborted. “This is a hardware element issue. This is a reliability issue with a component,” they explained.
A successful Nirbhay mission would have lasted for more than an hour. In a normal mission, the contraption will take off vertically like a missile, then a mechanism in its first stage will tilt the missile horizontally and the first stage, with its booster engine, will jettison into the sea. Then the second stage with the turbo-engine will start cruising horizontally like an aircraft with its wings spread out at a subsonic speed of 0.7 Mach.
The missile, conceived, designed and developed by the DRDO, can take out targets 1,000 km away. It can carry a 300 kg warhead.
Nirbhay’s debut flight on March 12, 2013 was a failure. After 20 minutes of lift-off, it deviated from its path and its “destruct” mechanism was activated to ''kill'' it.
The second flight on October 17, 2014 was a big success. The missile travelled 1,010 km instead of the targeted 800 km.
The third mission on October 16, 2015 was again a failure. After 70 seconds of its flight, when it was cruising like an aircraft after the first stage had fallen off as planned, it lost control and fell within the safety zone.