Nirbhay strays from flight path, aborted

The first flight of the long-range subsonic cruise missile, Nirbhay (Fearless) was terminated midway on Tuesday after it deviated from its trajectory and veered towards the coast within 20 minutes of its launch from Chandipur off the Odisha coast.

Nirbhay was supposed to home in on the target in the sea after covering its full range of 1,000 km as envisaged by Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) missile technologists.

Soon after it was fired from a road mobile launcher at 11.50 a.m. from the Integrated Test Range, the missile’s booster engine kick-started and gave it the required thrust. The booster engine and control systems worked well, the booster stage got separated and the cruise missile’s systems were also in deployment mode.

Safety threat

“The cruising phase was all right, and the way-pointing, navigation systems worked well during the first 20 minutes of the flight,” said DRDO technologists. The tracking necessitated the missile’s designated path to be close to the coast. After the missile had cruised for around 250 km at an altitude of 4.5 km, it started drifting from its path and since it posed a threat to safety on the coast, the technologists switched off its engine and aborted the flight.

A DRDO official later confirmed that it fell on land near the coast and claimed that no harm was caused to anybody.

Avinash Chander, Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems), DRDO, however, said the basic mission objectives were met and the cruise capabilities were established as it covered 25 per cent of the envisaged range. He said that all the parameters till the time it deviated were as expected. All the aspects of the cruise vehicle were tested and verified. “That is a major achievement,” Mr. Chander added.

Other DRDO officials said the deviation was caused probably by the malfunctioning of one of the subsystems. It might take three to four days to analyse and find out the exact cause. The next launch will be planned soon, they said.

Since it was the first flight, the mission objective was to prove the technologies related to subsonic cruise missiles and to establish the flight path. The missile was to follow a prescribed path to evaluate its subsystems in flight, the officials said.

Nirbhay is a derivative of Lakshya, a pilotless target aircraft, developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment, a DRDO facility situated in Bangalore. The missile used a miniaturised turbojet engine to power its flight. Aviation kerosene was the fuel. The missile weighed about one tonne. If the mission had been successful, the missile would have taken about 45-60 minutes to cruise its entire range.

India already has a supersonic cruise missile in BrahMos which has been inducted into the Army and Navy. Pakistan has a cruise missile in Babur with a range of 700 km.

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Printable version | Dec 2, 2020 10:15:52 PM |

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