BHUBANESWAR: Once a pride for Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), India’s own cruise missile project Nirbhay is on the verge of closure.
A highly placed source told ‘The New Indian Express’ that the project is likely to be closed as the missile has failed to deliver desired results even 12 years after the project was launched. A review of the project will be conducted shortly.
Nirbhay is the country’s first indigenously built long-range sub-sonic cruise missile which can be compared with America’s Tomahawk in terms of its capability. Designed by Bengaluru-based Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), the missile was designed to fly at different altitudes ranging from 500 meters to four km.
Launched in 2004 at a cost of Rs 48 crore, the projected date of completion (PDC) for the prestigious project was December 31, 2016. However, under trial since 2013, the missile is yet to perform as expected after four attempts in the last four years.
The project has been plagued with difficulties as the scientists are still struggling to fix the problems in the flight control software and navigation system while some others point fingers at the hardware.
While the Research Centre Imarat (RCI) blamed ADE-developed software, ADE was pointing towards the defective hardware supplied by RCI. “However, it could not be ascertained which is defective, whether the software or hardware, but Nirbhay missile failed in its fourth attempt,” an insider said.
There has been problem with the control software since beginning. The RCI had developed navigational hardware for their applications and it was adopted by ADE for Nirbhay. There are always differences between ADE and RCI regarding its functional efficacy, the source claimed.
Defence experts have raised questions on the requirement of such a subsonic missile, which can cruise at a speed of 0.8 Mach, when supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, developed jointly with Russia, is already inducted in the armed forces.
BrahMos, which flies at a speed of Mach 3, has a strike range of 290 km. Though Nirbhay can strike targets 1,000 km away, with India joining the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), it can now develop long range cruise missiles as joint ventures.
While initially the expected cost of ‘Nirbhay’ was around Rs 10 crore per piece, DRDO has so far spent more than Rs 100 crore on R&D and trials.
DRDO Chief Selvin Christopher and Project Director of Nirbhay Vasanth Sastri did not respond to the calls and queries from ‘The New Indian Express’. Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister G Satheesh Reddy, however, said he is unaware of any such move.