India successfully test-fired its first domestically built nuclear-capable long-range cruise missile Nirbhay on Friday, marking another step in raising the nation’s defence prowess. The success comes after the subsonic missile’s first test launch in March 2013 had to be aborted midway after it veered off course. This time around, the missile flew perfectly in its 70-minute mission and covered a distance of over 1000km. Nirbhay can identify and strike targets in heavily populated areas with pin-point accuracy. It can also carry a nuclear warhead. The surface-to-surface missile is capable of flying at low altitudes to avoid detection. It can even hover near the target, striking from any direction without being seen on radar. The missile is intended to cruise like an aircraft, helped by its small fins that allow great manoeuvring.
Following the ban on Indian military research establishments, India attained the know-how and developed strategic missile systems indigenously by importing very little or negligible equipment. Now that the Modi government has decided to push indigenous defence production in several fields, India must step up efforts to make its missile programme import-free. We should reach a situation where we need not import any air-to-ground, surface-to-air or air-to-air missile. That we have set 2020 as a target in achieving the goal is a matter of much relief.
This missile system takes India into an exclusive club which includes the US, Russia, France, China and Pakistan which have mastered cruise missile technology development. That Pakistan, too, has developed this missile system was cause enough for India to step up its efforts in this direction to deny our hostile neighbour a psychological edge. It is a measure of the skill of our scientists that unlike the Pakistanis who leaned heavily on foreign help, India’s development of missile system has been indigenous. That puts us on a firm footing to improve and improvise as more technological inputs are developed.