What exactly went wrong? This million dollar question has started haunting the DRDO big wigs after the Tuesday’s fiasco in which India’s first indigenously built sub-sonic cruise missile Nirbhay deviated from path forcing the mission team to destroy it mid-way.
The fearless missile, as its name suggests, left the residents of a seaside village in Jagatsinghpur district scared as its wreckages fell in a cashew nut orchard, just 50 meters away from human habitations after it was blown off through self-destructive mechanism.
While an inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the reasons behind the debacle, DRDO scientists are analyzing the data collected during the mission. The missile debris collected from the village also has been sent to the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur for further verification.
Though the local defence authorities are tight lipped on the causes behind the technical disaster, reliable sources at the test range told ‘The New Indian Express’ that the missile veered off as snags developed in its inertial navigation system (INS), which leads a missile till its target area.
“Besides, there could be metallurgical malfunction in any of the sub-systems, which, we suspect, failed to sustain the aero-dynamic pressures. The vibration in the engine is a pointer to the fact,” the sources informed.
Even as the DRDO claimed that the missile covered nearly 200 km in 20 minutes before its deviation from the intended flight path, the source said the missile traveled much less as it fell in Gadaharishpur, an area hardly 100 km from the launching complex aerially.
Chief Controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems) of DRDO Avinash Chander however ruled out that there was fault in the INS or metallurgical error. “We suspect the technical glitches might have developed one of the sub-systems in the missile system after it attained certain height and cover certain distance besides displaying some excellent maneuvers,” he said.
Chander, the man behind Agni missiles said it would take time to pin-point on the exact cause of the fiasco. “Data collected during the mission is being analysed properly at the defence laboratory. It requires time as we need to cross-check all data very thoroughly. Once we ascertain the faults, there will be absolutely no problem to fix them. The missile will again be ready for trials within some months,” he added.
Nirbhay is India’s first home made cruise missile having a strike range of nearly 1,000 km. Though already it has two versions of 290-km range supersonic cruise missile BrahMos in its arsenal, the weapon has been developed in collaboration with Russia.
It is not for the first time that a missile was destroyed mid-way as it deviated from the path. On July 29, last year Indo-Russian joint venture BrahMos crashed mid-air after a vertical lift-up and fell into the Bay of Bengal before covering its pre-coordinated path.
Earlier on September 24, 2010 Prithvi-II missile fell down immediately after take off. Later it went straight horizontally and hit the seaside wall at Chandipur test range before catching fire spreading panic among defence personnel who ran away to save themselves.