Facts

Designation Nirbhay
Missile Variants N.A.
Mobility and Role Road-mobile/Land Attack Cruise Missile
Designer/Producer Republic of India
Range 1,000km[1]
Warhead Type and Weight Conventional, Nuclear/300kg[2]
MIRV and Yield No MIRV capabilities/12kT[3]
Guidance System/Accuracy GPS, active radar[4]/10m CEP[5]
Stages/Propellant Two[6]/Solid
IOC/Retirement N.A./N.A.
Status/Number of Units In development/unknown

Overview

The Nirbhay, meaning “fearless,” is a land attack cruise missile (LACM) currently under development by the Republic of India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). This solid fuel, nuclear-capable missile has been designed to be dispatched from mobile launchers and travel up 1,000km at speeds nearing Mach 0.7.[7] With an on-board computer system and active radar guidance, the Nirbhay has a reported accuracy of 10m CEP and is claimed to be capable of flying at “tree-top” levels to avoid radar detection.[8] However, while the LACM’s development was slated to be completed by December 2016,[9] a string of failed tests has caused the DRDO to extend this deadline until June 2018.[10]

Strategic Implications

If successfully completed, the “Nirbhay cruise missile will fill a vital gap in the war fighting capabilities of [India’s] armed forces,” according to Dr. Avinash Chander of the DRDO.[11] Intended to be launched from land, air, and under water,[12] the Nirbhay would substantially augment India’s limited nuclear strike capability against Pakistan.[13] Given the missile’s repeated failures, however, India may eventually be forced to abandon the Nirbhay and pursue other designs in its quest to acquire an LACM with U.S. Tomahawk-like capabilities.[14]


Sources

[1] Financial Express, “Nirbhay: Know about India’s 1000-km Range Sub-Sonic Cruise Missile, That Failed in its Test Flight Yet Again,” December 22, 2016, http://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/nirbhay-sub-sonic-cruise-missile-test-flight-details-india-drdo-defence/482566/.

[2] Franz-Stefan Gady, “Bad News for India’s Deadliest Sub: Nirbhay Cruise Missile Fails Test (Again),” The Diplomat, December 23, 2016, http://thediplomat.com/2016/12/bad-news-for-indias-deadliest-sub-nirbhay-cruise-missile-fails-test-again/.

[3] Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Nirbhay,” Missile Threat, last modified August 11, 2016, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/nirbhay/.

[4] Rahul Bedi, “Further Failure for Nirbhay Cruise Missile,” IHS Jane’s, December 29, 2016, http://www.janes.com/article/66582/further-failure-for-nirbhay-cruise-missile; Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Nirbhay.”

[5] S.K. Jindal (ed.), “India Conducts Successful Flight Trial of Nirbhay Sub-Sonic Cruise Missile,” Defence Research & Development Organisation Newsletter Vol. 34, No. 11 (November 2014): 4, http://www.drdo.gov.in/drdo/pub/newsletter/2014/november_14.pdf.

[6] Bedi, “Further Failure for Nirbhay Cruise Missile.”

[7] Gady, “Bad News for India’s Deadliest Sub.”

[8] Kulsoom Belal, “Cruise Missiles in South Asia: Implications for Regional Stability,” Policy Perspectives Vol. 13, No. 1 (June 2016): 127, ProQuest ID 1798724748.

[9] Aditya Bhat, “Nirbhay Cruise Missile: Should the Project be Junked?” International Business Times, December 24, 2016, http://www.ibtimes.co.in/nirbhay-cruise-missile-should-project-be-junked-709640.

[10] Gabriel Dominguez, “India’s Nirbhay Cruise Missile Programme Extended by 18 Months, Says Report,” IHS Jane’s, January 20, 2017, http://www.janes.com/article/67103/india-s-nirbhay-cruise-missile-programme-extended-by-18-months-says-report.

[11] Jindal, “India Conducts Successful Flight Trial of Nirbhay Sub-Sonic Cruise Missile.”

[12] Financial Express, “Nirbhay.”

[13] Belal, “Cruise Missiles in South Asia: Implications for Regional Stability,” 124.

[14] Bhat, “Nirbhay Cruise Missile: Should the Project be Junked?”

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