Sub-sonic cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’

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  • Published
    18th Apr, 2019


Recently, the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) conducted the sixth flight test of the nuclear-capable Nirbhay (the fearless) cruise missile, from the Integrated Test Range on Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha.


  • Nirbhay is the India’s first indigenously designed and developed long-range state-of-the-art cruise missile, which can be deployed from multiple platforms.
  • The sophisticated missile took off in a programmed manner and all critical operations like launch phase, booster deployment, engine start, wing deployment and other parameters were demonstrated through autonomous way point navigation. 
  • After the initial blast-off with a solid-propellant booster rocket engine to gain speed and altitude, Nirbhay is designed to deploy its smallish wings and tail fins in the second-stage and fly like an unmanned aircraft.


  • The missile is highly maneuverable with “loitering capabilities” to first identify and then hit the intended target with precision at 0.7 Mach at altitude as low as 100 metre and covers the designated target range in just 42 minutes and 23 seconds.
  • The Nirbhay can be armed with a 200-300-kilogram warhead.

 Nirbhay at a Glance

  • Originated from: India
  • Possessed by: India
  • Class: Subsonic Cruise Missile
  • Length: 6.0 m
  • Diameter: 0.5 m
  • Launch weight: 1,500-1,6000 kg
  • Payload: 450 kg
  • Warhead: HE, submunitions, 12 kT nuclear potentially
  • Propulsion: Turbojet
  • Range: 800-1,000 km

Previous tests:

  • The last successful test launch of the Nirbhay missiletook place in November 2017. A previous test launch in December 2016 ended in failure with the missile destroyed in mid-air after it deviated from its course.
  • Nirbhay missiles used in past tests were all powered by Russian-made NPO Saturn 36MT mini turbofan engines.


  • It is launched to prove the repeatability of boost phase and thus, cruise phase was used to way point navigation at very low altitudes.
  • The Nirbhay is touted to be India’s answer to the US Tomahawk missiles and an effective counter to Pakistan’s Babur land-attack cruise missile (LACM).

    •    DRDO is working on an extended-range air-launched variant of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, designated BrahMos-ER, with an estimated strike range of around 800 kilometers.

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