India’s ‘Nirbhay’ cruise missile is slated to be incorporated in the Suhkoi Su-30MKI Flanker strike aircraft, increasing the nuclear weapon capability of the Indian Air Force (IAF) beyond that of free-fall weapons only. The ‘Nirbhay’ will be the third indigenous weapon to equip the Su-30MKI besides the ‘Brahmos’ supersonic cruise missile and the ‘Astra’ medium-range air-to-air missile.
The induction of the ‘Nirbhay’ cruise missile to the Suu-MKI Flanker aircraft will give the decisive edge the IAF needs in terms of long-range and strategic strike capability.
According to sources, the range of the ‘Nirbhay’ cruise missile is roughly 800 to 1,000 kilometres. Hyderabad-based Advanced Systems Laboratory, part of state-owned Defence Research and Development Organization’s (DRDO) is currently pursuing the ‘Nirbhay’ project. Sources added that a design model of the ‘Nirbhay’ is expected to be unveiled at Aero-India 2011.
Sources also added that the approximate size of the ‘Nirbhay’ cruise missile is about 19 feet, which implies that only a couple of these missiles can be accommodated in the Su-MKI aircraft. It has been suggested that the aircraft could carry one weapon on a pylon in the tunnel between the two engine bays, similar to the measure taken for the ‘Brahmos’ missile. Two ‘Nirbhay’ missiles can be accommodated if one could fit under each of the inboard wing-station.
The details of the ‘Nirbhay’ cruise missile have been kept under wraps by India. The subsonic Nirbhay weighs 1,000 kg with a 1,000 km range and a speed of 0.7 mach. The requirement for ‘Nirbhay’ was anticipated by India’s three armed forces. The ‘Nirbhay’ is to have multiple platforms and can be launched from ground, sea and air.
It has been disclosed that the overall design and aerodynamic study work and the design of the propulsion system has been finished. DRDO’s Pune-based Research and Development Establishment (Engineering) is developing the transporter erector launch vehicle for the ground-launched version of the ‘Nirbhay’ missile.
ASL, the lab which is designing the ‘Nirbhay’ cruise missile indicated that it will be superior to the ‘Babur’ missile which belongs to Pakistan. Pakistan’s ‘Babur’ msissile is the first subsonic, low-level terrain-mapping missile and was developed originally with a 500 kilometres range and later upgraded to 700 kilometres.