Amidst intense politicking over national security, India on Monday achieved another milestone in its indigenous cruise technology by successfully flight testing long-range sub-sonic missile Nirbhay at a the very low altitude of less than five metre. Defence sources said the missile with a sharp terrain hugging capability cruised at a speed of Mach 0.7 and for the first time it manoeuvred at low altitudes of as less as five metre to a range of 2.5 km.

The success came nearly three weeks after the historical mission of Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile that shot down a low earth orbit live satellite at an altitude of nearly 300 km.Powered by a solid rocket motor, the Made-in-India Nirbhay missile blasted off from a specially designed launcher and demonstrated its sea-skimming capability to cruise at very low altitudes.

A defence official said the missile took off vertically turning horizontally into desired the direction. After the booster got separated and wing deployed, the weapon system cruised at all intended waypoints set for the mission. “The missile followed a folded trajectory. The missile travelled out-bound for over 150 km and then came back descending at very low altitude covering the pre-coordinated waypoints with nice control all through the flight. The missile covered over 600 km in 42.23 minute,” he informed.

The entire flight was fully tracked by a chain of electro optical tracking systems, radars and ground telemetry systems deployed all along the sea coast. What makes the missile more lethal is that after launch it can be controlled in aircraft mode.

The six-metre long missile having a diameter of 0.5 m has an operational range of 700 km to 1,000 km. Weighing around 1.5 tonne it can carry warheads up to 400 kg. Nearly two dozens of warheads can be fitted with the missile basing on the requirements.

Nirbhay has the capability to penetrate deep into the enemy territory and can engage targets with high-accuracy. It can also be launched from multiple platforms. Flying at very low-altitude it can deceive enemy radars.

It was sixth test flight of the weapon, of which three tests have been successful. Nirbhay is India’s first indigenous cruise missile as BrahMos is a joint venture with Russia.

The missile was fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) off Odisha coast at about 11.45 am. Elaborate arrangements were made along the east coast for the mission.