SOURCE: MANJUNATH REDDY/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
India’s all-weather, subsonic cruise missile ” Nirbhay” went past 2018 without any test flight even though the indigenous program has faced continuous delays and several project extensions that Ministry of Defence are concerned by continuous delays to the program which was initiated nearly decade ago.
The maiden test flight of ‘Nirbhay’ was held on March 12, 2013, and had to be terminated midway due to malfunctions. The second trial in 2014 was a success but in 2015 and 2016 again missile failed to meet its objectives and trials were declared failures. In 2017, Nirbhay was tested successfully again but with a PTAE-7 turbojet engine instead of the Russian turbofan engine borrowed from the Pilotless target aircraft (PTA) Lakshya-II.
In 2018, Nirbhay Cruise Missile was supposed to be tested with a 4.25kN Thrust Turbofan Manik Engine developed by GTRE but the new engine is still going through its developmental trials and was nowhere close to production yet in 2018. Manik Engine prototypes have already demonstrated two hours of endurance under full load conditions and have been going through its developmental paces for last two years but there is no clarity if the program will be cleared for production in 2019.
Nirbhay Cruise Missile program nearly faced the Axe while former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was in the office due to continuous delays and extension was given after success of the 5th developmental trials of the missile in 2017. Manik Engine is a crucial program which will be the main go-to engine which India plans to use to power host of sub-sonic cruise missile family it plans to develop along with Nirbhay.
While DRDO officials have been tight-lipped in providing new information on the Nirbhay Cruise Missile program, 2019 might be a make or break year for the program and crucial decisions might be taken regarding it, if the program is not back on track this year.