SOURCE: PRAVIN DHAUSKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
India’s own cruise missile project Nirbhay is on the verge of closure claimed latest Indian media reports after a recent test of the missile was declared an absolute disaster and Government of India now mulling plans to close the project due to repeated delays and failed tests.
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) developed Nirbhay was initially demanded by Indian Army nearly 15 years ago and Project went active nearly 12 years ago. But since 2013 missile has been tested Four times, with Three complete failures and only one partial success to its credit.
Sub-sonic long-range, low-flying cruise missile capable of carrying conventional warheads to take down tactical targets is an offensive weapons system which every modern Army could like to have at its disposal and could have been one of the crucial weapons system needed to implement India’s “cold start” doctrine under which it is required to deliver precise strikes across the border.
Interestingly recently in September this year, a report prepared by long-running Russian Izvestia newspaper had said that India had informed Russia that it is interested in procurement of “Kalibr” cruise missiles which recently saw real combat action when Russian Navy fired them from the Caspian Sea at 11 targets in Syria.
Izvestia report had said that talks were held on sidelines of BRICS between Russian and Indian officials through Diplomatic channels and with India’s sucessful entry into MTCR regime, sale of such missile system is no longer prohibited and India can go for license or joint development of new Subsonic cruise missile based on Kalibr which was first inducted into Russian military only in 2012.
Kalibr reportedly also has range of 1500-2500 km and Russians have already developed Submarine launched, Anti-ship, Land attack variant of it, export variant to India might come with 1500km range but ability to fire them from Improved Kilo-class submarine through torpedo tube without needing major modifications to hull of the submarine will be added advantage to Indian Navy .
Kalibr now seems to be India’s backup plan if India really decides to pull the plug on homegrown cruise missile program in future or decides to continue its development in parallel while it goes for Kalibr to meet armed forces immediate needs, hoping this experience benefits Nirbhay missile program in long term.
India started working on Nirbhay program only because MTCR regulation prevented Russia from transferring technology of long-range subsonic cruise missiles or could have come with a limited range of less 300 like it did with BrahMos.
India and Russia together are already working to enhance current range of BrahMos from 292 to 600 km and also in pipelines is development of smaller and nimble BrahMos NG (Next Generation ) which will have the same punch in terms of speed and range as current generation BrahMos but will be Smaller in dimension and will feature reduced weight, benefiting from newer technologies to develop next generation BrahMos . India and Russia are also working on Hypersonic version of Cruise missile dubbed BrahMos-2K which will have the ability to cruise at Mach-5/6 and will incorporate stealth and heat suppression measures to be next Game Changer which will debut post-2020.