Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) has been carrying out fresh trials of its 450 kgf thrust class Small Turbofan Engine (STFE) to have another go at India’s homemade 1000-kilometer-range subsonic land-attack cruise missile with terrain hugging capabilities later this year. In 2020, DRDO attempted to test the Nirbhay Cruise missile with the STFE for the first time but within 8 minutes of the launch due to technical issues in the Booster stage, the missile was forced to deviate from its path.

The missile didn’t achieve enough altitude for the STFE to be fired up for 50 min flight covering 1000km and later plunged into the Bay of Bengal, but the missile was later recovered and a technical report on the failure of the missile test confirmed there was no STFE failure but it related to underperformance of the booster.

The DRDO has been working on STFE to make the cruise missile more economical by increase indigenous content used in it. The Nirbhay missile has been tested and has cleared developmental trial for use with the Russian Saturn 50MT turbofan engine, but it never entered production so that STFE and other foreign components could be replaced with indigenous content.

Nirbhay is a two-stage missile. Its solid-fuel rocket motor serves as its first stage and accelerates the missile after launch to cruise speed when a turbojet engine in the second stage takes over. Nirbhay missiles don’t follow a ballistic parabola but are terrain-hugging in their path. Therefore, they are more difficult to detect by conventional radars.

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