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Military Capabilities

Defexpo 2020: India to test Nirbhay cruise missile powered by indigenous propulsion system

06 February 2020
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India’s Nirbhay cruise missile, seen here during the 5-9 February Defexpo 2020 exhibition in Lucknow, northern India, is set to be tested in April powered by an indigenous propulsion system. Source: Jane’s/Rahul Udoshi

India is expected to carry out in April the first developmental trial of a Nirbhay cruise missile fitted with an indigenous propulsion system, an Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) official told Jane's during the 5-9 February Defexpo 2020 exhibition in Lucknow, northern India.

Called the Indigenous Technology Cruise Missile (ITCM), the weapon, which is essentially the Nirbhay missile fitted with the indigenous Small Turbo Fan Engine (STFE), is being developed by Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) of India's state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). ADE has planned two developmental tests using the ITCM to demonstrate the STFE and a new radio frequency seeker.

The ADE official also confirmed that new variants of the missile are either planned or already being developed, including the ground/ship-launched Long Range Land Attack Cruise Missile (LRLACM), the Submarine Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM) - or Nirbhay SLCM - and the future air-launched version, possibly known as Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) or Nirbhay ALCM.

The 6 m-long, nuclear-capable, land-attack Nirbhay has a diameter of 0.52 m and is fitted with two tapering-chord fold-out (backwards) wings with a span of 2.7 m. The one-tonne missile is brought up to the takeover speed of its turbofan engine by a jettisonable solid-propellant booster. The missile cruises at a speed of 270-305 m/s, and its maximum strike range is stated to be 1,000 km.

The 110 kg STFE straight jet engine has an onboard gas generator for powering on the engine, which generates 425 kgf of thrust and is credited with a 2 kW power offtake. Measuring 900×360 mm, the engine has already completed stand-alone ground testing, a GTRE official told Jane's.

ADE's priority is to complete trials of the LRLACM by 2021, with preparations already under way for the test in April. This will be followed by another test before an actual live firing set to take place in January/February 2021.

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