Mixed success: Nirb­hay maiden test started well, ter­mi­nated mid­way


The much an­tic­i­pated maiden test of In­dia’s long-range cruise mis­sile, Nirb­hay, ended mostly in dis­ap­point­ment on March 12, with the pro­gramme sci­en­tists forced to de­stroy the mis­sile about 20 min­utes af­ter launch. While the launch it­self from the road mo­bile launcher, the sep­a­ra­tion of the booster and de­ploy­ment of wings, were suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tions, about 20 min­utes into the flight, the cruise mis­sile drifted alarm­ingly from its flight path forc­ing the test team to take the dras­tic ac­tion. Pro­to­col dur­ing such tests ne­ces­si­tates emer­gency fall-backs in the event of loss of con­trol of the mis­sile.

The Bay of Ben­gal Test range is a safe one, but the Nirb­hay was be­ing tested to its max­i­mum range of 1,000 km and there­fore coastal se­cu­rity pre­sented it­self as an im­me­di­ate con­cern. The test team was there­fore unan­i­mous that the mis­sile test must be aborted. Sources in­di­cated that there could have been me­chan­i­cal is­sues with con­trol sur­faces, or pos­si­ble cer­tain mi­nor elec­tri­cal glitches that may have pushed the weapon off course.

A post-test in­quiry team will look into all teleme­try data to zero in on what went wrong. In an of­fi­cial state­ment, DRDO said, “Long-range cruise mis­sile Nirb­hay was suc­cess­fully launched from launch com­plex, Chandipur, Odisha, meet­ing the ba­sic mis­sion ob­jec­tives suc­cess­fully. Af­ter trav­el­ling ap­prox­i­mately mid­way, de­vi­a­tions were ob­served from its in­tended course. Fur­ther, flight was ter­mi­nated to en­sure coastal safety.”

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