First cruise missile ‘Nirbhay’ test: India achieves partial success as MTCR proves a key hurdle for India

India achieved partial success while test firing its first cruise missile called “Nirbhay” from the Chandipur on Sea test range in Odisha. The missile’s flight had to be terminated halfway as it had deviated from its original course.

 “Nirbhay”:

  • First cruise missile of India
  • Long-range (1,000-2,000 km) strikes targets more than 700 km away carrying nuclear warheads
  • Subsonic (below the speed of sound, 1,236 kmph) cruise missile.
  • can fly at tree-top level making it very difficult to detect on radar
  • Unlike other ballistic missiles like the Agni, Nirbhay has a wing and pronounced tail fins. It launches like a missile and in early flight the small wings get deployed. It then flies like an aeroplane and can even hover near the target, striking at will from any direction.
  • The missile has a fire-and-forget system that cannot be jammed and can be launched from a mobile launcher.

Is Pakistan ahead of India in cruise missiles technology?

YES. Pakistan is ahead of India in cruise missiles, as Pakistan had tested and operationally deployed the Babur (Hatf VII) cruise missile but there is a belief among international analysts, nevertheless, that the engine of the Hatf VII has been supplied by China in violation of the MTCR. The Indian cruise missile “Nirbhay” is believed to be India’s answer to America’s Tomahawk and Pakistan’s Babur (Hatf VII) cruise missiles.

What is the hurdle for India in developing long-range cruise missiles?

A key hurdle to developing a long-range cruise missile is the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

  • Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR): An informal and voluntary association of 34 nations to stop the growth of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying a 500 kg payload at least 300 km. The MTCR forbids collaboration in building cruise missiles because they could be used for delivering nuclear weapons.
  • The People’s Republic of China, Pakistan and India are NOT the members of the MTCR. However, Russia is a member of MTCR.
  • So, while developing the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile (range was pegged at 295 km, just below the MTCR limit) India could collaborate with Russia. But now in building the Nirbhay (since range is more than 300 km), Russia cannot help India and thus, India had to do it alone.
  • Since China is NOT a party to MTCR, so “CAN” share the technology in this respect with Pakistan.
  • Nirbhay will finally be a canisterised missile and thus it could also be launched from submarines with a nuclear warhead.

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Categories: Defence Current Affairs 2017Science and Technology Current Affairs - 2017

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