The fourth test of Nirbhay, the long rage sub-sonic cruise missile that is designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), failed on December 21 last year because of use of faulty material, said Chairman of the DRDO and Secretary of Department of Defence R&D S. Chirstopher here on Saturday.
Speaking to The Hindu after inaugurating a workshop on indigenous lithium-ion batteries for special applications, hosted by the Naval Science and Technological Laboratories (NSTL), the DRDO chief said, “The fourth test of the missile took place from the Launch Complex-III of Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Balasore in Odisha and after lift-off the missile developed snags over one of its wings, started to bank on one side and veered dangerously. We had to activate the ‘self-destruct’ mechanism to kill it mid-air. On investigation, it was found out that the vendor who manufactured it used recycled material for one of the key components that operates the wings of the missile and that was the reason why it failed. The strength of the recycled material was not sufficient to operate the parameters. Though the vendor followed all specifications, the use of re-cycle material was not disclosed.”
But, according to Dr. Christopher, the same vendor had been told to produce another one ‘free of cost’ under the same specifications but without any short-cuts. “Everything was right in the missile, only this faulty material caused the failure. But now it will be ready by July end or August and we shall go for the fifth test,” he said.
Nirbhay is an all-weather, low-cost, long-range sub-sonic cruise missile capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads and is considered to be a strategic weapon.
Pronouncing the roadmap, Dr. Christopher said once the test was successful they would identify the production partner whom they referred to as strategic partner and would go for further variations. “It is a guided missile and right now there is no problem with the path in the higher altitude. But there are some glitches in the lower altitude and we will be working on the seekers for pin-point accuracy. The missile should be ready by next two to three years,” he said.
According to him, the DRDO is working on the strategic partner model who would have stake in the production. “This will make the agency responsible and we will get rid of the tendering process for every small thing. There may be multiple indigenous strategic partners for each of our weapon and defence systems,” he pointed out.
On the naval variant of Tejas–Mark II (light combat aircraft), Dr. Christopher said the prototype was ready and had fullfilled the parameters of ski-jump on board aircraft carriers. But the Navy had been insisting on twin engines and they were working on the power of the engines. “We are also looking for strategic partners and the partner may be a foreign firm that would provide back-end support,” he said.
The DRDO chief sounded very enthusiastic about the indigenously built AEWACS (Airbone early warning and control system). “We have already inducted one indigenously built system and it is flying from Bhatinda.”
In total, they intended to induct 15 AEWACS and of them five would be from Israel and the remaining indigenous ones.
Of the indigenous ones, two would be smaller ones mounted on Brazilian Embraer-145 jets and the remaining would be on Airbus 330. “We have already received the order for six from the Indian Air Force and the negotiations with Airbus is in the final stages. The indigenous ones will have all the features of the Israeli make so that there may not be two teams operating on two different makes,” said Dr. Christopher.