India today test-fired its potent nuclear-capable cruise missile 'Nirbhay', a state-of-the-art missile developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The test was conducted from the Integrated Missile Test Range in Chandipur, Odisha, days after Cyclone Hudhud hit the state's coastal region.
Nirbhay (which means fearless) is very manoeuvrable and can fly at tree-top level, making it difficult to detect on radar, and strikes targets more than 700 km away carrying nuclear warheads, giving India the capability to strike deep into enemy territory.
Very soon when India's own satellite navigation fleet is fully deployed, cruise missiles will start using signals from the country's space system.
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 aircraft and can even hover near the target, striking at will from any direction.
On its first flight on March 12, last year, Nirbhay had to be terminated, as it deviated from its course about 20 minutes after launch. As the missile went off its flight trajectory, its engine was cut off to bring it down to ensure coastal safety. It fell near the coast; the DRDO said no one was injured.
The Nirbhay is a sub-sonic cruise missile and gives India the capacity to launch different kinds of payloads at different ranges from various platforms at a very low cost. The missile has a fire-and-forget system that cannot be jammed.
India has had the capability to make ballistic missiles for some time now and has made tactical missiles of different capacity. But it had not mastered a cruise missile yet.
The US had used cruise missiles very effectively during the Gulf War.
The Nirbhay is India's answer to America's Tomahawk and Pakistan's Babur.