FIRST LOOK: India's Long-Range Cruise Missile Programme

The image above is the first impression of India's little known Long-Range Cruise Missile (LRCM). The question now arises -- is this the same as the Nirbhay, India's sub-sonic long-range cruise missile programme? This is still tantalizingly unclear. Why? Well, the Nirbhay has been confirmed by the DRDO on several occasions to be based on a subsonic cruise vehicle. On the other hand, the LRCM depicted above is from a slide (see below) in a 2009 DRDO presentation. That particular slide deals specifically with liquid-fuel ramjet technology. Nowhere in the slide is the missile above referred to as Nirbhay, but as LRCM only.
Look at the slide. Here's where it gets interesting. Under the "missions" head on the slide, it says the LRCM is a "super-sonic cruise missile - long range", with surface-to-surface and air-to-surface applications. An illustration on the slide indicates that the missile is being developed with a range of at least 600-km at 3.2 Mach.

Even more interestingly, the slide provides scehamatics that indicates the development plan of the LRCM in a fair amount of detail. According to the schematics, under India's 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-2012), DRDO will complete the development of airframe integrated air intakes (see image) and controllers. These will be completed before 2012. The schematics also indicate that the engine development and engine test facilities are well underway under the 11th Plan, but will be complete under the 12th Plan, i.e, between 2012-2017. The schematics indicate that the DRDO aims for a first test firing of the Indian LRCM by 2013-14.

Apart from the airframe integrated intakes, critical technologies currently under development for the weapon system include variable nozzle system, air cooled combustor and fuel flow control system, all earmarked for the 11th Plan.

I asked a senior DRDO missile scientist on Sunday if the LRCM was the same as the Nirbhay, which sports an unofficial range of 1,000-km. He said the Nirbhay was definitely subsonic, and that the only long-range cruise missile programme in India currently was the Nirbhay.

The only supersonic cruise missile officially acknowledged to be under development right now by India is the BrahMos-2 hypersonic cruise missile, which has a stated range of 300-km. If the LRCM and Nirbhay are two separate, distinct programmes, then the former now stands revealed for the first time here on Livefist.

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