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.

28 thoughts on “FIRST LOOK: India’s Long-Range Cruise Missile Programme”

  1. if the stated range of the LRCM is 600km wont that make it a medium range cruise missile as long range cruise missile mainly have a range greater that 1000km like nirbhay and even the brahmos 2 missile's range is only 300 km shouldn't that come upto atleast 600km to keep the launch platform at safe distance

  2. Excellent scoop!

    The missile appears to be a huge fuel tank propelled by two ramjet engines.

    The design approach is evolutionary, almost crude, with DRDO apparently relying on the technology that it has acquired from Russia under the Brahmos co-production deal.

    It is likely the engine for the LRCM will be a derivative of the ramje6t engine that powers the Brahmos.

    The use of twin engines reduces SFC, which is already grim in a ramjet engine. The missile will be mostly gas, pun not intended.

    DRDO obviously does not have the confidence, or the proven expertise, to design a large enough ramjet, or a jet, suitable for a long range supersonic missile from scratch, hence the huge compromise.

    The use of two engines rules out the proven circular centerline air intake of the brahmos, which is why the DRDO schematic makes a big deal out of developing "Air Frame Integrated Air Intakes."

    DRDO has no proven expertise in air intakes for a mach 3.2 class airframe to fall back upon. Its starting point could well be a close study of the MiG-25 air intakes. The aircraft has been phased out from IAF but they are lying around in parks.

    There are downsides to the evolutionary approach that DRDO is adopting.

    The Brahmos has a much larger cross sectional area than contemporary cruise missiles (660mm against 520mm for the tomahawk). Consequently, it has a much larger radar signature.

    While Brahmos' supersonic speed reduces the time available to the target defenses, especially the human element within them, its greater radar signature mitigates the threat by allowing for earlier detection that a Tomahawk type missile.

    With its considerably larger size, the LRCM is going to be picked up even earlier than a Brahmos. It is moot if its size will be large enough to completely negate the advantage of its supersonic speed.

  3. Well i feel this LRCM is something new and can't be Nirbhay. Nirbhay as you said has been confirmed many times to be subsonic cruise missile with +1000KM range and will be mounted with a miniaturised turbofan(probably a scale down version of Kaveri)for achieving that range. In contrast as you mentioned this LRCM is clearly a supersonic missile with RAMJET engine and minimum 600KM range. And there are ample reasons to develop this missile. We can never extend range of Brahmos, doesn't matter how much speed we and Russians can add. So only viable option was indigenous one and today ample know how is there to start and complete this project in phase manner.

    We need sub sonic to match and neutralise enemy's advances and we need supersonic to dominate and out gun them.

    God Speed to DRDO.

  4. Do you really thik that all these things are going to happen?? Please check the slides once more. One of the modes of working that is mentioned in the slide is "Surface To Air". Will such a huge cruise missile (if ever gets into reality), be used as a SAM??? All there are just publicity craps and nothing more

  5. This is definitely different from Nirbhay. Ramjet n turbofan are 2 different technologies altogether.

    A supersonic 600-km range was obvious in coming for the following reasons:
    1) Answer to China's C-301
    2) As Rahul said, can not extend Brahmos (boud by MTCR) n hence the indigenous effort.
    3) Having successfully productionized the Brahmos, very little difficulty is anticipated in going for extended range based on similar tech. In this regard Dr. Pillai's statement somewhere in public within the last 2-3 months may be noted.

    As noted by someone above: SAM version ???????

    In support of Vijainder Thakur's "supersonic vs subsonic" debate, would like to draw reader's attention to an interesting article by Stuart Slade:

  6. Its crazy stuff from India….Having 600 Km range hypersonic missile (Shaurya) where is the need for similar range supersonic missile.

    Waste of Money.

  7. Its surely tech help from brahmos missile , due to russia is signatory in Mtcr it should not transfer tech above 300 km,so Brahmos corporation should not do higher range missile with russia's help so the project has been transferred to DRDO , india step by step started using its 6th sense, anyway its really a glad news for us .India should try to order massive numbers of missile in brahmos / other missiles .

    As per Nirbhay india has need of long range subsonic missile(1000 km) like Tomahawk , so this project has been started earlier .

  8. Vijainder K Thakur, you are wrong on all accounts.

    1) Don't come to conclusion that the ramjets are based on Brahmos because Brahms's engine s much bigger.

    2) Brahmos does't have large RCS but it is stealthy, visit brahmos website.

    3)DRDO has done alot of work on HSTDV.

    So before self proclaimed explanation go through this.

  9. It may be a Mig-25 concept added with Ramjet and other aerodynamic experiences from Brahmos project. It has to be a great thing with cost effectiveness.

    Good luck to DRDO.

  10. its ridiculous for india to reveal so much for such a nascent program……u think pakistan boasted about ra'ad till it was ready?

    such programs should be kept secret till the weapon is operationalized…

  11. I agree with Sparsh, this indeed looks like a clone of French ASMP.
    This means apart from the Israelis and Russians, now even the French are involved in our missile program?

    They have made big contributions to our space program. Our Vikas rocket engines are based on French Viking rocket engines.Even the names are almost similar.

  12. Anonymous,

    Please note that I did not say nor did I imply that the LRCM was an ASMP-A clone or that there is French involvement in the program.

    I just remarked that the LRCM's airframe bears a striking resemblance to that of the ASMP-A. Does that mean anything? I don't know – it was just an observation.

    P.S. – The arrangement of the fins is slightly different.

  13. Eitherway boys it shows that india is making good progress. Small steps are important. The difference between you and paks is that they test it and then the world seees it. Whereas you prefer to list it up front. Nothing wrong with either approach.

  14. @Sparsh
    Of course you didn't say anything apart from the fact that it has a striking resemblance to French ASMP-A.

    ASMP is a 1980s technology. So in 3 decades it will undergo some modification. It seems to me India is fast turning out to be a crossroad for countries that won't directly deal with one another.

  15. It's a big jump from schematics to trials and then deployment. Lets see how long it takes for trials to commence. Ideally, they should commence sometime mid 2011.

  16. I don't see the reason for yet another 600 km range cruise missile, even if it may be in the supersonic range. Already Nirbhay is being readied for first trail in Aug. Why should we want a sub-sonic and supersonic versions for the same range? Also we are already having a first rate hybrid missile of 600 kms range in Shourya. So some thing is definitely fishy. All that I can think is that India is trying to develop a bigger ram-jet engine on its own [or may be with some quiet help from Russians via Brahmos]and 600 kms range is all they can achieve now. By the by DRDO has announced that scram jet engine with [6 mach] is almost ready and going to be tested next year. Can any one throw more info on this hypersonic scram jet engine in the making?

  17. Range of missile is totally depends on the propulsion system, weight of the missile and war head. I case of Brahmos missile it uses ram-jet engine which burns alot of fule in very less time. This increases the weight of missile. But many people dose note one thing, that the Brahmos has max war head 1000kg, so when India's says it range is 299 km then it is saying missile can cover 299 km with 1000kg of payload. A missile having spead more then 3 mach can do same distruction with small war head due to high kinetic energy. So if just reduce the payload to half it can easily cover the distance of 500 km. the actual range of the missile will never will avaliable on any official web site due to missile control treaty.

  18. China has the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world. It is developing and testing offensive missiles, forming additional missile units, qualitatively upgrading missile systems, and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses. Cruise Secrets Exposed

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