Nobody knows what India's NIRBHAY subsonic cruise missile looks like. We still know close to nothing about the Nirbhay itself, save for a sparse list of tantalizing pointers that have appeared periodically, some of them maddeningly contradictory and vague.
Three senior DRDO officers have said in recent weeks that the Nirbhay will see a first test this year, perhaps as early as July-August. There have been occasions in the past when DRDO has sprung tests of brand new weapons on an unsuspecting nation (the PAD interceptor, the Shourya and to a lesser extent, Prahaar), though we've actually known about Nirbhay for many years now. It was officially acknowledged to exist in 2007, though papers that were my source material for a series on DRDO in The Indian Express in 2006 did mention a subsonic cruise vehicle in the offing.
The artist's impressions of the Nirbhay you see here (by the very talented Anurag Rana) aren't quite shots in the dark, and yet that's precisely what they are -- the Nirbhay may actually look nothing like this, and yet it might. But what the hell -- it's worth an educated shot. For instance, it has been known for a while now that the design philosophy of Nirbhay draws from DRDO's operational Lakshya target drone (putting that engine on top was all me though).
So far, it had been thought (and continues to be believed) that the Nirbhay is powered by an NPO Saturn 36MT or 37-01E small-size turbofan engine, though The Hindu report linked above talks, weirdly, of a turbo-prop engine. Now, is that an error by the reporter, or are we missing something here? (Could he have meant a propfan engine for instance? -- that would at least make me squint less than 'turboprop') The DRDO chief has said on more than one occasion that the Nirbhay has a loitering capability. It is understood to sport a cruise speed of 0.7 Mach and a ceiling range of about 1,000-km. Reports suggest the Nirbhay is about 6-metres long and is a little over 50-cm in diameter. We also know that it is to be a multiplatform weapon, with land-launched, air-launched and sea-launched versions, and a capability to deliver 24 different warhead types. I'm not sure much more about the Nirbhay will be known until it is tested. But if it's this year, there's reason to cheer. Nothing like an all new weapon. And a cruise missile? Awesome.
And finally, the silly Tomahawk impression I did of the Nirbhay two years ago has been digested inadvertently by Wikimedia Commons, causing a series of newspapers and magazines to print pictures of my photoshopped Tomahawk (with "Nirbhay" painted on) instead of anything that's perhaps anywhere close to the real Nirbhay.
Could This Be India's Nirbhay Cruise Missile? | Livefist