New Delhi, July 19: Indian defence scientists have taken up a new cruise missile development programme. The missile named Nirbhay (The Fearless) is in the same class as the US’s Tomahawk and will have a range that is 300km longer than Pakistan’s Babur. Nirbhay is India’s seventh missile development project after the Agni series, the Prithvi series, Brahmos (in a joint venture with Russia), Akash, Trishul and Nag. The last three were part of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme founded by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Nirbhay is being developed alongside Astra, an air-to-air missile designed to hit targets beyond visual range. A cruise missile can be guided to a target. A ballistic missile is fired at a pre-determined target. Nirbhay will carry onboard a terrain-identification system that will map its course and relay the information to its guidance and propulsion systems. “Every modern military needs to have missile options. The requirement for Nirbhay was projected by all three armed forces to fill a gap in our missile programme,” Avinash Chander, the director of the Advanced Systems Laboratory, Hyderabad, who is in charge of the project, told The Telegraph in Delhi today. Nirbhay will be a terrain-hugging missile capable of avoiding detection by ground-based radar. It would have a range of 1,000km. “We have Brahmos, which is a supersonic cruise missile and the need was felt for a subsonic cruise missile that will be capable of being launched from multiple platforms in land, air and sea,” Chander said. In the schedule drawn up for Nirbhay, a technology demonstrator is slotted for early 2009. Chander said the design for the system is complete and “hardware preparations are on”. He said Nirbhay would weigh around 1,000kg and travel at 0.7 mach (nearly 840kmph) and would be capable of delivering 24 different types of warheads. The Pakistani subsonic cruise missile Babur (also called Hatf VII) has ranges of 500 to 700km. The US’s Tomahawk has many versions, the latest of which has ranges in excess of 1,500km.