India’s Nirbhay v/s Pakistan’s Babur, Which One is The Best?

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On August 11, 2005, Pakistan outsmarted India by publicly announcing the successful test launch of Hatf-VII a.k.a ‘Babur’ cruise missile. India had to wait until 2014 to counter Pakistan in subsonic cruise missile tech. Since then there has been lot of speculations and comparisons. With the usual ‘Who’s better?’ tagline on several forums. This article is our take on one of the most debated topics in Indian subcontinent.

Let us take a look at our neighbour’s at first:

HATF-VII(BABUR)

Video Grab of BABUR-II on test flight

Development started in response to Indian military’s plan to procure Patriot ballistic missile defense systems from US to counter Pakistan’s missile threats. They needed something to evade this system, to go in low and quiet and strike with accuracy.

It is said that, Pakistan reverse engineered U.S. RGM/UGM-109 Tomahawk missiles recovered somewhere around May of 1998. The unexploded specimens were retrieved from Afghanistan after a US strike on Taliban. This explains the similarity of design of both missiles.

Manufacturer: National Defense Complex

Class: Subsonic Cruise Missile

Launch Platforms:TEL(Transporter Erected Launcher)

Length:6.2m

Diameter: 0.56 m

Launch weight: 1,500 kg

Payload: Single warhead (Conventional and Nuclear)

Engine: Turbofan- (Chinese WP-11 or Ukrainian MS-400)

Speed: capable of reaching 880 kmph

Range: 350-700km, even though Pakistan claims it to exceed 700km mark, US has kept its max range estimate to just over 350km

Missile weight: 1039kg+120kg of fuel

Payload capacity: 450kg

Guidance: TERCOM, GPS, GLONASS, INS

Terrain hugging capability gives the missile fair stealth over enemy air defense systems. TERCOM system gives the missile the ability to fly as close as 100m-50m above ground. Tomahawk missiles could go well beyond 50m to 30m above ground.

TEL unit carrying 4x BABUR missiles at IDEAS-2008, WkimediaCommons

The widely acknowledged platform for ‘BABUR’ is TEL and even though Pakistan claims that a submarine version was tested successful, Indian Navy has a different take on it. Indian Navy strongly believes that the test never took place as no IN ships in the region picked up anything positive. Few experts also suggest the photographic evidence provided was manipulated in some way.

Air launched Hatf-VIII/Raad

Pakistan is also using an air-launched version of Hatf-VII dubbed Hatf-VIII (Raad) to enhance deep strike capability.

NIRBHAY-

DRDO officials inspecting Nirbhay, DRDO

Development was started in response to Pakistan’s growing cruise missile arsenal. DRDO along with various subsidiary agencies and private firms took part in the development stage of the missile. Since the missile sis still in R&D phase, technical specifications are very limited.

Manufacturer: DRDO, ADE, R&DE

Class: Subsonic Cruise Missile

Launch Platform: TEL, variations could be expected in future

Length: 6m

Diameter: 0.52m

Launch Weight: 1500kg

Payload: Conventional and Nuclear warheads

Engine: Turbofan (produced by Gas Turbine Research Establishment)

Speed: 700kmph-1000kmph

Range: Long-Range (1000-1500km)

Missile weight:around 1000kg

Payload Capacity: 200-300kg

Guidance:INS, NAVIC/IRNSS

Nirbhay clicked during its test flight, DRDO

Nirbhay, as cited by defence spokespersons is a  long range, all-weather, low-cost subsonic cruise missile. The testing phase came into some hurdles, but was soon corrected and development is full-fledged. It would be able to carry about 24 different warheads each suited for different purpose. The missile would be inducted into all three arms of Indian military and in particular, an upgraded version would see mating with the deadly SU-30MKi.

SALIENT FEATURES-
Loitering capability: As of Pakistan’s military reports, BABUR doesn’t seem to have loitering capability. It enables the missile to circle over the target area, to prevent collateral damage or to assign a new target. However, as per DRDO, Nirbhay does come with loitering capability and hence paks more punch that BABUR in this case.

Indigenous Guidance: Pakistani BABUR has derived guidance from Chinese and Russian satellite systems. Even though GPS is enabled, it doesn’t prove fruitful in case of temporary shutdown by US forces. Nirbhay’s guidance relies on India’s own IRNSS/NAVIC satellite system which gives it enhanced accuracy.

Range: It is pretty clear that Nirbhay is lightyears ahead of BABUR in range. During one of its test flights, it covered more than 1000km before hitting the target.
Payload: We certainly need to give this to BABUR as it has a higher payload capacity than Nirbhay, about 100kg more. Nirbhay can definitely improve as these specs are bound to change.

Stealth Radar evasion: Confirmed reports from Pakistan military cite a minimum height corridor of 50-100m. Nirbhay on the other hand was filmed by an IAF SU-30Mki during one of its test flight, and a minimum height of 20m from ground was achieved. This is comparable to US UGM-90 Tomahawk missile.

VERDICT:
By analyzing the above points and known features of both the systems, we think it is safe to say that Nirbhay is definitely the winner in this class, and could even be the best in class considering the fact that the project comes to a promising end. It would definitely add muscle to Indian military’s missile arsenal and shivers through enemies’ spines is guaranteed.

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