|By Maj Gen P K Chakravorty||Published: December 2017|
New Delhi. An Indian Air Force (IAF) Su 30 MKI successfully tested the air launched version of Indo-Russian supersonic cruise missile, BrahMos, on November 22.
The test completed the Triad of the missile, which is already in operation with the Indian Army and Navy. The missile, the only supersonic system in the world, will now be deployed by all the three Indian Services in coordination with the Strategic Forces Command (SFC).
BrahMos Aerospace Chairman and Managing Director Sudhir Mishra was congratulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as well as by the top military brass.
The test involved modification of an aircraft to load the missile. It took off from Air Force base in West Bengal and fired the missile at a distance of 260 Km against a sea based target in the Bay of Bengal. It w a direct hit, and the target was totally destroyed.
The ramjet propelled 2.8 Mach supersonic missile has a standard range of 290 km and a weight of three tones. The Air Force version is 500 kg less, shorter in length but still has a higher range of 400 km as it is fired from high altitudes. HAL has a key role in its production and two important components, the engine and seeker, are provided by Russia.
It may be recalled that in the Indian context, Tipu Sultan was the first to use missiles in the Second Anglo-Mysore War in 1792, which resulted in 3,820 soldiers of the East India Company being taken as prisoners.
But the development of modern credible missile systems was initiated in India shortly after the countrys first nuclear test in 1974 with the setting up of a Special Weapons Development Team, which later became the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL). Along with its associated research organisations in Kanchanbag, Hyderabadm, DRDL has produced numerous missiles like the Prithvi, Agni, Dhanush, Prahar, Sagarika and Nag.
Recently, in conjunction with another sister laboratory, the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), it conducted a successful flight test of the subsonic missile Nirbhaya.
BrahMos is like a crown jewel though, a big success.
Efforts are on now to double its range and speed by using better propulsion systems, and, at the same time, lower the weight.
BrahMos Aerospace, is a 50.5 to 49.5 partnership between India’s DRDO and Russian consortium NPO Mashinostroyenia. The development of the air-launched version has been in offing for some time, and with its successful test, its production in adequate numbers is set to begin. It designs, develops and manufactures the missiles after sourcing components from both the public and private sectors in the two countries.
BrahMos initially started as a naval project and it has been inducted on 10 ships of the Indian Navy. Similarly the missile has found its place in the Indian Army, three regiments have been inducted and the fourth, equipped with a Steep Dive capability to hump over mountains, is soon to be deployed in the Himalayan heights.
Significantly, while the land-based systems are deployed with all the three Services, IAF included, the company has successfully tested an underwater version of the BrahMos for submarines. All submarines for the Indian Navy are to be made indigenously, and BrahMos should be the weapon of choice for them.
The air-launched version designated BrahMos A will be fitted on IAF’s heavy fighter, Su-30 MKI. Around 40 of these aircraft will be modified to integrate the missile as a standoff weapon. Due to its weight, one aircraft can carry only one missile, on its under-belly station.
To reduce its weight to 2.55 tonnes, many modifications were carried out like using a smaller booster, adding fins for airborne stability after launch, and relocating the connector. It can be released from a height of 500 to 14,000 meters (1,640 to 46,000 ft). After release, the missile freefalls for 100,150 meters, then goes into a cruise phase at 14,000 meters and finally the terminal phase at 15 meters.
There was a plan earlier to load six missiles in the Indian Navys Ilyushin IL-38 and Tupolev Tu-142 maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft but this could not be done due to the aircrafts insufficient ground clearance, high costs in modifications, and the old age of the fleet.
But the Su 30 MKI by itself is a formidable aircraft. It has a range of 3000 km which can be increased by midair refueling, and then the missile goes another 400 km. The missile’s seeker ensures precision hits, be it land or sea. IAF should modify at least two Squadrons (about 40 aircraft) to enable its BrahMos deployment.
Indian and Russian scientists hope to develop the hypersonic version of BrahMos with a speed o about 5Mach in about three years. After required tests, it should be available for deployment in about five years.
They are also working for a variant for aircraft deployed on naval aircraft carriers.
It will not be out of place to mention that the BrahMos Aerospace is an outstanding example of Indo-Russian collaboration and partnership.