Last week, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) carried out two successful tests of the latest variant of the BrahMos missile, one from the land platform and the other from air. BrahMos, developed through a collaboration between India and Russia, is one of the most advanced weapons in India’s armoury.
BrahMos is a cruise missile, meaning it can be guided towards a pre-determined land- or sea-based target. With a capability to attain speeds 2.8 times that of sound (Mach 2.8), BrahMos is classified as supersonic cruise missile. A newer version under development is aimed at flying at speeds greater than Mach 5. These are called hypersonic cruise missiles. Besides decreasing the reaction time of the enemy, higher speeds also substantially reduce the chances of the missile getting intercepted.
An amalgam of the names of the rivers Brahmaputra and Moskva, BrahMos is being produced by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture company set up by DRDO and Mashinostroyenia of Russia in 1998. The first version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was inducted into the Indian Navy in 2005, meant to be fired from INS Rajput.
While the missile has been in India’s arsenal for long, it is continuously upgraded and updated with new hardware and software. This is what necessitates periodic tests of the missile.
DRDO scientists said that in every such exercise of a specific variant of BrahMos, different parameters are put to test. Though the exact details are not disclosed, additional hardware and software systems are tested based on the inputs from the user, against more complex targets, and under different atmospheric conditions. The test results and observations are important for future analysis and further advancement.
“India’s missile development programme has made sure that its missiles are upgraded and new systems are also developed. BrahMos has undergone development through the early 2000s till date. Its land-to-land, submarine-fired and now air-fired variants have been developed stage by stage. Each new version has something additional compared to the previous version,” said a DRDO scientist.
One of the tests last week was carried out from air, using the Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets of the Indian Air Force as the base. The missile destroyed a target at sea. This was the third air-based test of the missile and marked the completion of the integration of BrahMos missile with the Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft.
In November 2017, the Indian Air Force had become the first in the world to successfully air-launch a Mach 2.8 supersonic surface-attack missile of this category from a fighter jet. It had destroyed an at sea-target in the Bay of Bengal at that time. This year, on May 22, an air-launch was tested again, this time against a land-based target in the Car Nicobar Islands region.
The BrahMos Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM), as it has since been called, has been a significant addition in IAF’s air combat capability from stand-off ranges. Stand-off range missiles are ones that are launched at a distance sufficient to allow an attacking party to evade defensive fire expected from the target area. Officials said that stand-off range missiles, of which cruise missiles are a type, have been in the arsenal of all the major powers of the world.
Last week’s test has again validated the ship attack capability of the ALCM. During the test, the missile was gravity-dropped from the fuselage of a Su-30 and the two-stage missile’s engine fired up. Subsequently, the missile propelled towards a target ship at the sea, destroying it with pinpoint accuracy.
The successful testing of air-platform of BrahMos has further strengthened the tactical cruise missile triad — land, sea and air — for India.
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