BrahMos Missile System and its significance

Brahmos is a medium range Ramjet Supersonic Cruise missile developed Brahmos Aerospace which is a joint venture between Russia's NPO Mashinostroyeniya and India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Brahmos missile is the fastest Cruise missile in the world and can be launched from aircraft, land, submarine or ships. The name Brahmos has been taken from two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia. It is the world's fastest anti-ship cruise missile in operation. It can achieve the speeds of Mach 2.8 to 3.0 and is being upgraded to Mach 5.0.

  • The Brahmos Missile system is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile and other sea skimming cruise missile technology of Russia.
  • BrahMos-II, a hypersonic version of Brahmos is being developed which is expected to begin testing in 5-7 years. It will have the ability to strike with a speed of Mach 7-8.
  • Initially, the range of Brahmos missile was 300 km. It is capable of carrying over 300 kg of conventional or nuclear warhead. After India got the membership of Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in 2016, India and Russia are planning to develop the new generation of Brahmos having a range of more than 600 km.

History of Brahmos

  • The missile development programme of India can be traced back to 1983 when the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme was started for addressing the country's defence requirements. The program was aimed at achieving self-sufficiency in missiles by developing missiles of various ranges including long range, intermediate range and short-range missiles.
  • After the Gulf War of the 1990s, the country felt the requirement of a cruise missile system. This led to the establishment of Brahmos Aerospace as a joint venture between India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia's NPO Mashinostroyeniya. In July 1999 the first contract was signed and the project started in several specialised laboratories of DRDO and NPOM.
  • India holds 50.5% share of the joint venture and Russia holds 49.5℅ shares in Brahmos Aerospace.
  • In the Global market, Brahmos was first displayed at MAKS-1 exhibition in Moscow. Brahmos Missile system is presently in service with Indian Army, Indian, Navy and Indian Air Force.

Specifications of Brahmos Missile

  • Brahmos has the capability to attack surface targets by flying as low as 5m and has the maximum flying altitude of 14000 metres.
  • The initial range of Brahmos missile was 300 km which is being increased to 450 km. The missile can move at a speed of Mach 2.8.
  • The ship launched and land-based variants of the missile can carry 200 kg of warhead and the air-launched variant can carry 300 kg warhead.
  • The 2.8 Mach speed of Brahmos makes it very difficult for the existing missile defence system to Intercept which makes it a lethal weapon.

Development of Brahmos Missile system

Land-based variant

  • The land-based weapon system consists of 4 to 6 mobile autonomous launchers controlled by Mobile command post and the Mobile replenishment vehicle. It is controlled by an inertial navigation system and the global positioning system.
  • Autonomous launchers can simultaneously launch three missiles at three different targets or in any other combination.
  • Brahmos missile was first tested on June 12 2001, from the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur. On June 14 2004, another test was conducted from a mobile launcher.
  • With the successful test of Brahmos on 29 March 2009, India acquired the capability to hit targets which are insignificant in size in a cluster of buildings with accuracy.
  • On September 2010, Brahmos became the first cruise missile of the world to be tested at supersonic speeds in a steep dive mode. This steep dive capability of Brahmos Block III makes it capable to hit hidden targets.
  • It has the capability to hit ground targets at altitude as low as 10 metres and can be used for surgical strikes against terrorist organisations.
  • The new navigation system of Brahmos uses Indian chip called G3OM that can be used with an Inertial Navigation System for providing high accuracy targeting without any seeker.

Ship-based variant

  • The ship-based variant of Brahmos is capable of hitting sea-based targets that are beyond the radar horizons. The missile can be launched in either inclined or vertical configuration as per the requirement.
  • Brahmos Missile system can be equipped on Frigate, Corvette, Offshore Patrol vessels and other Naval ships.
  • On March 5 2018, the land attack version of Brahmos was fired from INS Rajput which successfully destroyed the desired target among a group of targets. On December 18 2008, the vertical launch version of Brahmos was fired from INS Ranvir.
  • The ship-based weapon system has salvo launch capability where several missiles can be fired for destroying a single or group of targets.
  • INS Rajput, which is one of the Frontline Naval warships of the destroyer class of India has been equipped with four Brahmos cruise missiles in inclined configuration. This naval warship was equipped with Brahmos Cruise missiles in 2003.

Submarine-launched variant

  • Brahmos submarine variant can be launched from a depth of 40 to 50 m. The installation of Brahmos missile in submarine increases the offensive power of the submarine without compromising its defensive power. The torpedo tubes can be used for defence of the vessel.
  • In March 2013, the submarine-launched variant of Brahmos missile system was successfully test fired from a submerged pontoon near Visakhapatnam. It was the first successful vertical launch of a Supersonic Cruise missile from any submerged platform. The missile destroyed its target with pinpoint accuracy and was able to meet all the mission objectives.
  • The future Indian made submarines are expected to be armed with smaller versions of Brahmos missile that will be capable of fitting inside a torpedo tube.

Air-launched variant ( Brahmos-A)

  • The air-launched variant (Brahmos-A) is the modified version of Brahmos missile which has a range of 400 km. The missile can be launched from India's Sukhoi 30 MKI as a standoff missile.
  • Several modifications have been made for reducing its weight to 2.5 tons. The missile can be launched from the aircraft from a height of 500 to 14000 metres. Three squadrons of the Indian Air Force is expected to be armed with Brahmos-A.
  • Initially, the air-launched version of the Brahmos was ready for testing in 2008. But the test was delayed due to the requirement of structural modifications to the Sukhoi 30 MKI for carrying the missile.
  • The air-launched version of Brahmos uses air-breathing scramjet propulsion technology which is more fuel efficient than any traditional rocket-powered missile.
  • On October 19, 2012, the Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the proposal for the purchase of 200 air-launched variants of Brahmos missile for the Indian Air Force. Funds were allocated for the integration and testing Brahmos-A on Sukhoi 30 MKI aircraft.
  • In June 2016, a demonstration flight was carried out at Nashik. A modified Sukhoi 30 MKI carrying Brahmos-A conducted successful trial flight. This was the first time a heavyweight supersonic cruise missile was integrated on long-range fighter aircraft.
  • On November 22 2017, Brahmos-A was successfully test fired from Sukhoi 30 MKI against a sea-based target in the Bay of Bengal.
  • 40 Sukhoi 30MKI are planned to be equipped with Brahmos-A. However, due to such heavy payload, there are some issues on the safe landing of the aircraft with a missile attached.

Further Developments in the Brahmos Missile Programme

Extended range Brahmos

  • Initially, the range of Brahmos missile was 300 km. The was because Russia was the member of MTCR which prevented it from transferring or jointly developing missiles having a range more than 300 km.
  • In 2016, India got the membership of MTCR, and India and Russia have now agreed to jointly develop the next generation Brahmos missiles with 600 km plus range.
  • It will have the ability to destroy protected targets with high accuracy. The existing Brahmos missiles are also to be upgraded.
  • In March 2017, the Brahmos Cruise missile with 450 km range was successfully test fired from the Integrated Test Range, Odisha. This range extension required only a software change.

Brahmos II

  • Brahmos II or Brahmos Mark II is a hypersonic cruise missile currently under development and is expected to have a range of 600 km.
  • The missile is expected to have a speed of Mach 5-7. This makes it one of the fastest hypersonic cruise missile in the world.
  • The missile will be propelled by scramjet airbreathing jet engine during the cruise stage of flight.

Brahmos NG

  • Brahmos NG (Next Generation) is a mini version Brahmos missile with an expected range of 300 km. The weight of the missile will be reduced to half to around 1.5 tons and will be made three metres shorter than its producer.
  • Brahmos NG has been envisioned to be highly precise, Lethal, more versatile, multi-platform, multi-target, flexible, and lighter Missile system.
  • Brahmos NG will be capable of attaining a speed of Mach 3.5 and will have a lesser radar cross section which will make harder for air defence systems to target and destroy the missile.
  • Brahmos NG will have land, tube-launched, air, and ship-borne variants. The missile will be used to arm Sukhoi 30 MKI, HAL Tejas, Mig 29 aircraft and future induction such as the Dassault Rafale etc.
  • The MIG 29k and LCA Tejas are expected to carry two Brahmos NG each, and Sukhoi 30 MKI is expected to carry 5 Brahmos NG.
  • The submarine-launched variants of this missile could be launched from new P751 class submarines.

Other developments

  • In July 2018, Brahmos Supersonic Cruise missile was test fired from an integrated test range, Balasore, Odisha. This test was to validate the service life extension of the missile. This test was carried out for validating the missiles life extension technologies indigenously developed by DRDO and the Brahmos team.
  • The Brahmos will be armed with indigenous seeker technology which will reduce the import of materials used in this missile. Seeker technology determines the accuracy of the missile. Earlier, the seeker technology for the missile was provided by Russia.
  • The Research Centre Imarat, Hyderabad, in collaboration with other labs of DRDO has developed an indigenous seeker technology.
  • Former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam had asked Brahmos Aerospace for developing a version of Brahmos that could deliver its Payload and return to the base.

Production and Deployment of Brahmos Missile

  • The Brahmos Aerospace intended to produce 2000 Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles over the next 10 years. 50% of this production is expected to be exported to friendly countries.
  • Several warships of Indian Navy are now equipped with Brahmos missile system. The Rajput class destroyers INS Rajput, INS Ranvir and INS Ranvijay are mounted with Brahmos missiles.
  • The three Talwar class frigates including INS Teg, INS Tarkash, INS Trikand have been armed with 8-cell Brahmos VLS launcher. The Shivalik class frigates and Kolkata class destroyers have also been equipped with 8-cell Brahmos VLS launcher.
  • The four destroyers of Visakhapatnam class destroyers are planned to be armed with 8-cell Brahmos VLS launcher.
  • In the Indian Army, the Brahmos Block I was inducted in June 2007. There are presently four operational regiments of Brahmos in the Indian Army.
  • The regiments of Brahmos in the Indian Army include 861 regiment- Brahmos Block I, 862 Regiment- Brahmos Block II, 863 Regiment- Brahmos Block II, and 864 Regiment- Brahmos Block III.
  • The Russian Air Force can also purchase the air-launched version of Brahmos for its SU-30SM fighter aircraft.

Export of Brahmos Missiles

  • The intergovernmental agreement between Russia and India on the development of Brahmos missiles stipulates that both countries will have to approve any export sale of these missiles.
  • Many South East Asian and Latin American countries have expressed their interest in acquiring the Brahmos Missile system. Countries like Philippines, Vietnam, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, Chile, Brazil, Venezuela etc., have shown interest in naval and coastal defence versions of Brahmos missile.
  • Talks are going on with Vietnam and Indonesia for the export of Brahmos missiles.

Significance of the Brahmos Missile System

  • There are a number of supersonic missiles in India’s military arsenal, but most of the supersonic missiles are ballistic missiles except Brahmos. Since ballistic missiles follow a ballistic trajectory those could be tracked and destroyed by the anti-ballistic missile defence system of the enemy using sophisticated radar tracking and projectile. Cruise missiles gain significance due to this reason.
  • Cruise missiles are difficult to track and eliminate as they follow a terrain hugging path and travel close to land and thus evade the enemy radars. Brahmos being supersonic cruise missile provide Indian forces unmatched battle supremacy.
  • With a speed of Mach 2.8, ability to evade enemy radars, ability to be launched from all platforms, and pinpoint accuracy, Brahmos missile system becomes a lethal weapon against the enemy.
  • Brahmos has pinpoint accuracy and is capable of Mountain warfare due to which it becomes important in areas like Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Uttarakhand and other border areas. Brahmos has the feature of steep dive-cum-target discrimination mode that makes it capable to destroy selected targets hidden behind a mountain range.
  • Brahmos is capable of being launched from fighter jets like Sukhoi 30 MKI that can enter deep inside the enemy territory and can be used to destroy both tactical and strategic targets. The Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter jets equipped with Brahmos-A are capable of destroying targets deep in the Chinese province of Tibet and Yunnan, and almost all of Pakistan.
  • Brahmos acts as a credible deterrence against China and Pakistan as they do not have cruise missiles with similar capabilities. The opposition of China on the deployment of Brahmos missiles in Arunachal Pradesh in 2016 proves its effectiveness.
  • The proposed export of Brahmos missiles to countries like Philippines and Vietnam (who have a dispute with China over the South China Sea) will be helpful in maintaining the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region and counter China's ring of pearls policy. This becomes even more important as China has reportedly sold high-tech missile tracking systems to Pakistan.
  • The production and operational cost of the Brahmos Missile is low as it is a joint venture between Indian and Russian companies. This makes it an attractive cruise missile system for India.
  • Brahmos has led to the creation of an entirely new ecosystem for the development of cutting edge technologies.

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