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RUSSIAN INDUCTION:BIG BOOST FOR BRAHMOS, by Radhakrishna Rao, 6 October 2008 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 6 October 2008



By Radhakrishna Rao

In a major policy decision, the Russian Defence Ministry has given a waiver to facilitate the induction of the supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, jointly developed by India and Russia, into its naval vessels. For under the prevailing laws, only home-grown weapons’ systems are allowed to be inducted into the forces.

Strategic analysts see this development as a big boost to the proposal of the New Delhi-based BrahMos Aerospace, the Indo-Russian entity that jointly designed and developed the BrahMos missile, to export it to friendly countries. However, the final decision on the export of the missile would be based on the clearance by both India and Russia at the governmental level. As things stand now, Russia’s newer ships and frigates are planned to be equipped with BrahMos.

In fact, not long back, BrahMos Aerospace Chief Dr.A.Sivathnau Pillai had expressed the optimism that the missile, on account of its many unique features, could well be in the global defence market. Similarly, Defence Minister A.K.Antony had stated that BrahMos is very much in the reckoning for export:  “We have already put in good efforts to market BrahMos to friendly countries, which have shown interest in the capacity of this supersonic cruise missile.”

The decision of selling the missile would be taken only after carefully weighing the security concerns and strategic interests of the country. Both Russia and India have jointly identified certain countries, which have evinced interest in the capability of the missile system. However, the countries to which the missile will be exported are not yet disclosed. With a view to promote the BrahMos missile in the global market, BrahMos Aerospace has been displaying the missile in both international aerospace and defence expos held in various parts of the world, including Dubai and Singapore.

Meanwhile, BrahMos Aerospace is looking at paving the way for carrying out underwater trials of the missile to equip the submarines with the deadly weapon system. However, the non-availability of a suitable underwater platform has delayed the test. As such, there is a proposal to fire the missile from a specially engineered underwater pontoon to asses its performance in the depths of the ocean. It is now expected that BrahMos will be fitted in Scorpene -6 and 7 submarine being built under license by the Mumbai- based Mazgaon shipping yard.

The original naval version of the BrahMos missile has already been inducted into some of the warships of the Indian navy. Similarly, the land launched version of BrahMos is already under the process of induction .With the BrahMos missile in place, the Army will gain a tremendous tactical edge in tackling adversaries, who have only subsonic missiles in their arsenal.

The most striking feature of BrahMos missile is that it can be launched from a variety of platforms including land, sea and subsea platforms. Moreover, the missile can be launched from a canister, which also acts as storage-cum-transportation container. Described as “a missile with a niche”, BrahMos possesses tremendous destructive power on account of its large kinetic energy of impact. Both the land and sea-launched version of BrahMos are currently under production and a number of Indian private companies are involved in various aspects of producing the missile.

Considered a veritable Brahmastra, Brahmos missile is claimed to have no match in the world. So far the Navy has been dependent on P-15 and P-20 anti-ship missiles that have left much to be desired. Strategic analysts point out that long firing range of BrahMos missile provides high combat effectiveness in a naval warfare and the enemy ships could be destroyed even before they reach the distance that allows them to use their weapons.

Being versatile, it can be aimed at multiple targets and can be launched vertically or in an inclined position. The air-launched version of BrahMos is lighter than the sea-launched version, as it has a modified configuration with shorter boosters and stabilized fins. As such, the air-launched variant of Brahmos weighs 2.5 tonne. Irrespective of its configuration Brahmos missile is capable of carrying a conventional warhead weighing up to 300-kg over a distance of 290-km with a velocity of 2.8 Mach

Significantly, the Brahmos is claimed to be three times faster and smarter than the French Exocet missile as well as the Tomahawk besides being more than double its range. In terms of technological superiority, it is believed to be way ahead of the Harpoon missile in service with the Chinese navy. Ideally suited for anti-ship operations, BrahMos could help the Navy in a big way to cope up with the mounting security threats. The anti-ship version of BrahMos is required to hit a moving target and needs to carry out mid-course correction to ensure accuracy and precision. 

The two-stage solid fuel driven BrahMos is equipped with the liquid fuel stuffed ramjet and makes for a very low radar signature, thereby making the task of enemies to initiate counter measures a tough and challenging proposition. The biggest advantage of BrahMos is that it is propelled by solid fuel which being earth storable could be kept ready well in advance for field operations. In contrast, the liquid fuel needs to be filled just before initiating the firing.

The BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia is planning to take up a project to design and develop a hypersonic version of BrahMos that will be capable of moving at a speed of mach 5. However, this missile is still in a conceptual stage and will feature a new engine and propulsion system.

New Delhi decided to develop BrahMos via the joint venture route, because the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) launched by DRDO in 1983 to develop a range of missiles did not include a plan for a high-performance anti-ship missile since the technology for such a missile was difficult to master. The IGMDP which has now been successfully terminated has helped develop a range of missiles including Prithvi, Akash and Agni. A keen watch will be kept on BrahMos progress. –INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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