Soon, very soon, India will have the formidable precision strike capability to take out terror camps, underground nuclear bunkers, aircraft carriers on the high seas and other military targets from long or “stand-off” distances by day or night in all-weather conditions.
In a big leap towards inducting this deep surgical strike capability, the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, which flies almost three times the speed of sound at Mach 2.8, was successfully tested for the first time from a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet in the Bay of Bengal at about 10.40 am on Wednesday morning.
The air-breathing missile, after the “gravity-drop” of around 200 metres from the fighter that had taken off from the Kalaikunda airbase, kicked off its booster to attain supersonic speed within seconds and then zoomed ahead to hit the ship or “battle practice target” with pinpoint accuracy to blow it to smithereens at a range of 260-km.
The 2.5-ton BrahMos-ALCM (air-launched cruise missile) “can also easily go over 400-km”, like its 2.9-ton land and ship-launched variants already inducted into the armed forces. The BrahMos missile combined with the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter, which has a cruising range of 3,200-km or a combat radius of about 1,500-km without mid-air refuelling, constitutes a decidedly deadly weapons package, as was reported by TOI last week.
The conventional (non-nuclear) weapon, for instance, can target Chinese aircraft carriers and other warships, or block Pakistan’s Gwadar port by sinking a few ships in the harbour for that matter. “The world-class BrahMos is now capable of being launched from the land, sea and air, completing the tactical cruise missile triad for India,” said the defence ministry.
IAF, on its part, said “the missile’s capability coupled with the Sukhoi-30MKI’s superlative performance gives IAF a strategic reach and allows it to dominate the ocean and the battle-fields”. It has already placed orders worth Rs 6,516 crore for the BrahMos-ALCM, which takes the total orders for the missiles to Rs 27,150 crore from the three Services till now. “The deliveries of ALCM can begin in early-2018 after an air-to-ground test. It’s a proven missile,” said a source.
PM Narendra Modi, in a tweet, expressed “delight” and congratulated “all those associated with this remarkable feat”. BrahMos Aerospace chief Sudhir Mishra, on being contacted, in turn said his organization was “committed to continue providing the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile to the Army, Navy and IAF”.
With IAF having inducted 240 of the 272 twin-seat Sukhois contracted from Russia for over $12 billion, 42 of the fighters are to be eventually armed with the BrahMos missiles. As of now, with the help of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, only two Sukhois have undergone the structural, mechanical, electrical and software modifications needed to integrate the heavy missile with the fighter for flight trials.
As was earlier reported by TOI, the government has also approved the deployment of Block-III version of the BrahMos land-launched missile, which has “steep dive, trajectory manoeuver, and top-attack capabilities” for mountain warfare, in Arunachal Pradesh as a deterrent against China.
With India joining the 34-nation Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June 2016, which “removed the caps” on the range of the missile developed jointly with Russia, the armed forces are also testing an extended range BrahMos that can hit targets 450-km away. The MTCR basically prevents the proliferation of missiles and drones over the range of 300-km.
India has also offered the BrahMos missiles to Vietnam, while it has received requests from at least seven other countries from the Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East regions. The missile’s “live firing” from a fighter on Wednesday will only whet their appetite further.