BrahMos, the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile, might soon become a part of the India’s defence capabilities if its test firing later this month is successful.
The crucial test launch will be carried out from a specially-modified Sukhoi-30 fighter jet for the first time at the Chandan firing range in Pokhran, Rajasthan — the Indian Air Force (IAF)’s biggest air-to-ground range where fighter pilots train on delivering heavy weapons. Five such tests will be conducted before the programme enters its next phase.
BrahMos Aerospace CEO, Sudhir Mishra, told Hindustan Times the test-launch is significant as such trials were fraught with risks.
“Dozens of fighters have been lost globally during similar trials. The missile’s separation from the plane has to be clean and precise. We would like to pray on Janmashtami (August 25) and conduct the test on August 26 or 27,” he said.
Two Su-30 jets have been modified by the Nasik division of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to carry the 2.5-tonne missile that flies at nearly three times the speed of sound.
The missile’s land and naval variants – 500kg heavier than the air version – are already in service. It has a range of 290 km.
A Su-30 flew with an integrated BrahMos missile, an Indo-Russian joint venture, for the first time on June 25, and so far, 10 sorties have been carried out to test the cruise missile’s behaviour during complex supersonic manoeuvres.
“The next round of tests in October will focus on transfer alignment. The fighter has to send alignment information to the missile and vice-versa. Any kind of alignment error will lead to the target being missed,” Mishra said.
This will be followed by a test in December against a moving target at sea followed by another one against a land target in mid-2017.
If all of these tests are successful, the BrahMos will be ready for deployment, and at least two Su-30 squadrons of 40 planes are likely to be equipped with it.
Mishra said there had been some delay in the programme as modifying Su-30s took a lot of time, and there was no historical data to prepare for the tests.
“We are the first ones in the world to carry out such activity… so there have been some delays. But the newly-developed capability has the potential to shift military equilibrium in India’s favour,” Mishra said.