India's tribute to Missile Man: New BrahMos gets Kalam name

  • Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 08, 2015 08:46 IST

India will pay its Missile Man the ultimate tribute -- naming its first hypersonic missile, which will travel at a speed of 8,575 kmph, after the late president APJ Abdul Kalam.

A cruise missile capable of taking out hardened targets such as underground bunkers and weapon storage facilities at seven times the speed of sound (Mach 7), BrahMos-II (K) is being developed by the Indo-Russian joint venture BrahMos Aerospace. The K in it is for Kalam, the man who fired India’s missile and nuclear programme.

“Kalam is the reason we are standing on the threshold of a new era of hypersonic weapons. That’s why BrahMos-II is being named after him,” BrahMos Aerospace CEO Sudhir Mishra told HT.

Read: APJ Abdul Kalam: Great scientist, extraordinary human being

Their sheer speed makes hypersonic weapons, designed to fly at least Mach 5 (6,125 kmph), difficult to intercept and packs them with destructive power. The US, Russia and China are the only other countries working on these weapon systems.

Six weeks before Kalam died on July 27, he asked BrahMos Aerospace to press the accelerator on hypersonic weapons technology and help India field an operational missile in three to five years.

“We have a two-pronged approach to exploit the hypersonic realm – upgrading the existing BrahMos engine to achieve Mach 5+ speed in three to five years and simultaneously working on a pure hypersonic engine to breach Mach 7 in five-seven years,” Mishra said.

The existing BrahMos missile provides India the capability to hit targets 290km away at nearly three times the speed of sound. It’s the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile.

The 1998 inter-governmental agreement with Russia to build these missiles bears Kalam’s signature, who was then heading the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Kalam visited the BrahMos Delhi headquarters on June 13 to mark the missile’s first test flight in 2001 and spoke at length about hypersonic capabilities.

The headquarters’ Mission of Life museum, dedicated to arguably the country’s most loved president, mirrors his extraordinary relationship with BrahMos.

It captures his journey from a boy in a remote Tamil Nadu village to People’s President told through memorabilia donated by Kalam.

On display is the Bharat Ratna he was presented in 1997 for his contribution to the scientific research and modernisation of defence technology in India.

Two Padmas share the space with the flight suit that Kalam wore during his now famous Sukhoi-30 sortie. An entire wall of sketches and caricatures presented to him by school children perhaps captures the rocket-scientist president’s life the best – that of People’s President and ardent nationalist.

Read: 'Missile Man': Ex-president APJ Abdul Kalam passes away

APJ Abdul Kalam: A scientist who led from the front

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