How the BRAHMOS missiles are made
The BRAHMOS missile has added a cutting edge to all three branches of the Indian armed forces in recent times. The supersonic cruise missile, which derives its name from a portmanteau created from the names of rivers Brahmaputra in India and Moskva in Russia, is a unique and vital strategic asset that can give India a massive advantage in case of a potential conflict with either or both of not-so-friendly neighbours.
Being the fastest cruise missile in operation, the BRAHMOS is unique, says Vice Admiral (retd) N.N. Kumar, Executive Director (Production) at Brahmos Aerospace. “It has no international competitors except the proven capabilities of Russia,” he adds.
Derived from the Russian missile P-800 Oniks or Yakhont, the BRAHMOS features a home-grown control system and boasts of high levels of indigenisation. The indigenous equipment comprising the electronics, metal parts, chemicals and electrical cables-connectors constitutes about 60 per cent of the cost of the missile.
“It has a shelf life of 10 years”, he adds. The missile can be pulled straight out of stocks and used anytime within a period of 10 years. “Its high accuracy has been proven time and again during tests,” he insists. “Once it is tested, the missile is ready to fire.”
The BRAHMOS brings to bear a massive amount of firepower on its target. With a range of 290-400 kilometres, the missile is exceptional as it travels over three times the speed of sound. The kinetic energy created due to its high speed makes the missile a highly potent strategic weapon. “There is no missile in the world that is supersonic during the terminal phase. The BRAHMOS is supersonic all throughout its 290-kilometre range,” emphasises VAdm. Kumar.
On the home front, the Indian Navy has promised to replace all its ships carrying the Soviet-era ‘Klub’ missile with the BRAHMOS. The Indian Air Force (IAF) intends to modify 40 Sukhoi-30MKIs in its fleet to carry the BRAHMOS-A version which is currently being tested.
The army variant of the BRAHMOS are organised into regiments. Each BRAHMOS regiment comprises 100 missiles, five mobile launching systems on 12×12 heavy-duty Tatra trucks and a mobile command post. The army has recently ordered two more regiments for the Northeast sector which will have steep-dive capabilities.
The missile has commonality with the same hardware and software being used on army, navy and air force variants. This makes it cost-effective in terms of development. And due to these reasons, the BRAHMOS has evinced a lot of interest from several countries,” says VAdm. Kumar. “South East Asian and Latin American countries are the ones we are hoping will purchase the missile,” he says.
As BrahMos Aerospace is a joint venture between Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the missile will only be sold to countries approved by both India and Russia.
But why has Russia not inducted the missile yet? “That’s the question all potential buyers are asking,” says VAdm. Kumar. “But that is due to their own policies,” he adds. “In 2010, Russia struck a deal with France for four amphibious assault ships and due to political reasons, they were denied the ships.” Russia had signed an agreement with France for four Mistral class amphibious ships. However, following Russia’s interventions in Ukraine, the agreement was annulled.
The BrahMos team is now concentrating on a BRAHMOS-NG version which will have the same hardware and performance envelope as the original missile but will be much smaller in size and diameter.
“This will allow the Sukhois to carry up to five missiles at a time instead of the single missile that the Su-30MKI fighters are capable of carrying now. Also, the smaller diameter will allow the missile to be launched from torpedo tubes on the Indian Navy’s conventional submarine fleet,” says Vice Adm. Kumar.
Mikoyan MiG-29K, Dassault Rafale and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas could also be modified to carry the BrahMos once the NG version is ready. Indian Navy’s Kalvari class submarines could also potentially carry the submarine variant of the NG version.
The people who work at BrahMos Aerospace are picked with care. Most of them are graduates of National Institutes of Technology (NITs) from across India. The newcomers must undergo 11 months of supervision and training before he/ she is ready to be integrated and work independently.
FORCE spoke to a couple of scientists working at BrahMos Aerospace who say that their experience has been unique and enriching. The support from home for these young scientists is unstinted given that they work for a project of paramount importance to the nation.
Senior systems manager Bharat Kishore Pandey says, “I joined the company 10 years ago. The amount of freedom and responsibility I have been entrusted with makes it unique. It is tremendous. It helps me hone and enhance my capabilities.” According to him, the atmosphere at BrahMos has been like that of a family. “We have families at home, and we have families at work here at BrahMos,” he adds with a smile.
What’s more, gender equality at BrahMos Aerospace is steeped in the work culture. Sparsha Santosh, who has been at BrahMos Aerospace for 11 years and is DGM for systems and production, says, “I have never seen anybody been discriminated against based on gender. In fact, I have only had encouragement from my male colleagues and have grown with them equally within the company through the years.”
And her family too has been extremely supportive. “Despite the reality that my native place is Jodhpur, the fact that I work for a project of national importance gives my family utmost confidence to let me work so far away from home.”
And how has been her experience working at BrahMos? “I feel that the exposure and experience we get at BrahMos is extremely good. We would not be able to get this much of exposure at any other firm,” she says.
Amit is the youngest of the batch. He joined in 2016. He says he has learnt a lot in these three years at BrahMos. “The first few months were slightly difficult, but with experience I learnt to adapt,” he says. “The work culture is very different compared to other industries.”
Srija, another senior systems engineer, says her experience has been fantastic. “Our motto is respect and strength. As part of our duty we are strengthening the nation. This is a matter of great pride for us. This motivates us 24/7. We are ever ready to do our job.”
Her family, just like others, are very proud of the work she is doing. “For my family it is a matter of great pride,” she says. “We, the people at BrahMos Aerospace, are serving the nation in a very direct way. We supply missiles to the armed services. This gives my family great pride and joy.”
The exposure is one aspect all BrahMos technicians are proud of. “We work with some of the best scientists. It is very inspiring. Also, the Russian technicians present here give us a different kind of exposure,” says Jyoti Singh.
“If you go to any shop floor, you will not see as many women and men working together as you see at BrahMos. Out of the six teams that we have, three have been led by women,” adds Singh who has been at BrahMos Aerospace for over five years.
A combination of the right talent backed by the best technology has made BrahMos one of the leading missiles producing companies in South Asia. This augurs well for the future as India moves steadily on the path of ‘Make in India.’