Focussed on Future

BrahMos’ new CEO is gung-ho about the BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile

Pravin SawhneyPravin Sawhney

The future of the BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile — a successful Joint Venture (JV) between India and Russia — is assured. This was the gist of my conversation with the new BrahMos CEO, Sudhir Mishra who spoke passionately about BRAHMOS-M (Mini) and the hypersonic BRAHMOS. What made his revelations distinctive were the unusual candidness — a rarity in the scientific community — and the clear vision of the roadmap ahead. “While plenty of work has been done on BRAHMOS-M and we are in touch with the user (Indian Navy and Indian Air Force), the project is on the drawing board awaiting government clearance,” said Mishra. The hypersonic BRAHMOS, he reflected, “is on the drawing and mind board.”

BRAHMOS is India’s only indigenous weapon system which has been accepted willingly by the three defence services, and has stuck to time-lines. BrahMos was an accidental venture as a consequence of the sudden demise of the Soviet Union in 1990 followed by the 1991 Gulf War which catapulted the Tomahawk cruise missile to an iconic status. On the one hand, Russia, as the Soviet inheritor state, was hard-pressed for cash and on the verge of closing down its’ flight-tested cruise missile programme. On the other hand, the Defence Research and Development Programme (DRDO), having gained capabilities from the indigenous 1982 integrated guided missile programme, and struck by the Tomahawk success was eager to start work on cruise missiles.

BrahMos’ new CEO is gung-ho about the BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile

The breakthrough for both came with the setting-up of the BrahMos Aerospace on 12 February 1998 located in New Delhi. In a novel concept, BrahMos became a government-owned private company with equal partnership and operational control with a share percentage of 50.5 for the DRDO and 49.5 for the Russian NPOM company. The propulsion system (engine) and airframe came from Russia, while the guidance and onboard electronic module came from the DRDO’s guided missile programme. Originally meant to be an anti-ship missile, BrahMos is today a successful land-attack-cruise-missile (LACM), and a step away from the air version.

How far a cruise missile will go depends on its engine; the simpler turbojet which travels short distances or the complex turbofan which can carry payloads up to thousands of kilometers. BRAHMOS is one of its kind which uses a combination of booster and liquid-fuelled ramjet engine which gives it super-sonic speed (more than the speed of sound described as Mach One). This leads to its other advantage. With more speed than other cruise missiles, BRAHMOS reduces the target into smithereens with its high kinetic energy impact. BRAHMOS can carry 300kg payload at 290km (under 300km as per MTCR limit) with a speed of 2.8 Mach.

At present, BrahMos is mounted on number of surface ships comprising Rajput class destroyers, Talwar class frigates and recently on the 15A class destroyers of the Indian Navy. Also, in the pipeline are the new ships under construction of project 17 & 17A. Being big, BRAHMOS cannot be fitted in the torpedo tubes of submarines. Regarding the army, two regiments with four launchers each have been raised with BRAHMOS Block-II LACM, while the third regiment with Block-III missiles is being delivered. This will be followed by another two regiments with Block-III capability.

For guidance throughout the flight, BRAHMOS uses a combination of G3, namely, US’ GPS, India’s Gagan and Russian Glonass systems for accuracy. It has a radar seeker which scans the area in front to find the target and then homes-in with Radio Frequency mono-pulse capability. Block-II version, developed for the army, has an improved seeker with target discrimination capability, and Block-III version has steep-dive capability to hit vertically those targets hidden behind mountains.

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