The BrahMos (Hindi: ब्रह्ममोस -brahmos, Russian: Брамос) is a short range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. It is a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) who have together formed BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited.It is the world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile in operation.
The air-launched version of BrahMos “BrahMos-A”
BRAHMOS air-launched version is getting ready to be soon test-flown from the SU-30MKI fighter of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The development work related to the Air launch version of the missile is complete. Work has begun with Sukhoi design bureau, HAL, and the IAF for interface requirements and installation of BRAHMOS on SU-30 MKI. Integration of the air-launched version of BRAHMOS is currently at an advanced stage. Two aircraft have been earmarked by the IAF for the initial launch trials. The first Su-30MKI fighter aircraft modified for BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile was handed over by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to the CEO & MD of BrahMos Aerospace on 19 February 2015 during Aero India at Yelahanka, Bengaluru. The SU-30 MKI has a maximum speed of 2 Mach with a single in-flight range of 5,200 km. A total of 8,000 kg payload can be carried by it in a maximum altitude of 17 km.
To reduce the missile’s weight to 2.55 tons, many modifications were made like using a smaller booster, adding fins for airborne stability after launch, and relocating the connector. It can be released from the height of 500 to 14,000 meters (1,640 to 46,000 ft). After release, the missile free falls for 100–150 meters, then goes into a cruise phase at 14,000 meters and finally the terminal phase at 15 meters. BrahMos Aerospace plans to deliver the missile to the IAF in 2015, where it is expected to arm at least three squadrons. An Su-30MKI is able to only carry one BrahMos missile.
The missile was also planned to arm the Indian Navy’s Ilyushin Il-38 and Tupolev Tu-142 maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft with 6 missiles per aircraft, but this could not be made possible due to insufficient ground clearance of the IL-38, high cost of modifying the Tu-142 and the questionable benefits of modifying an ageing fleet.
The BrahMos’ 3600 km per hour speed – literally faster than a bullet – means it hits the target with a huge amount of kinetic energy. In tests, the BrahMos has often cut warships in half and reduced ground targets to smithereens. The Sukhoi’s blistering speed will add extra launch momentum to the missile, plus the aircraft’s ability to penetrate hardened air defences means there is a greater chance for the pilot to deliver the missile on to its designated targets.
Considering that India’s primary enemy is Pakistan and that country’s chief backer is China, against which India has fought two conflicts – losing in 1962 and winning in 1967 – these two countries are the obvious targets.
Against Pakistan, the targets are obvious. A two-squadron attack using most of the SFC’s air assets can within minutes utterly cripple the country’s command and control centres; nuclear power plants, including the Kahuta ‘Death Star’ where the majority of the “Islamic” bombs are manufactured; the Sargodha Central Ammunition Depot west of Lahore where these warheads are stored; ballistic missile bases in Gujranwala, Okara, Multan, Jhang and Dera Nawab Shah; Pakistani Army Corp headquarters in Rawalpindi; the Karachi Port, Pakistani’s only major harbour and its Naval HQ; and ordinance factories that manufacture tanks and fighter aircraft.
The supersonic BrahMos armed with a conventional warhead can theoretically penetrate hardened command, control and communication centres. However, there is no guarantee these targets will be 100 per cent destroyed unless the BrahMos is nuclear tipped. A pre-emptive nuclear strike will therefore ensure that Pakistan’s offensive capability is effectively neutralised and it is never again a threat to India.
Against China, the Sukhoi-BrahMos one-two punch seems counter-intuitive as Chinese targets are located deep inland or on the coast. However, the Su-30MKI has a maximum range of 3000 km (extendable to 8000 km with in-flight refuelling). Now add the BrahMos’s 300 km reach and India can hit targets 3300 km inside China.
Why the Sukhoi-BrahMos option?
The Su-30MKI is an obvious choice. The SFC does not want untested fighters but the ones which can be relied upon to deliver nuclear-tipped missiles. The aircraft has a titanium airframe strong enough to fly a high-speed terrain following profile. The batch of 42 Sukhois will also have hardened electronic circuitry to shield them from the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear blast.
Having a dedicated aircraft for the nuclear attack role offers India’s war planners strategic flexibility and increases the odds of success. Because ballistic missiles are used only as a weapon of last resort, they cannot really be deployed at will. Once released, they cannot be recalled and if shot down are not easily replaced. Fighter aircraft, on the other hand, can perform repeated sorties and be directed to bomb targets as they move. For instance, if Pakistan moves it warheads out of Sargodha depot, which is presumably under constant watch by Indian satellites, the Sukhois can be vectored against a column of Pakistani trucks transporting their nuclear cargo.
The SFC’s mini air force of 42 Sukhois can also launch their missiles against Pakistani targets from within Indian airspace or while flying over international waters, thereby complicating the enemy’s defences. It is a lot easier for India to destroy Pakistani war fighting capability because not only is Pakistan relatively smaller but it has also concentrated its defences in one province, Punjab.
Because heavy modifications were necessary for integrating such a heavy missile onto the Su-30MKI, initially it seemed to make little sense to deploy a single missile. Aviation Week reports that initially even Sukhoi was reluctant to go along. That prompted HAL to go solo, but Aviation Week says Sukhoi came on board in 2011. The Russian side provided HAL with technical consultancy especially for the modifications to the fuselage in order to accommodate the 9-metre-long missile.
“Work is also underway on a modified lighter and smaller-diameter version of the BrahMos for deployment on the Indian navy’s MiG-29K and, potentially, the Dassault Rafale,” says Aviation Week.
And signalling the country’s immunity from western sanctions, DRDO scientists say the 300 km cap on the missile’s range will be removed. The next generation BrahMos is likely to be a longer range weapon. And with the planned increased in speed, the missile will have considerably enhanced kinetic energy despite its smaller size optimised for relatively smaller aircraft such as the MiG-29.
BrahMos-II is a hypersonic cruise missile currently under development and is estimated to have a range of 290 km. Like the BrahMos, the range of BrahMos II has also been limited to 290 km to comply with the MTCR. With a speed of Mach 7, it will have double the speed of the current BrahMos missile, and it will be the fastest hypersonic missile in the world.Development could take 7-8 years to complete.
BrahMos-NG (Next Generation) is a mini version based on the existing BrahMos, will have same 290 km range and mach 3.5 speed but it will weigh around 1.5 tons, 5 meters in length and 50 cm in diameter, making BrahMos-NG 50 percent lighter and three meters shorter than its predecessor. The system is expected to be inducted in the year 2017. BrahMos-NG will have lesser RCS (radar cross section) compared to its predecessor, making it harder for air defense systems to locate and engage the target. BrahMos-NG will have Land, Air, ship-borne and Submarine tube-launched variants. First test flight is expected to take place in 2017–18. Initially Brahmos-NG was called as Brahmos-M.
The missile will arm the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, MiG-29K and future inductions such as the Dassault Rafale. Submarine launched variant will be capable of being fired from the new P75I class of submarines. A model of the new variant was showcased on 20 February 2013, at the 15th anniversary celebrations of BrahMos Corporations. The Sukhoi SU-30MKI would carry three missiles while other combat aircraft would carry one each.
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam asked BrahMos Aerospace to develop an advanced version of the BrahMos cruise missile to maintain India’s lead in the field. He said that a hypersonic version of BrahMos which can be reused is needed, which will be able to deliver its payload and return to base. currently there is no plan to develop a UAV or UCAV variant of the missile.
That’s really bad news if you are in the Sukhoi-BrahMos crosshairs.
Sources : http://in.rbth.com/blogs/2015/04/20/why_the_brahmos_armed_sukhoi_is_bad_news_for_indias_enemies_42687, http://www.brahmos.com/content.php?id=19, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BrahMos_%28missile%29#Air-launched_variant