India will begin testing its deadliest conventional missile, the 290-km supersonic BrahMos cruise missile, from its most potent fighter jet, the heavy-duty Sukhoi-30MKI, by the end of this year.
After the Army and Navy, IAF is now gearing up to induct the BrahMos missile which flies at Mach 2.8, almost three times the speed of sound. A tactical or non-nuclear missile touted to be the best in its class in the world, with "nine times more kinetic energy than sub-sonic missiles", BrahMos is jointly produced by India and Russia.
"The air-launched version of BrahMos, which at 2.5 tonne is lighter than the 3-tonne land and sea variants, and its launchers are ready,'' said BrahMos Aerospace chief A Sivathanu Pillai, speaking exclusively to TOI.
"The missile has been cleared for flight after simulation tests. Work is now underway in the Hindustan Aeronautics facility at Nasik to strengthen the Sukhoi fuselage to ensure the fighter can carry the heavy missile. After integration, we plan to test the missile from the fighter in December," he added.
Though Pillai was reluctant to talk numbers, sources said IAF has placed a Rs 6,516 crore order for the air-launched BrahMos missile. With the Army having already inducted three BrahMos regiments and the Navy having installed the missiles on six warships till now, including the latest stealth frigates, BrahMos is fast becoming the missile of choice for the armed forces for its sheer lethality and precision-strike capabilities.
Sources, in fact, say the total order book for BrahMos stands at Rs 26,776 crore, with the Army alone notching up Rs 13,618 crore, though there is some disquiet about its high costs. From 2007 onwards, Army has progressively inducted three regiments of BrahMos Block-II missiles developed to hit a specific small target with a low radar cross-section in a cluttered environment.
The missile's Block-III version, which will constitute the 4th regiment, has "trajectory maneuver and steep dive capabilities" to take out targets hidden behind mountain ranges. The government has also approved the deployment of BrahMos missiles in Arunachal Pradesh to counter China's huge build of military infrastructure all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control, after the earlier nod for the western sector facing Pakistan.
As for the air-launched BrahMos, sources say 42 Sukhois have been earmarked for structural and software modifications to carry the missiles. IAF has till now inducted around 190 of the 272 Sukhois ordered from Russia for over $12 billion, with a bulk of them being produced at the HAL facility at Nasik under licence.
"The launcher, which weighs around 300-350 kg, will be fitted on the fighter's belly. It will take another three months to perfect the Sukhoi's software and mission computer for the BrahMos missiles,'' said an official.
IAF is progressively basing its Sukhoi-30MKI "air dominance" fighters both on the western and eastern fronts to add to the dissuasive posture against Pakistan and China. Pune and Bareilly already have two Sukhoi squadrons each, while one each is based in Tezpur, Chabua, Halwara and Jodhpur.
Another squadron is coming up at Sirsa, with Tezpur, Chabua, Jodhpur and Halwara slated to get their second squadrons thereafter. The last Sukhoi squadron will be based at Thanjavur in south India by around 2018 to keep "a strategic eye" on the Indian Ocean region. - Times of india