The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile’s range of a paltry 290 km has been its biggest drawback. But an upgraded version with a range of 450 km will be tested on March 10, boosting its potential to strike deep into enemy territory.
India and Russia had, in October last year, agreed to work together to boost the missile’s range. Uniquely configured for installation in ships, aircraft and submarines, BrahMos could also be deployed on ground vehicles. At the Aero India 2017, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chairman S Christopher said India’s membership in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June 2016 had removed the barriers to enhance the missile’s range. The barrier had surfaced because in the 1990s, when BrahMos was being jointly developed with Russia, India was not a member of MTCR member. The regime restricts its members from sale, joint production or export of missiles with range exceeding 300 km.
The missile production is spearheaded by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between DRDO and Russia’s Federal State Unitary Enterprise NPOM. Russian president Vladimir Putin had, at the 17th annual India-Russia bilateral summit in Goa, formally announced the plan to extend BrahMos’ range.
Subsonic Nirbhay’s fate Plagued by repeated trial failures, is DRDO’s subsonic cruise missile project Nirbhay on the way to be dumped? Christopher admitted the technical challenges linked to the low-flying, sea-skimming missile. Following one successful flight and three unsuccessful ones, DRDO had aborted the missions.
However, after conducting defect investigation, another flight would be attempted by May-June, the DRDO chairman said. Dubbed as India’s first indigenously built long-range subsonic cruise missile, Nirbhay was designed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment. It has an impressive range of over 1,000 km and can potentially carry both conventional and nuclear warheads. But the project, launched in 2004, has been in trouble ever since.
However, Christopher sounded optimistic when he remarked, “Our plan is to have a family of subsonic cruise missiles.”
The hypersonic version of the BrahMos cruise missile, named BrahMos-II (K) after the late president A P J Abdul Kalam, might still be in the drawing board. But it will push India to the big league that includes the US, Russia and China.
BrahMos-K is designed to fly at Mach 5 speeds (6,125 kmph) with an impressive range of 800 to 850 km. It would be extremely tough to intercept.