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On March 20, 2013, India witnessed a historic feat: the successful test-fire of a submarine-launched BrahMos (SLCM) supersonic cruise missile from a submerged platform in the Bay of Bengal. This marked a significant step forward in India’s underwater deterrence capabilities. However, over a decade later, the SLCM variant remains absent from operational Indian submarines.

The BrahMos, a joint Indo-Russian venture, boasts impressive range and speed. While the initial SLCM variant tested in 2013 had a range of 290 km, BrahMos Corporation has since developed even longer-range variants: the BrahMos-ER (450 km) and even a very longer version exceeding 800 km. Integrating these missiles with submarines would offer an unmatched underwater stand-off capability.

However, a crucial hurdle exists – the lack of Vertical Launching System (VLS) cells on current Indian submarines. BrahMos Corporation proposed integrating the SLCM with the next-generation submarines to be procured under Project-75I. This might require modifications like an additional plug behind the sail, leading to increased costs.

Project-75I, aimed at acquiring six new submarines, shortlisted contenders offering vessels without built-in VLS. The Indian Navy seems to be prioritizing VLS integration for its nuclear attack submarine program under Project-75 Alpha. This prioritization leaves the Project-75I submarines without the capability to deploy the BrahMos SLCMs currently.

BrahMos Corporation is now prioritising the development of BrahMos-NG a lighter Mach 3 Capable Cruise missile that can be launched from a Torpedo Tube which could make it compatible with all Submarines under the Indian Navy’s command but the restricted range could mean its standoff operational capabilities is reduced. 

Modifying current Project-75I contenders presents an immediate but potentially expensive solution. Alternatively, waiting for Project-75 Alpha submarines with inherent VLS capabilities might delay BrahMos integration but offer a potentially more potent long-term option.

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