India's Air Force Is Getting Supersonic Cruise Missiles (Thanks to Russia)
India has conducted the first test of its air-launched BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, according to India's prime minister.
On November 22, India’s press office announced that a BrahMos Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) was test fired for the first time from a Su-30MKI fighter aircraft.
“Delighted on the successful maiden test firing of Brahmos ALCM from Su-30MKI. Congratulations to all those associated with this remarkable feat,” the press release quoted Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.
The maiden test was expected following reports in Sputnik News and the Indian Express, which said that two modified Sukhoi-30MKI planes had been armed with BrahMos missiles in anticipation of tests against ground and naval targets near the Bay of Bengal. However, there have been numerous reports throughout this year that the first air-launched BrahMos tests were imminent, but these apparently never materialized. The Indian Express report said that Russian scientists were on the ground in India to observe the test, lending credence to the more recent reports.
Recommended: 8 Million People Could Die in a War with North Korea
The BrahMos is a two-stage supersonic cruise missile that was jointly developed by India’s Defense Research Development Organization and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia. Capable of traveling at speeds of Mach 3.0, the Brahmos is said to be the fastest cruise missile in the world. For instance, Russia and India Report has said: “The BrahMos’ 3000 km per second 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.”
Similarly, Sebastien Roblin has noted that BrahMos is roughly twice as heavy as America's Tomahawk cruise missiles and travels at four times the speed, giving it a tremendous amount of kinetic energy. Roblin also pointed out that “the BrahMos’s ability to maintain supersonic speeds while skimming at low altitude makes it very difficult to detect and intercept. To cap it off, the BrahMos performs an evasive ‘S-maneuver’ shortly before impact, making it difficult to shoot down at close range.”
India had already tested a ground-based version of the BrahMos missile against a naval target in April of this year, and the Indian Navy is also in the process of integrating the cruise missile onto its ships. Compared to these versions, the air-launched variant is lighter (2.5 tons compared to 2.9 tons) in order to fit on the Su-30MKI planes. Some sources have said that the air-launched BrahMos will also feature more rear fins for aerodynamic stability. Su-30s were first flown with BrahMos missiles on board last year, and the test firing of the missile from the jets is the logical next step in the development process.
The plan to modify the Su-30 to carry the Brahmos missiles was first hatched back in 2010, when India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) submitted a proposal for two squadrons of Su-30s to be put under its command. Later, in 2012, India’s cabinet approved the project to modify 42 Su-30s to carry 216 BrahMos missiles. According to a 2015 Times of India report, the integration project was mostly carried out by BrahMos Aerospace, with HAL also contributing crucial modifications.
The aforementioned Sputnik report said that so far India has only modified three Su-30MKI aircraft to carry the BrahMos missile. However, Delhi now aims to make fifty Su-30s capable of carrying the Indo-Russian missile. India is also hoping to eventually have two hundred BrahMos-capable aircraft overall.