Brahmos Missile Makes Big Impact

By Girish Linganna

India has been aiming to enhance its defense capabilities through the development of a more compact and efficient version of the BrahMos missile. BrahMos Aerospace, a defense corporation with Indo-Russian roots, is set to begin drop and dummy trials of the lighter and more compact Next Generation (NG) BrahMos missile around the middle of 2025, with plans for flight testing to follow by the year’s end.

“Atul Dinkar Rane, the CEO and managing director of BrahMos Aerospace as well as the director general of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), announced to the press that the missile is expected to be incorporated into the Indian Air Force (IAF) by 2026.”

Speaking at the NDTV Defence Summit in Delhi on March 7, Rane commented that BrahMos Aerospace is progressing from the blueprint phase to the metal fabrication stage, as they await financing from sales of the NG. He noted, “The blueprint phase is complete, and we’re moving to metal cutting. The new missile will be one- third of the size and half the weight of the current model, allowing for the deployment of two missiles on a single aircraft.”

Rane highlighted, “Currently, a single BrahMos mounted on the underbelly of a Su-30 constitutes its heaviest weaponry.” He further mentioned plans to equip the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft with the NG version and noted its compatibility with Western platforms as well. Rane assured that the NG version of the BrahMos will retain the same speed, precision, and destructive power as its larger counterpart.

Although a commitment from the Indian Air Force is yet to be finalized, a contract valued at $2.3 billion for 200 BrahMos Extended Range (ER) supersonic cruise missiles, intended for warships, was secured in March 2024.Admiral R Hari Kumar, the Chief of the Navy, recently informed the news agency ANI that the BrahMos missile is set to become the main surface-to-surface missile of the Indian Navy, taking over from the older missile systems.

Rane pointed out that the BrahMos missile has undergone significant transformation from its original design as an anti-cruise missile. Instead of covering a distance of 300km to target a single ship, it has evolved into a system capable of launching a salvo from one missile at multiple ships. In simpler terms , its having the ability to fire multiple missiles or projectiles simultaneously or in rapid succession at one or more targets.

Rane commented on the necessity for future naval operations to approach closer to shorelines, referencing the recent incident where Houthi rebels in Yemen reportedly executed 37 drone strikes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, targeting US Navy vessels and a commercial ship.

He suggested that the surface drones ought to have been neutralized before leaving the harbour, indicating this would require a missile launched from a ship. He also noted, “The same type of missile can target both naval and land-based objectives.”

BrahMos Aerospace was created through a collaborative effort between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s military-industrial consortium NPO Mashinostroyeniya, following an agreement between the two governments. Rane mentioned that the proportion of domestic components in the BrahMos missile has increased from 10% to 65% since its debut twenty years ago.

Rane asserted that current defense systems are incapable of consistently intercepting it, highlighting that the innovation extends beyond just the seeker technology being indigenized by India. He praised the advanced liquid ramjet engine developed by the Russians and shared with India, describing it as a masterpiece.

India’s enhancements in the BrahMos missile surpass merely localizing its guidance system (seeker technology) production. The innovations cover crucial technological advancements and collaborations, like the development and exchange of an advanced liquid ramjet engine with Russia. This showcases a wider spectrum of technological progress and self-sufficiency in the missile’s manufacture.

Rane mentioned that the DRDO, in collaboration with its design partner NPO Mashinostroyeniya, is developing the BrahMos hypersonic cruise missile, to be named BrahMos 2. This missile will share characteristics with the Russian hypersonic Zircon missile.

In the early 1990s, India recognized the necessity for cruise missiles—guided strategic missiles designed to fly at a nearly consistent speed throughout their flight path to deliver warheads with precise accuracy.

Subsequently, a formal agreement was established between Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, who was the chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at the time, and NV Mikhailov, the Russian deputy defence minister, in Moscow during February 1998. The name BrahMos originates from the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers. Following the agreement in 1998, BrahMos Aerospace was established.

The inaugural test launch of the BrahMos missile from a land-based launcher took place on 12 June 2001 at Chandipur in Odisha. Since that initial launch, the missile has undergone several upgrades, leading to the development and deployment of multiple versions.

The BrahMos Aerospace website describes BrahMos as a “two-stage missile, with the first stage being a solid propellant booster and the second stage a liquid ramjet.”Cruise missiles, including BrahMos, are categorized as ‘standoff range weapons.’ This classification implies that they can be launched from a distance far enough to evade defensive measures from the target.

Initially, the BrahMos missile had a flight range of 290 kilometres. According to the Indian Express, tests are being conducted on versions of the missile to extend its range to approximately 400 kilometres, with plans to develop versions capable of reaching up to 800 kilometres. The Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force routinely conduct tests on various versions of the missile.

The BrahMos missile is characterized by its low radar detectability and maintains supersonic speed for the duration of its flight. It operates on a “fire and forget” principle, capable of reaching a cruise altitude of up to 15 km and descending to a terminal altitude of as low as 10 metres.

BrahMos outperforms subsonic cruise missiles with a speed that is triple and a flight range that is 2.5 times greater. Variants of the BrahMos missile capable of being launched from land, warships, submarines, and Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft have been developed, allowing them to target both land and maritime objectives.

The BrahMos missile is increasingly attracting interest in global markets, particularly in Southeast Asia and Africa. There are reports that several nations in West Asia have also expressed a keen interest in it.

In a conversation with Sputnik India regarding the rising international interest in BrahMos, Indian Navy veteran Seshadri Vasan described the missile as the world’s “Supersonic Darling.” He highlighted its advantage, noting, “When BrahMos achieves supersonic speeds of Mach-3, it leaves the enemy with minimal time to respond or defend against the missile’s attack.” (IPA