New Delhi: The Indo-Russian cruise missile joint venture, BrahMos Aerospace, is working towards crossing yet another milestone with the dispatch to Russia of two Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets for a retrofit programme that would enable them to launch the aerial version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.
Once the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile crosses this particular milestone it will become a "universal cruise missile" as it is already capable of being launched from land and sea–based platforms, including submarines.
Apart from the submarine version all other land and naval versions have already been inducted for service with the Indian Army and Navy.
"The aerial version of the BrahMos missiles will be delivered from the Su-30MKI platform. We were in talks with Sukhoi and the IAF for it. Finally two Su-30MKIs of the IAF have been sent to Russia for retrofitting," a senior official of BrahMos Aerospace confirmed to media sources.
"The aerial version of BrahMos is coming along very well. After being programmed, the missile will be released from the aircraft and will auto-launch towards its target when it reaches an altitude of 50 metres," the official said.
"The aerial version is nearly nine metres long and this requires modifications of the aircraft's fuselage. Since the Sukhoi company is busy with designing a fifth generation fighter, DRDO scientists, along with Russian experts, will carry out the necessary modifications," the official said.
The modifications are expected to be complete by early 2010.
Three of the navy's Rajput-class destroyers (Russian Kashin II class) already carry the anti-ship version and the missile is due to be mounted on three 7,000-tonne Kolkata class destroyers currently being constructed at Mumbai's Mazagon Docks.
Three additional Talwar-class stealth frigates (Russian Krivak class), currently under construction at a Russian shipyard, will also carry the missile. All previous class of frigates and destroyers, along with forthcoming ones, are expected to carry or be retrofitted with the missile.
Recently, on 18 December 2008, the programme crossed another milestone when a naval ship fired the missile from a vertical launcher. All earlier launches had been carried out from inclined launchers. This gives the missile a 360 degree capability increasing its lethality manifold.
The missile has a range of 290 km and carries a 300 kg conventional warhead can achieve speeds of up to 2.8 Mach or nearly three times the speed of sound.