New Delhi: The Indo-Russian BrahMos Aerospace joint venture has completed the development of the airborne version of an advanced supersonic missile, according to a statement by the company's managing director, Dr Sivathanu Pillai.
BrahMos Aerospace designs, produces, and markets the BrahMos, which is a unique missile, the world's only supersonic cruise missile. The project was started in 1998, and its sea-based and land-based versions have been tested and successfully deployed into service with the Indian Army and the Indian Navy.
The airborne version, primarily for use by the Air Force, was the only pending variant to complete the deployment suite of the supersonic cruise missile.
According to Dr Pillai, the mass of the missile had to be reduced to maintain the requisite aerodynamic stability post launch from an aircraft. On launch from an aircraft, the missile is already in motion and has some initial speed, which necessitates reducing the booster size.
''Now the missile is ready," Dr Pillai told Russian media.
Pillai added that the Indian Air Force had picked the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI (Nato : Flanker – H) fighter as the trial platform for the airborne version of the missile. The missile has a range of 180 miles (290 kilometres) and is named after the Indian and Russian rivers Brahmaputra and the Moskva.
The BrahMos is capable of delivering a conventional warhead, weighing in at a maximum of 660 pounds, against targets on land and sea while flying at a surface-hugging altitude of as low as 10 meters (30 feet), that too at a speed of Mach 2.8. That speed is around three times faster than that of the US-made Tomahawk cruise missile.
Pillai said that progress on the scheduled flight trials has been slow on account of Russia's Sukhoi Design Bureau according priority for the fifth generation aircraft. India intends to manufacture around 140 Su-30 MKI multi-role fighters by 2014, under a Russian license and with full technology transfer.
Defence analysts estimate that India could buy around 1,000 BrahMos missiles for deployment in its armed forces over the next 10 years, and could also export around 2,000 units of the missile to third countries in the same period.
Russian agency RIA Novosti also reported that a new class of Russian frigates, currently under construction at a shipyard in St. Petersburg, could be fitted with the naval version of the BrahMos.
According to the report, the only Russian combat ship that could feature the BrahMos missiles is the new Project 22350 Admiral Sergei Gorshkov class frigate, currently under construction at the Severnaya Verf shipyard in St. Petersburg. The Admiral Sergei Gorshkov is a new class of warships that the Russian Navy is building for itself.
The first unit is scheduled for launch in 2009, and the Russian Navy could eventually acquire around 20 of these vessels. The frigate has a displacement of around 4,500 tons, a length of over 130 meters (430 feet), a maximum width of 16 meters (51 feet). It has a range of over 4,000 miles.
Additionally, the three Project 11356 Krivak IV-class guided missile frigates, a follow-on order that is being made by Russia for the Indian Navy, will also carry the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship cruise missile system.