A compact version of the missile was test-launched from an Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 fighter today. On being released from the fuselage of the jet, the missile's engine fired up propelling it towards its target in the Bay of Bengal.
The Indian Navy and the Indian Army already operate different variants of the missile some of which can hit targets up to 500 kilometres away. So far, the missile has been deployed on Indian Navy warships and with Indian Army units which operate the ground attack version of the supersonic weapon. The Indian Air Force variant test-fired today has significant differences. Unlike the Navy and Army version, which are significantly larger in size and weigh 3 tonnes, the IAF version tested today weighs 2.5 tonnes and has been adapted specifically for the Su-30 MKI fighter. Given the still considerable weight of the missile, the Su-30 can carry only missile one per mission.
For the Indian armed forces, the availability of this missile adds a new dimension to their firepower. A BrahMos armed Su-30 can, for example, fly 1,500 kilometres in the direction of a hostile target out at sea. The BrahMos can then be fired from the Sukhoi towards a target such as a terrorist base whose coordinates have been pre-programmed into the missile. Alternatively, it is believed the BrahMos can be guided to a moving target at extreme ranges using inputs from Indian military satellites or through a data-link between the missile and other assets such as friendly warships of maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
Given its speed of Mach 2.8 (2.8 times the speed of sound), the BrahMos is extremely difficult to presently intercept by surface to air missiles deployed on leading warships around the world. In simple terms, the combination of the Su-30 and BrahMos means that the Indian Air Force can deliver a knock-out punch in minutes if ordered, far quicker than a warship which may need to sail in the direction of a target out at sea. The robust range of the missile also means that an IAF Su-30 can remain within Indian airspace while it fires the missile deep inside China or Pakistan.
(Vishnu Som is Defence Editor and senior anchor, NDTV 24x7)
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