In 1998, India signed an agreement with Russia to design, develop, manufacture and market BRAHMOS (Brahmaputra-Moscow rivers), a supersonic cruise missile system jointly developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s NPOM (NPO Mashinostroyeniya), launchable from land, aircraft, ships and submarines. At speeds of Mach 2.5 to 2.8, it is the world’s fastest cruise missile, about three-and-a-half times faster than the American subsonic Harpoon cruise missile.

Since its maiden successful test-firing conducted on June 12, 2001, BRAHMOS has undergone a record number of over 70 flight tests to date from land, sea, sub-sea and air platforms, thereby validating its multifarious capability to completely annihilate high-value ground and sea-based targets with ultimate speed, pin-point accuracy and devastating firepower in all weather conditions by day and night.

While the Indian Army deployed the Land-attack BRAHMOS (LACM) variant since 2007, Indian Navy inducted the versatile weapon in both surface to air and anti-ship configurations onboard its frontline surface warfare platforms since 2005.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has also raised land-attack BRAHMOS squadron and successfully test-fired the advanced air-launched version of the weapon (ALCM) for the very first time from its frontline Sukhoi-30MKI strike fighter against a sea-surface target on November 22, 2017, thereby creating history and making India the first and only country in the world to complete the “supersonic cruise missile triad.”

BrahMos Aerospace became the first defence entity in the world to integrate and flight test the heaviest air-borne weapon onto a super-manoeuvrable fighter platform.

In 2019, the missile underwent a number of successful test firings from land, sea and air platforms. IAF conducted a second successful test firing of the advanced BRAHMOS air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) on May 22, 2019, against a land target in the Andaman Nicobar Island region. On December 17, 2019, BRAHMOS-A has tested yet again from the Su-30 fighter in ‘user configuration’ against a ship target and successfully met all mission objectives.

BRAHMOS anti-ship version was launched successfully in November 2019 from an Indian navy platform. In December 2019, two successful major tests of the missile—one from a Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft against a sea target, and another fired from a land-based mobile launcher against an unidentified target. On January 20, 2020,

IAF commissioned the “Tigersharks” squadron of Su-30MKI fighters armed with the deadly BRAHMOS air-launched missile at the Thanjavur airbase in Tamil Nadu. This will be a vital asset to keep a ‘strategic eye’ over the Indian Ocean Region and enhance India’s protection and deterrent capability.

Reportedly, three BRAHMOS missile regiments raised so far have been deployed in the western sector to counter the threat from Pakistan and in the second phase of military expansion along the China front, the government reportedly gave the go-ahead for the deployment of BRAHMOS cruise missiles in Arunachal Pradesh.

The fourth regiment of cruise missiles, with a 290-km range, will improve India’s military reach into the Tibet Autonomous Region and counter China’s elaborate missile deployment along the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control.

Emerging as a top product in the international cruise missile market, the demand for this powerful weapon is growing with several countries across continents expressing strong interest in acquiring the missile for their military. Consequently, BRAHMOS Aerospace is eyeing more successes for the joint venture in 2020, especially in getting a go-ahead from the Government for exporting the missile to friendly, responsible nations.

BRAHMOS has reportedly been attempting a hypersonic Mach 8 version of the missile, BRAHMOS II, the first-ever hypersonic cruise missile. According to DEFENCEUPDATE, 19 March 2016, the Russians successfully carried out the first test-firing of a hypersonic version of Brahmos missile in Russia. Russian sources indicated that the test was successful and the missile flew at the speed of Mach 6.

However, they did not mention about the range and the mode of flight. While one version is that the Zircon will be used to develop the Brahmos II missile, another version is that the Zircon missile itself is the Brahmos II. DEFENCEUPDATE further informed that Russia planned to replace its existing P 800 and Kalibr missiles from Russian naval ships and submarines with Zicron missiles and that Brahmos is also developing mini hypersonic versions of Brahmos II for offshore patrol vehicles and fighter aircraft.

Lt Col Anil Bhat

Col Anil Bhat (retd) is an independent defence and security analyst he is also an Editor at Word Sword Features

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