Aglimpse at the inventory of India’s Armed forces since the latter half of 1960s is enough to convey the strength of its partnership with the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. The break-up of the USSR in December 1991resulted in problems of spares for various armament and equipment systems supplied by it to Indian Armed forces, amounting to about 70% for each of its three services. Rediscovering their strategic value to each other and renewing the relationship with a major change from buyer-seller to joint ventures, the first significant step was India and Russia signing an agreement in February 1998, to design, develop, manufacture and market BrahMos (coined as a combination of Brahmaputra and Moscva rivers), a versatile supersonic cruise missile system launchable from submarines, ships, aircraft or land, which was successfully accomplished by 2006. 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.
BrahMos, with a maximum range of 290 km, can attack surface targets by flying as low as 10 metres over surfacelevel and can gain a speed of Mach 2.8. The ship-launched and land-based missiles can carry a 200 kg warhead whereas the aircraft-launched variant, BrahMos A, can carry a 300 kg warhead. It has a two-stage propulsion system, with a solid-propellant rocket for initial acceleration and a liquid-fuelled ramjet responsible for sustained supersonic cruise. Air-breathing ramjet propulsion is much more fuel-efficient than rocket propulsion, giving the BrahMos a longer range than a pure rocket-powered missile would achieve. The high speed of the BrahMos likely gives it better target-penetration character-istics than lighter subsonic cruise-missiles such as the Tomahawk. Being twice as heavy and almost four times faster than the Tomahawk, the BrahMos has more than 32 times the on-cruise kinetic energy of a Tomahawk missile, although it carries only 3/5th the payload and a fraction of the range despite weighing twice as much, which suggests that the missile was designed with a different tactical role. Its 2.8 mach speed means that it cannot be intercepted by existing missile defence systems and its precision makes it lethal to targets in water or those in a cluster.
BrahMos was first test-fired on 12 June 2001 from the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur in a vertical launch configuration. On 14 June 2004 it was fired from a mobile launcher. On 5 March 2008, the land attack version of the missile was fired from the destroyer INS Rajput and the missile hit and destroyed the selected target amidst a cluster of targets. The missile was vertically launched on 18 December 2008 from INS Ranvir. BrahMos I Block- I for the army was successfully tested with new capabilities in the deserts of Rajasthan, at a test range near Pokharan in December 2004 and March 2007.
During a user trial on 20 January 2009, BrahMos was tested with a new navigation system but it failed to hit the target. BrahMos Aerospace Corporation’s director Dr Sivathanu Pillai, Padma Bhushan, explained, “The missile performance was absolutely normal until the last phase, but the missile missed the target, though it maintained the direction. The problem was in the software, not hardware” The Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) said that there were “small hitches” in the last stage of the test firing, which was attributed that to the US GPS satellites, which were switched off on that day as Barack Obama was sworn in as the President of the United States.
The missile traveled for 112 seconds instead of the slated 84 seconds and fell seven km away from the target. Eventually on 4 March 2009 it was tested again, found successful and then test-fired yet again on 29 March 2009. For this test, the missile had to identify a building among a cluster of buildings in an urban environment. It successfully hit the intended target within two and a half minutes of launch. What made a quantum difference was the new ‘seeker’, considered unique and capable of seeking targets, which may be insignificant in terms of size, in a cluster of large buildings. India is now the only nation in the world with this advanced technology. After the third test, the Indian Army confirmed that the test was extremely successful and approved the missile. This marked the completion of development phase of BrahMos Block-II. On 21 March 2010, BrahMos was test-fired and struck a free-floating ship piercing it above the waterline and destroying it completely. The test proved the missile’s maneuverability at supersonic speed before hitting a target, making India the first and only country to have a manoeuvrable supersonic cruise missile.
BRAHMOS WAS FIRST TEST-FIRED ON 12 JUNE 2001 FROM THE INTEGRATED TEST RANGE (ITR), CHANDIPUR IN A VERTICAL LAUNCH CONFIGURATION. ON 14 JUNE 2004 IT WAS FIRED FROM A MOBILE LAUNCHER. ON 5 MARCH 2008, THE LAND ATTACK VERSION OF THE MISSILE WAS FIRED FROM THE DESTROYER INS RAJPUT AND THE MISSILE HIT AND DESTROYED THE SELECTED TARGET AMIDST A CLUSTER OF TARGETS. THE MISSILE WAS VERTICALLY LAUNCHED ON 18 DECEMBER 2008 FROM INS RANVIR
On 5 September 2010, BrahMos created a world record for being the first cruise missile to be tested at supersonic speeds in a steep-dive mode, achieving the army’s requirement for land attacks with Block-II ‘advanced seeker software’ along with ‘target discriminating capabilities’. BrahMos became the only supersonic cruise missile possessing advanced capability of selection of a particular land target amongst a group of targets, providing the user with an important edge of precision without collateral damage. The Block III version of the missile was successfully test-fired on 2 December 2010 from ITR, Chandipur, with advanced guidance and upgraded software, incorporating high manoeuvres at multiple points and steep dive from high altitude. The steep dive capability of the Block III enables it to hit targets hidden behind a mountain range. It is capable of being launched from multiple platforms like submarines, ships, aircraft and land based Mobile Autonomous Launchers (MAL).
On 12 August 2011, it was test-fired by ground forces and met all mission parameters. It was test-fired by an Indian Army unit on 4 March 2012 at the Pokharan range in Jaisalmer to operationalise the second regiment of the weapon system in the army. With this test attended by senior officials including VCOAS, Lt. Gen. Shri Krishna Singh and DGMO, Lt. Gen. A K Chaudhary, the second BrahMos unit of the Indian Army became operational. On 7 October 2012, the Indian Navy successfully test-fired BrahMos from the guided missile frigate INS TEG .This new highly manoeuvrable version was fitted with advanced satellite navigation systems turning it into a “super-rocket” capable of hitting targets over 300–500 km from sea, land and air launchers, and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The submarine-launched variant of Brahmos was test fired successfully for the first time from a submerged pontoon near Visakhapatnam at the coast of Bay of Bengal on 20 March 2013. This was the first vertical launch of a supersonic missile from a submerged platform. The missile can be launched from a depth of 40 to 50 meters.
On 19, February 2013, BrahMos Aerospace celebrated “Aardhik Diwas” – Partnership Day, to commemorate 15 years of missile making. “BrahMos is a formidable weapon system. It has offered more punch and strike capability for the three services. We owe it all to Dr. A S Pillai, CEO & MD, BrahMos Aeropsace and Dr. A G Leonov, Director General NPOM. It is because of the zeal and enthusiasm of Dr. Pillai that we have reached this stage,” remarked Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, Air Chief and Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and added that the modified Su-30 Mk-I aircraft will soon be equipped with BrahMos missile. BrahMos is reportedly attempting a hypersonic Mach 8 version of the missile, BrahMos II, the first ever hypersonic cruise missile, expected to be ready soon.