On Friday, the Indian Navy successfully carried out the first-ever test of a supersonic land-attack cruise missile (LACM). A “land attack version of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was fired for the first time from an Indian Navy’s stealth frigate, off the eastern coast, at a land target,” an unnamed Indian Ministry of Defense source noted. To date, the only variants of the BrahMos tested by the Indian Navy were the anti-ship variants.
The Indian Navy released a video of the launch that shows the missile’s successful vertical launch ejection from the INS Teg, a Talwar-class stealth frigate, successful directional engine engagement, and, ultimately, successful boost and horizontal flight.
“The land-attack variant of BrahMos provides Indian warships the capability to precisely neutralize selected targets deep inland, far away from the coast, from stand-off ranges at sea,” an Indian Navy source told the Times of India. “The maiden firing significantly enhances the Navy’s prowess and places India in the club of a select few nations to have this capability. Majority of our frontline warships, like the Kolkata-class of destroyers and Teg-class of stealth frigates, are capable of firing this missile,” he added.
The BrahMos family of cruise missiles received international attention shortly after its introduction as the fastest cruise missile system. Jointly developed by India and Russia, the missiles are capable of Mach 2.8 flight. The variant tested on Friday has a range of 290 kilometers, but India is working toward longer-range variants with ranges of up to potentially 800 kilometers.
Last year, India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which prohibits the export of missiles with a range greater than 300 kilometers. Analysts have noted that the BrahMos’ original stated range of 290 kilometers may have been deliberately understated. India would be unable to sell a longer-range variant to prospective BrahMos purchasers, including Vietnam, the United Arab Emirates, Chile, and South Africa under the MTCR. (Only South Africa is a member of the export control regime.)
An LACM variant of the BrahMos supersonic missile also presents the question of how New Delhi would look to operationalize this capability in wartime. Effectively, the BrahMos is shaping up as a stand-off range LACM, which would allow Indian Navy Talwar-class frigates to threaten inland targets.