Asia Defense

India Plans to Induct Air-Launched BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile by 2020

The air-launched variant of the BrahMos missile is expected to enter service with the Indian Air Force in 2020.

India Plans to Induct Air-Launched BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile by 2020
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Allocer

The air-launched BrahMos-A supersonic cruise missile is slated to enter service with the Indian Air Force in early 2020, according to an Indian defense industry official who spoke to IHS Jane’s at Aero India 2019, a biennial air show and aviation exhibition which was held in Bengaluru, India at the Yelahanka Air Force Station, from February 20 to 24.

“The official said that the BrahMos-A cruise missile is set to begin its final developmental or certification trials in the third quarter of 2019, more than 20 months after the weapon successfully completed its first flight test,” according to IHS Jane’s. “The missile’s induction will begin immediately after two certified launches against a naval and a ground target are carried out, he added.”

The launches are expected to take place before the end of this year. The IAF test fired the BrahMos-A from a Sukhhoi Su-30 MKI  fighter jet on multiple occasions over the past few years. To date, two IAF Su-30 MKI fighters have been converted to launch the 2.5-ton supersonic air-to-surface cruise missile. The first time a Su-30 MKI took to the skies carrying a BrahMos-A occurred in 2016. As a result of the size and weight of the BrahMos-A, each Su-30 MKI can reportedly only carry one missile in a transport launch canister.

Overall, the IAF plans to stand up two Su-30 MKI squadrons armed with the new weapon system. As I reported previously, the IAF is purportedly already working on integrating the BrahMos-A on 40 Su-30 MKI fighters. Part of that integration process includes reinforcing the aircraft’s undercarriage and reportedly also hardened electronic circuitry to withstand the electromagnetic pulses of a nuclear blast — the missile is alleged dual-capable and can carry a nuclear warhead, although there are no official plans by the Indian MoD to do so.

The twin-seater, twin-engine Su-30MKI, developed by Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi and license-built in India, constitutes the backbone of the IAF.

The BrahMos missile “operates on a so-called fire and forget principle and can be dropped from 500 to 14,000 meters (1,640 to 46,000 feet),” I explained elsewhere. “The missile’s terminal altitude is as low as ten meters. (The ship-launched anti-ship version of the BrahMos can fly 3-4 meters above the sea to avoid detection.) The BrahMos is capable of traveling at speeds of up to Mach 3.0, making it one of the world’s fastest cruise missiles.” The BrahMos-A has an estimated operational range of around 400 kilometers.

The IAF is expected to procure 200 air-launched BrahMos-A missiles.