The Indian Air Force (IAF) is expected to test fire the air-launched BrahMos-A supersonic cruise missile from a Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jet in the coming days, according to local media reports. “A test of the missile is planned for the next week in the southern part of the country to prove its integration with the heavyweight Su-30 fighter,” IAF sources were quoted as saying on April 27 by The Times of India.
In February an Indian defense industry official confirmed that the BrahMos-A cruise missile will kick off its final developmental or certification trials in the third quarter of 2019, which will include two certified launches against a naval and a ground target. Following the successful completion of the two test launches, the cruise missile will be inducted into the IAF.
The BrahMos-A was first flight tested from a Sukhhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jet in November 2017 over the Bay of Bengal. As I reported earlier this year:
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 allegedly 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-A has an estimated operational range of around 400 kilometers and can be dropped from 500 to 14,000 meters (1,640 to 46,000 feet). The missile – named after the Brahmaputra River in India and the Moskva River in Russia – is a derivative of the Russian-made P-800 Oniks over-the-horizon supersonic anti-ship cruise missile and is thought to be one of the fastest cruise missiles currently operationally deployed.
The land-launched and sea-launched variants of the BrahMos are already in service with the Indian Army and Navy. The IAF expects to induct the first BrahMos-A by 2020. The service is reportedly interested in procuring up to 200 missiles. As I reported last year, India is steadily indigenizing various components and subsystems of the BrahMos and has been testing an indigenous seeker and missile booster in 2018.