Asia Defense

India’s Air Force Test Fires BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile From Su-30MKI Fighter

The reportedly successful test launch took place on May 22.

India’s Air Force Test Fires BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile From Su-30MKI Fighter
Credit: Indian Air Force via Twitter

The Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully test fired the air-launched BrahMos-A supersonic cruise missile from a Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter on May 22, the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD), said in a statement today.

“The launch from the aircraft was smooth and the missile followed the desired trajectory before directly hitting the land target,” the MoD noted in the statement. Today’s test firing is part of the BrahMos missile’s final developmental or certification trials, which reportedly includes two certified launches against a naval and a ground target. It is unclear when the second certified launch is scheduled to take place. Following the successful completion of both tests, the BrahMos will be declared operational and officially inducted into the IAF.

The BrahMos-A has an estimated operational range of around 400 kilometers and can dropped from 500 to 14,000 meters (1,640 to 46,000 feet) by Su-30MKI fighters. The missile, named after the Brahmaputra River in India and the Moskva River in Russia, is a upgraded variant of the Russian-made P-800 Oniks over-the-horizon supersonic anti-ship cruise missile. The BrahMos is thought to be one of the fastest cruise missiles currently operationally deployed.

The BrahMos-A was first flight tested from a Sukhhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jet in November 2017 over the Bay of Bengal. “The IAF became the first Air Force in the world to have successfully fired an air launched 2.8 Mach surface attack missile of this category on a sea target on 22 November 2017,” the MoD states. “Today’s was the second such live launch of the weapon” and “could be successfully undertaken with dedicated support from Indian Navy by way of ensuring availability of a large number of monitoring ships to ensure range safety clearance.” 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.

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According to today’s MOD press release,the integration of the weapon on the aircraft was a very complex process involving mechanical, electrical and software modifications on aircraft.” The software for the retrofitted Su-30 MKI was developed by IAF engineers, while Indian state-owned aircraft maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited development carried out mechanical and electrical modifications on the aircraft. Notably, India is in the process of indigenizing various components and subsystems of the BrahMos cruise missile and has been testing an indigenous seeker and missile booster last year.