Amid heightened tensions with Pakistan, India on Thursday tested the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile for the first time from a
vertical launcher fitted on a moving warship in the Bay of Bengal.
The launch of the 290-km missile from the Rajput-class destroyer INS Ranvir “met all missions requirements” and was “100% successful”. The missile, which flies at a speed of 2.8 Mach (almost three times the speed of sound), has already been fitted “in an inclined configuration” on destroyer INS Rajput.
Moreover, the Army has also begun the progressive induction of its own BrahMos LACM (land-attack cruise missile) version, with the first battery being handed over to it in June 2007.
Army plans to progressively induct three batteries, each with four road-mobile autonomous launchers on 12×12 Tatra vehicles, to constitute its first BrahMos regiment shortly to use the missile as a “precision strike weapon”.
Sources said the Indo-Russian joint venture BrahMos Aerospace has already got orders for two Army regiments worth Rs 8,352 crore and 49 firing units worth Rs 711 crore for Navy.
The “universal vertical launcher” used on Thursday is significant since it is fitted under the warship’s deck, protecting it from the atmospheric conditions and imparting some stealth to the weapon system, and allows the missile to be fired in any direction.
“Eight missiles come in one such launcher module. Two such modules, with 16 missiles, will be fitted in each of the three Kolkata-class P-15A destroyers being built at Mazagon Docks (at a cost of Rs 11,662 crore),” said a source.
The three more Talwar-class “stealth” guided-missile frigates being built at Yantar shipyard in Kaliningrad (Russia), at a cost of Rs 5,514 crore, will also be armed with BrahMos missiles to give them more punch. “The same vertical launchers will be fitted on submarines,” said the source.
Incidentally, India and Russia have now begun preliminary work on a “hypersonic” BrahMos-2 missile capable of flying at a speed between 5 and 7 Mach.
But the work on the submarine and air-launched versions of BrahMos-1 is still quite some time away from successful completion. While the air-launched version will now be integrated with a naval TU-142 aircraft for tests, defence scientists say they are waiting for a suitable platform for testing the submarine-launched version.
Pakistan, incidentally, is going in for large-scale induction of its ‘Babur’ cruise missile, which is touted as being capable of carrying nuclear warheads to a distance of 500 km. It was tested for the first time in August 2005, with a clear Chinese imprint behind its development.
The long-term plan of the Indian armed forces is, of course, to have nuclear-tipped LACMs, with strike ranges in excess of 1,500 km. Unlike ballistic missiles, cruise missiles do not leave the atmosphere and are powered and guided throughout their flight path.
Cruise missiles, which can evade enemy radars and air defence systems since they fly at low-altitudes, are also much cheaper as well as more accurate and easier to operate.