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Sunday, March 21, 2010

NEWS FLASH - BrahMos cruise missile test-fired successfully

NEW DELHI: India on Sunday again tested the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, which the armed forces are already inducting as a 'precision' strike weapon, from a moving warship INS Ranvir off the Orissa coast.

"The missile was launched from the vertical launcher fitted on INS Ranvir at a decommissioned target ship, INS Meen, and hit it perfectly. The launch met all mission requirements and was 100% successful," BrahMos Aerospace chief A S Pillai said.

"The test was important since the missile, which flies at speeds of 2.8 Mach, performed supersonic maneuvering after being launched from the vertical launcher and homed on to the target successfully," he added.

Image Source: Steeljawscribe.com

The Navy has already inducted the 290-km range BrahMos missiles on some warships, having earlier placed orders worth Rs 711 crore for 49 firing units in 'inclined launcher configurations'. It's now gearing up to induct these air-breathing missiles in the `vertical launcher configuration as well'.

This is significant since `vertical launchers' are fitted under the warship's deck, protecting them from the atmospheric conditions and imparting some stealth to the weapon system. It also allows the missile to be fired in any direction.

"With vertical launchers, the missile can be fired at any target in the entire 360 degree spectrum," said Pillai. Two such modules, with 16 missiles, are to 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. BrahMos will also arm the three more Talwar-class 'stealth' frigates being built at Yantar shipyard in Kaliningrad (Russia) under a Rs 5,514 crore project.

The Army, on its part, is on course to induct two more regiments of the BrahMos Block-II land-attack cruise missiles (LACM), which have been designed as 'precision strike weapons' capable of hitting small targets in cluttered urban environments.

Swift induction of BrahMos Block-II is necessary because Pakistan army is inducting its nuclear-capable Babur LACM, developed with China's help to have a 500-km strike range, in large numbers. BrahMos-II can potentially be used for 'surgical strikes' at terror training camps across the border without causing collateral damage.

One regiment of the 290-km range BrahMos-I variant, which consists of 67 missiles, five mobile autonomous launchers on 12x12 Tatra vehicles and two mobile command posts, among other equipment, is already operational in the Army. It had earlier ordered two BrahMos regiments in the first phase at a cost of Rs 8,352 crore.

The BrahMos Block-II variant has been developed to take out a specific small target, with a low radar cross-section, in a multi-target environment.

But the work on submarine and air-launched versions of BrahMos is still going quite slow. While talks with Russia are now in the final stages for BrahMos' integration with Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, the missile will be tested for the first time from submersible pontoon launchers this year in preparation for their induction on submarines.

Incidentally, India and Russia have also begun preliminary work on a 'hypersonic' BrahMos-2 missile capable of flying at a speed between 5 and 7 Mach, as reported earlier.

The armed forces' eventual plan is to have nuclear-tipped LACMs, with strike ranges over 1,500 km. Unlike ballistic missiles like Agni, 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 than ballistic missiles.

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