Air Weapons: BrahMos

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October 23, 2012: India has ordered 200 of the air-launched version of the BrahMos missile from Russia. India is already using ground and ship launched versions. Three years ago the BrahMos block II cruise missile failed its first operational test as a ground launched weapon. The cause was a defective guidance system, which was fixed.

The Indian Army and navy have so far bought over a thousand BrahMos. The navy is arming most of its large warships with BrahMos and the army is buying 80 launchers in the next ten years. Russia has not yet ordered any BrahMos, although there are plans to obtain it for new surface ships. The recent Indian purchase was for the lighter (2.5 tons) version for use by aircraft. A similar lightweight version is being developed for submarines.

The basic 3.2 ton BrahMos has a range of 300 kilometers and a 300 kg (660 pound) warhead. Perhaps the most striking characteristic is its high speed, literally faster (at up to 1,000 meters/3,100 feet per second) than a rifle bullet. Guidance is GPS or inertial to reach the general area of the target (usually a ship or other small target), then a radar that will identify the specific target and hit it. The high speed at impact causes additional damage (because of the weight of the entire missile).

India and Russia developed the weapon together and now offer the BrahMos for export. The high price of each missile, about $2-3 million (depending on the version), restricts the number of countries that can afford it. The weapon entered service with the Indian navy in 2005. Different versions of the PJ-10 can be fired from aircraft, ships, ground launchers, or submarines. The maximum speed of 3,000 kilometers an hour makes it harder to intercept and means it takes five minutes or less to reach its target. The air launched version weighs 2.5 tons, the others three tons or more.

The 9.4 meter (29 foot) long, 670mm diameter missile is an upgraded version of the Russian SS-NX-26 (Yakhont) missile, which was still in development when the Cold War ended in 1991. Lacking money to finish development and begin production, the Russian manufacturer eventually made a deal with India to put up most of the $240 million needed to finally complete two decades of development. The BrahMos is being built in Russia and India, with the Russians assisting India in setting up manufacturing facilities for cruise missile components. Efforts are being made to export up to 2,000, but no one has placed an order yet. Russia and India are encouraged enough to invest in BrahMos 2, which will use a scramjet, instead of a ramjet, in the second stage. This would double the speed and make the missile much more difficult to defend against.

India indicates it plans to make the missile a major weapon system. The BrahMos can carry a nuclear warhead but is designed mainly to go after high value targets that require a large warhead and great accuracy. The BrahMos could take out enemy headquarters or key weapons systems (especially those employing electronic or nuclear weapons).

 


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