Procurement: BrahMos Earns a Scramjet

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January 9, 2008: India has doubled its production of the new PJ-10 BrahMos missile, to 50 a year. The 3.2 ton missile has a range of 300 kilometers and a 660 pound warhead. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the BrahMos is its high speed, literally faster (at up to 3,000 feet per second) than a rifle bullet. The missile is used by the army, navy and air force.

India and Russia developed the weapon together, and now offer the BrahMos for export. The high price of each missile, about $2.3 million, 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 29 foot long, 670mm diameter missile is an upgraded version of the Russian SS-NX-26 (Yakhont) missile, which was in development when the Cold War ended in 1991. Lacking money to finish development and begin production, the Russian manufacturer made a deal with India to finish the job. India put up most of the $240 million needed to finally complete two decades of development. The PJ-10 is also being built in Russia. India plans to buy 1,000 of them, and efforts are being made to export up to 2,000. China and Iran have also expressed interest in the weapon, but only Malaysia, Chile, South Africa, Kuwait and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) have been approached with a sales pitch. 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 speed, and make the missile much more difficult to defend against.

 


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