New Delhi: India has accorded its final nod for its Army to raise and deploy a steep-dive variant of the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile as a conventional deterrent on its northeastern undefined border with China.
The steep-dive variant of the BrahMos has the capability to do trajectory manoeuvres and attack on enemy positions directly from above their heads, making it an effective and preferred artillery weapon in mountain warfare scenarios. The BrahMos also extends the Army’s artillery attack range limitations from its existing 40 km to at least 290 km.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi-headed Cabinet Commitee on Security gave its approval for the fourth regiment of BrahMos to be inducted into the army at a cost of Rs. 4,300 crore ($650 million), the Times of India reported today, quoting unnamed sources.
However, the report did not say when the decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security, which also includes the Home Minister, the External Affairs Minister, the Finance Minister and the Defence Minister.
The BrahMos regiment consists of around 100 missiles, five mobile autonomous launchers on 12×12 heavy-duty trucks and a mobile command post, among other hardware and software.
BrahMos is a tactical, non-nuclear missile with “nine times more kinetic energy than sub-sonic missiles” for greater destructive potential. Jointly developed with Russia, it has become the preferred precision-strike weapon for the Indian armed forces.
From 2007 onwards, the Army has progressively inducted three regiments of BrahMos with largely Block-I and II missiles developed to hit a specific small target with a low radar cross-section in a cluttered environment.
The missile’s Block-III “steep-dive” version will now be deployed in Arunachal Pradesh to counter China’s huge build of military infrastructure all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control. Flying at a velocity almost three times the speed of sound at Mach 2.8, the missiles also have “a combined high-low trajectory” to evade enemy defence systems.
“This BrahMos variant can take a steep dive up to 75 degrees. Defence scientists are already working on achieving a 90-degree steep-dive capability, which in the future can lead to acquiring an aircraft carrier-killing capability,” the report said, quoting an unnamed source.
The latest contract takes the overall orders placed for the BrahMos missiles to over Rs 31,000 crore ($4.7 billion). The Navy has already installed the missile on 10 front line warships, including the latest stealth destroyers and frigates.
BrahMos Aerospace plans to test the air variant of the missile from Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets this year. The air-launched version of BrahMos, which at 2.5 tonnes is lighter than the 3-tonne land and sea variants, has already undergone “carriage trials” on a Sukhoi in June this year. The “missile separation trials” are likely to take place later this month.
India has stepped up efforts to sell an advanced cruise missile system to Vietnam, which had first made a request in 2011, and has at least 15 more markets in its sights. The sale would mark a shift towards export for the world’s biggest arms importer shore up partners’ defences and boost revenues. Some other nations that could get BrahMos are Indonesia, South Africa, Chile and Brazil, a Reuters report said on June 8, citing an undated government note it had viewed.
The Philippines is at the top of a second list of 11 nations including Malaysia, Thailand and United Arab Emirates, countries which had “expressed interest but need further discussions and analysis”, the report said, citing the undated note.
On June 7, India cleared all hurdles to become a member of the 34-member Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), a non-proliferation regime of which China is not a member. June 6 was the deadline for any member to object to a new entrant, and none had. BrahMos’s range means it falls short of the 300-km limit set by the MTCR.