Russia is working to increase the range of the P-800 Onyx (SS-NX-26) sea- and land-based supersonic cruise missiles to 1,000 kilometers. When it was first developed in Russia, the Onyx had a maximum range of 600 kilometers. The latest Onyx variant, Onyx-M, has a maximum range of 800 km.
Russia’s upgrade to Onyx could be significant for India, as India’s BrahMos missile is based on Onyx.
The Onyx missile, which was being developed at the end of the Cold War in 1991, was developed from the P-700 Granit missile, which in turn was developed from the P-500 Bazalt missile.
The Basalt missile was powered by a turbojet, while its successors – the Granite and Onyx – were powered by ramjets, as was the BrahMos. A supersonic anti-ship missile developed by BrahMos based on Onyx.
P-800 “Onyx” (above) is the prototype of India’s “Brahmos” anti-ship missile. It can be seen that the shape is very similar. When it is fired, there is a fairing in front of it.
The P-800 project was initially shelved due to a lack of funding. India invested $240 million to complete the 20-year development of the missile and used its inertial navigation system to develop the BrahMos missile.
Onyx was developed by NPOM, while BrahMos was developed by BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and NPOM. The company develops at the same time.
A source close to the military told TASS that active work is currently underway to increase the flight range of the Onyx supersonic sea and land-based cruise missiles.
“It is planned to increase the flight range of the supersonic ‘Onyx’ to 1,000 kilometers in the near future,” the source said.
Like the Onyx, the BrahMos is available in the sea- and ground-launched variants. Additionally, BrahMos Aerospace has developed an air-launched version of the BrahMos missile. Su-30MKI fighter jets of the Indian Air Force conduct a BrahMos-A missile launch test.
The sea- and ground-launched versions of the BrahMos are 0.5 meters shorter (8.4 meters and 8.9 meters, respectively) and 0.1 meters smaller in diameter (0.5 meters and 0.6 meters, respectively) than the Onyx but weigh the same 3,000 kilograms.
It is widely believed that Russia’s Techno-Scientific Production Complex deliberately reduced the range of the BrahMos from 600 km to 300 km to comply with MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) requirements.
BrahMos missile range extension
After India joined the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime), BrahMos Space extended the range of the BrahMos missile from 290km to 500km with tweaks such as higher altitude cruise and better fuel management.
The Russian Machine-Building Techno-Scientific Production Complex has reduced the range limitation in missiles. The 500km BrahMos variant is called BrahMos-ER (meaning extended range).
During Air India 2017, S-Christopher, head of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), told reporters that a new, improved version of BrahMos with a strike range of 800 kilometers is under development.
A BrahMos official explained to the author that the 800-kilometer range would be achieved by optimizing the cruise performance of the missile’s ramjet engine and reducing the missile’s weight through composite materials, favoring enhanced fuel loads.
The BrahMos official stressed that the weight and external dimensions of the missile would not be changed.
In April 2019, Alexander Maxichev, executive deputy director of “BrahMos,” told Sputnik News Agency that it is proposed to increase the speed of “BrahMos” from Mach 2.8 to Mach 4.5 by optimizing the ramjet engine, thereby further increasing the number of missiles range.
With a higher cruising speed, the missile can travel longer distances. The BrahMos variant with increased indigenous content and improved performance was successfully tested at the Integrated Proving Ground in Chandipur on 20 January 2022. An accompanying press release said the test was an important milestone for the BrahMos program.
The missile cruises at supersonic speeds at maximum range, following a modified optimal trajectory for increased efficiency and improved performance. The missile features a revised control system that has been fine-tuned for enhanced capabilities.
This test is likely related to extending the range of the Brahmos beyond 500 kilometers.
It is not yet known how NPOM plans to increase the range of the Onyx-M from 800 to 1,000 km, but Brahmos Aerospace is likely to get a Body (NPOM) to benefit from the “Onyx” upgrade.
It is also possible that NPOM is extending the range of the Onyx missile based on technology developed and tested to increase the range of the BrahMos.