India on Tuesday kicked off what will be multiple operational firings of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile this week, in yet another hard-nosed display of its precision-strike capabilities amidst the ongoing military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh.
The first “live missile test” of the 290-km range BrahMos, which is a deadly conventional (non-nuclear) weapon that flies almost three times the speed of sound at Mach 2.8, was conducted by the Army in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago at about 10 am on Tuesday.
Similar tests will be carried out by the Navy and IAF also in the Indian Ocean Region this week. “The requisite advance warnings to aircraft and ships in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal have been issued,” said a defence ministry source.
The tests come even as BrahMos land-attack missile batteries have already been deployed in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, along with tanks, howitzers, surface-to-air missiles and other weapons, as part of the overall military readiness posture against China. Similarly, some Sukhoi-30MKI fighters armed with BrahMos missiles are also deployed in airbases closer to the Line of Actual Control.
Sources say work is also underway to make the enhanced version of BrahMos with a strike range of almost 450-km, which has been successfully tested three to four times, operational as soon as possible. Moreover, India and Russia are also getting set to test a new version of BrahMos, with 800-km range, by middle of next year.
The tests this week will see the Army firing the air-breathing missile at the Trak island in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, while naval warships test the anti-ship variant on the high seas.
The sleeker air-launched version, in turn, will be fired from a Sukhoi flying from the mainland. With a combat radius of almost 1,500-km without mid-air refueling, the Sukhois with BrahMos missiles constitute a formidable long-range weapons package.
“The Sukhoi-BrahMos combination can be used for surgical strikes against underground bunkers, command-and-control centers and other military targets deep inside enemy territory as also warships on the high seas,” said a senior officer.
BrahMos has emerged as the “prime strike weapon” for the armed forces over the years, with contracts worth over Rs 36,000 crore already inked till now. The Army, for instance, has three BrahMos regiments, with another two on the way. Ten frontline warships are also equipped with the BrahMos vertical launch systems, while another two are currently being fitted with them. “Every big warship that goes for refit or upgrade is fitted with the BrahMos missiles now,” said another officer.
The government had earlier also approved the deployment of Block-III version of the BrahMos missiles, which have “steep dive, trajectory manoeuver, and top-attack capabilities” for mountain warfare in Arunachal Pradesh, as was reported by TOI.
India joining the 34-nation Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June 2016 has “removed the caps” on the range of the BrahMos missile developed jointly with Russia. The MTCR basically prevents the proliferation of missiles and drones over the range of 300-km.