EXCLUSIVE

IAF operationalises air-launched BrahMos cruise missile in major capability milestone

With longer reach and greater destructive potential than any anti-surface air weapon wielded by India, the 450-km range missile increases India's options for stand-off, cross-border targetting

October 17, 2019 By Vishal Thapar Photo(s): By SP Guide Pubns
The BrahMos cruise missile strapped on to the reinforced belly of an IAF Su-30MKI fighter

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has inducted and operationalised the air-launched, extended range BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.

With a kill range of 450 km, this is the IAF's most potent air-launched anti-surface weapon, and its induction is a significant capability milestone.

The missile has been mated with select Sukhoi-30MKI fighters. An estimated 42 Su-30MKIs will be modified to wield the airborne BrahMos. The modified Sukhois will have the capability to carry only one BrahMos at a time as part of a weapons configuration which also includes four RVV AE (R-77) air-to-air medium range missiles, two R-73 air-to-air short range missiles and six 250 kg bombs.

The modified Sukhois will have the capability to carry only one BrahMos at a time as part of a weapons configuration which also includes four RVV AE (R-77) air-to-air medium range missiles, two R-73 air-to-air short range missiles and six 250 kg bombs

"A few BrahMos-armed aircraft will be provided to all IAF Su-30MKI squadrons to wield this capability," an informed observer disclosed. Some will also be kept in reserve.

Analysts term the IAF BrahMos capability "phenomenal". This has a longer range and more destructive potential than any other air-to-surface weapon wielded by the IAF so far.

A shot of the weapons configuration of the BrahMos-armed Sukhoi fighter

"The air-launched BrahMos has a strategic role. It is to destroy targets in depth which have strategic value and compromise the war waging capability of an adversary," remarked Air Marshal BK Pandey (Retired), a former Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the IAF's Training Command. The strategic targets in depth could be major military bases, ammunition dumps and vital installations. "With its range, the IAF can launch this weapon from its own airspace," Air Marshal Pandey said, pointing out the enhanced stand-off attack capability against a persistent adversary.

"The air-launched BrahMos has a strategic role. It is to destroy targets in depth which have strategic value and compromise the war waging capability of an adversary," remarked Air Marshal BK Pandey (Retired), a former Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the IAF's Training Command

The availability of this weapon increases India military options for launching surprise precision cross-border attacks from a stand-off range.

This will also beef up India's anti-ship capability in a maritime role, and enable quick reaction against an enemy warship up to 1,400 km from India's coastline.

Its 2.8 Mach supersonic speed and terrain-hugging flight mode also makes it improbable to intercept. "In recently-concluded user trials, this missile has shown itself to be very spectacular, very accurate," a senior IAF officer told SP's MAI.

India's co-option as a full member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) has enabled the increase in the range of the BrahMos from 290 km to 450 km.