Bengaluru: The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Wednesday successfully test-fired the BrahMos air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) from its frontline striker Sukhoi (Su-30 MKI).
This was the second test-firing of the BrahMos ALCM from Sukhoi, the first being held on November 22, 2017 against a sea target.
The IAF thereby became the first air force in the world to have successfully fired an air-launched 2.8 Mach surface attack missile of this category on a sea target.
The missile is being developed by BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited (BAPL), an Indo-Russian joint venture firm.
The IAF termed Wednesday’s launch as ‘smooth one’ with the missile following the desired trajectory before hitting the land target.
Wednesday’s test-firing of BrahMos, with strike range closer to 300-km, saw the missile hitting the target at Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
During the test, the missile is said to have pierced through the land target proving its high accuracy hit-rate once again. This was the first test of BrahMos ALCM against a land target.
“It was a kinetic kill (no warhead used) and the missile hit the target bang at the centre. A perfect text-book launch,” an official said.
The target was set at an uninhabited island in A&N and the missile had a direct hit with very minimal CEP (circular error probability). CEP is normally the mode used to measure the precision of a ballistic weapon.
Under SAC Eyes
During Wednesday’s test, the Sukhoi operations were initiated from Air Force Station Thanjavur – a future base for the mighty striker. The station falls under Southern Air Command (SAC) headquartered at Thiruvananthapuram.
The Sukhoi was piloted by a Squadron Leader with a Wing Commander being the WSO (Weapon Systems Officer), responsible for initiating the launch. A chase aircraft was capturing all the launch activities, while an IAF tanker too was in action providing support to the team.
All the pilots who took part in the mission were from the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) situated in Bengaluru.
Various monitoring stations of IAF and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) tracked Wednesday’s mission. On its part, the Indian Navy ships ensured the range and safety clearances.
Air Marshal Balakrishnan Suresh, AOC-in-C, SAC, Dr Sudhir Kumar Mishra, DG (BrahMos), representatives of NPOM (Russia) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd were among those present during the mission.
IAF says the BrahMos missile provides much desired capability to strike from large stand-off ranges on any target at sea or on land with pinpoint accuracy by day or night and in all weather conditions.
The capability of the missile coupled with the superlative performance of the Su-30MKI aircraft gives the IAF the desired strategic reach.
“The Sukhois range with refueling capabilities and BrahMos’ current range are very critical for IAF to keep its interests intact in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR),” says an official.
During the recent Commanders’ Conference Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had asked IAF to play a proactive role in the IOR. She also wanted IAF to look at the future with the latest technologies available across the world and those that can be developed within India, in order to meet its needs.
“Today, the formidable BrahMos ALCM has perfectly validated its precision attack capability against a land target. With this successful mission, the IAF’s air combat power has reached an unprecedented level,” the defence minister said, congratulating the team.
Close to Induction
BrahMos officials now say that the ALCM will be ready for induction, probably after one more mission. The production mandates seem to have already begun so as to save time.
BAPL will now focus all its energies to develop the BrahMos NG (new generation) missile.
During Aero India 2019, Dr Sudhir Kumar had told Onmanorma that BrahMos NG will be ready within two years, including the air version that can be launched from Tejas.
“Today’s test has brought in a quantum leap in the IAF’s air combat capabilities. The missile, after being gravity dropped from the fighter’s fuselage, flew for its full range towards the designated land target. It hit with bull’s eye precision,” BrahMos officials said.
Better synergies between IAF, DRDO, BAPL and HAL right from the inception of the mission have contributed immensely to the success of BrahMos ALCM.
(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)